Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Jigsaw Puzzle from Wentworth Wooden Puzzles

Wentworth Egg Puzzle

I splurged a little on myself this Easter and ordered this beautiful egg puzzle from Wentworth Wooden Puzzles.  They are a company in the UK, but you can order from them online.  My puzzles got here in less than two weeks.

The puzzle pieces are not only stored inside a sturdy box, but also in this drawstring bag! 

I love the feel of these sturdy wooden pieces.  I don't foresee them breaking any time soon.  These are the kind of puzzles you can save for your grandkids.  This egg puzzle has cute little bunny-shaped pieces!

Here you can see how the bunny shape fits into the rest of the puzzle.

There are also several egg-shaped pieces hidden in this puzzle.

 My completed masterpiece!  The pieces interlock nicely.  The only complaint from my kids was that they smelled!  If you leave your puzzle out for a few days, the smell should dissipate.  I'm sure this comes from the puzzle cutting process.  You can watch a video on their website to see how their puzzles are made.

My puzzle was 220 pieces.  You can order each puzzle in a variety of different sizes.  They get more expensive as you add more pieces!  But I'm ready to try something harder...maybe with kittens.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Keep Easter Puzzling

Don't want to fill those Easter baskets with candy this year?  I have a couple ideas you might like...and they even require the kids to use their brains!

Every year, I buy a small to medium lego set and fill a bunch of plastic eggs with the pieces.  The Easter Bunny then hides all the eggs, and the kids have to make sure they find all the eggs they need to complete their set!

On previous years I've labeled the outside of the eggs with a "J" or a "G" (in sharpie) for each kid so they know whose legos eggs are whose.  It'd get pretty confusing trying to build your set with the wrong legos!  This year we bought some fancy plastic eggs and I didn't want to write on them.  I decided to put a yellow Post-It strip in all Jack's eggs and a green Post-It strip in Ginny's.  After finishing all the egg stuffing, I realized that that might get to be a bit mess since they have to open each egg to see if it's theirs...and will probably spill!

In any case, I've always felt that building a lego set is not only fun, but a challenging brain exercise.  I like buying these for my kids thinking that they are doing more than just playing with a toy.  And building a lego model successfully requires carefully following the directions!  Always a good skill to practice!

Also in the kid's eggs this year are these little wooden "Bamboozlers Range"puzzles.  I had to use a really big egg (found that at Target this year) for one of these, but the other fit in a regular sized one.  Just be careful taking these out of the box.  The Hexacube broke into a bunch of pieces and it didn't seem right to leave it that way.  Rebuilding it took an extra 15 minutes!  Those pieces are slippery.

Here's what those puzzles look like inside their eggs.

I also picked up Story Cubes.  These have been on our to-buy list for ages.  We haven't played it yet, but we think it will be quite a lot of fun.  

And here are the dice in their camo eggs.  (Camo eggs are a requirement when your husband is in the Army!)

And what could be more puzzly than a jigsaw puzzle?  I got Ginny these smart owls and Jack this 3d sun.

Here's how they settled into their little eggs!  Two of the sun pieces were too big for any of my eggs, so they're sitting in Jack's basket waiting for him.

This is Ginny's basket.  It's a metal pail from Target.  The Easter Bunny will hide the eggs on the appropriate evening, but the puzzle box and lego instructions will remain here.  That gives the kids an idea of what to expect inside the eggs