Help! Have I been doing jigsaw puzzles wrong all this time?

Just a small selection of my 2020-2021 puzzle collection…

By rough estimates, I have done about eleventy-billion jigsaw puzzles since the pandemic started.

I know, right?

But a random comment during a family dinner last night has me freaking out… because maybe my super-awesome puzzling skills aren’t actually all that impressive after all!

As we were chatting about puzzles — like people do — someone commented that once they take the pieces out of the box, they put the box away. And I was like… what??? But how do you know what it’s supposed to look like?

And they told me that they look at the picture before they start, but that’s it.


Which basically implies…

I’ve been cheating all along!?!?!?!?!?!

It has never once occurred to me NOT to keep the puzzle box cover handy as a reference while working on a puzzle. Am I not supposed to? Are we supposed to just do our puzzles blind?

I’m shocked and dismayed and doubting my super puzzling abilities.

What do you think?

Has all my puzzling been in vain?

Photo by Sharon Snider on

I won’t be able to sleep nights until I get some answers! Please share your thoughts!

Happy New Year!


Oh, friends, 2020 was quite a year! It’s lovely to get a fresh start. Wishing all a HEALTHY and happy new year. Onward to better times!

I originally posted this “Happy New Year” book collage last year, but I like it so much that I thought I’d do it again, new and improved and with a few more covers added for the start of 2021.


Book mail highlight: Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of 19th Century Language

I bought myself a wee giftie this week:

Oxford Illustrated Dictionary of 19th Century Language
(published 2018)

After seeing this book mentioned somewhere (on a blog post? I’m thinking maybe via Gail Carriger?), I had to get myself a copy! For readers who delight in 19th century fictional realms, this book promises to be a must-keep-close-by sort of reference book.

Besides an A-to-Z dictionary format, there are also multi-page layouts on hot topics such as “Rich and Poor”, “Childhood”, “At Home”, and so much more. It’s all laid out in an easy-to-use alphabetical format, with eye-catching fonts and illustrations.

Oh, I am absolutely going to have a blast with this one!

And hey, you never know when you’ll need to know the definitions of poltroon, clodpole, oleograph, or diablerie.


Anyone else out there loving the glory of Poldark on PBS?

I mean, how can you resist?


I haven’t seen the two-hour season finale yet (airing this coming Sunday), but as for the rest of the season so far, I’m loving it.

Ross PoldarkTo back up a bit, Poldark is adapted from a series of books by the late author Winston Graham (which were also made into a PBS series in the mid-1970s). Book 1, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945, and the author went on to write a total of twelve book in the Poldark saga. The books are historical fiction set in Cornwall, with the first book opening in 1783 as Captain Ross Poldark returns to his family home after fighting in the American Revolutionary War — on the losing side.

Ross finds much changed upon his return: His home is tumbling down and in terrible shape, his family’s copper mines are failing, the workers are starving, and his beloved Elizabeth has become engaged to marry his cousin Frances, who belongs to the wealthier part of the Poldark family. Ross deals with disappointment and hurt by throwing himself into the restoration of his estate and his mine, and eventually falls for the lower class girl he rescued from abuse and brought into his home as a servant.

DemelzaDemelza is a breath of fresh air, not hung up on manners, full of impetuous good spirits, laughter, and a good heart. With Demelza’s love, Ross begins to find happiness finally, and the two make an unconventional couple who incite the gossip of the upper class throughout the area.

After watching the first episode of the TV series, I just knew I had to read the books. The 8-hour first season covers the content of books 1 (Ross Poldark) and 2 (Demelza), and I ended up reading both. Normally, I dislike reading books after seeing the TV or movie versions of a story, but in this case, it only added to my enjoyment. I found that I enjoyed the TV episodes best without knowing what was going to happen, but knowing what would happen didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment of the books.

The TV show is very faithful to the major plotlines of the books, with only slight changes here and there to heighten the on-screen drama. (For example, a character’s mine in the books fails due to a crumbling economy, whereas on TV, the character loses the mine in a card game.) Likewise, the show plays up the love triangle aspect of the plot more than the book does, although to be honest, it’s really not as big a factor as the early promos might have led us to believe.

The books were simply terrific! Even reading them after viewing the events on TV, the level of detail and beautiful writing in the books adds to what I already knew, so I was never bored or feeling like I was going over familiar ground. The writing is lovely, and the descriptions of landscapes, interior scenes, even clothing and candlelight, are so masterfully worded that there’s a sharply visual element to the words on the page. (See my Thursday Quotables post from last week, here, for an example of what I mean.)

poldark 3

The TV production is stunning to look at (and no, I don’t just mean the curls blowing in the breeze or the sultry, brooding stare). The sea and the fields, the hills, the farms — they’re all gorgeous. Of course, there are some episodes that feature about three too many scenes of Ross dramatically dashing off on his horse as the waves crash beside him… but that’s easy to forgive. It’s not all eye candy. The plot is engrossing, and the supporting characters are, by turn, sadly valiant (cousin Verity), tragically doomed (poacher Jim), and buffoonishly weak (ugh, cousin Frances). And don’t get me started on Jud and Prudie, Ross’s household servants who spend most of their time drinking, fighting, or drinking and fighting.

While there are moments of light and joy, and swoonishly romantic love scenes, the tone seems to get darker and darker as the season draws to a close. As I said, I haven’t seen the finale yet, but I have finished reading Demelza… and boy, it’s a doozy. No spoilers from me, but if the show is anywhere near as tragic, I’ll be a big soppy, weepy mess by the end.

My understanding is that Poldark has been a big success for Masterpiece, so I think we can feel confident that it’ll return for season 2 next year. Meanwhile, I already have copies of the next two books… and while I really should read other things for a while, I’m super tempted to dive right into book #3 (Jeremy Poldark — and no, I have no idea who Jeremy Poldark is), if for no other reason than to find out (I hope!) that there’s some sunshine heading back into the story.

Sigh. Are you watching? Have you read the books? What do you think?

And yeah, I know I said it wasn’t all eye candy, but — seriously! How can they show this on TV and expect people not to paste it all over the internet?

poldark 2


Greetings from Hogsmeade!

Earlier this month, I spent a wonderful week in Florida with my two kids. The highlight for us was – absolutely – enjoying the amazing Harry Potter attractions at Universal in Orlando. I thought y’all would appreciate seeing the photo highlights of our visit to Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley!

My wand. Yes, I have a wand. It chose me.

My wand. Yes, I have a wand. It chose me.


Being in Harry Potter heaven was sheer joy for the three of us… here’s a little taste:

(Click on any of the images to view as a slideshow)


99% of what I blog about is books… so consider this post a part of the minority 1%. 🙂

I just spent the most wonderful week traveling in Alaska with my beautiful, funny, lovely daughter. Mommy-daughter quality time! We happen to make great traveling partners, and it was all just so enjoyable and relaxing and fun.

We’ve been to Alaska before: She spent a year in Juneau with Americorps, and I’ve been on two short visits previously, once on a cruise and the second time a different road trip with my daughter.

Alaska 114This time around, we had a week to spend, and we determined to do a few things we’d missed on previous trips. We started in Anchorage, then headed about two hours north to the quirky and adorable town of Talkeetna, known as the possible inspiration for the TV show Northern Exposure. Also know as the town with a cat for a mayor. (It’s true! Even Wikipedia says so.)

While in Talkeetna, we stayed in cozy, rustic lodge by the Susitna River, where we could see Mt. McKinley on a clear day.

Alaska 2015 137

On our second day there, we boarded a 10-seater plane for a 90-minute flight over Denali National Park — and we even landed on a glacier!

Alaska 2015 080

The peak on the right is Mt. McKinley!

Alaska 2015 090

And here I am, just chillin’ on Ruth Glacier.

Talkeetna itself is a super awesome town, where we ate world-class berry pancakes, over-indulged buying amazing locally made jewelry at a great gallery, and just wandered the streets for a while, admiring the random moose art:

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

Next, we headed back south toward the Kenai Peninsula, enjoying the great drive along Turnagain Arm with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we met these guys (from the other side of the fences, naturally):

Alaska 2015 195

This little guy! I can’t even.

Alaska 2015 240 Alaska 2015 224 Alaska 2015 222

We did some hiking along the way, heading off on a trail through the woods that included amazing views in all directions. Stuff like this, for example:


We wrapped things up with a few days in Homer, staying in a weird and wonderful round cabin on a bluff overlooking the water:

Alaska 2015 249

We ate, we shopped, we hiked, we sat and read (of course), and we took a water taxi…

Alaska 2015 045

… across Kachemak Bay to hike through the woods to see this:

Alaska 2015 051

Grewingk Glacier – gorgeous!

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Alaska is beautiful, and there’s just so much to see! I can’t wait to go again!

A parting shot — taken at the Anchorage airport at 11:30 pm, saying good-bye to my daughter as we headed our separate ways for now. Yes, it’s 11:30 and the sun is just setting!

Alaska 2015 425

Good-bye, Alaska! I’ll miss you! Especially moments like this:

Alaska 2015 136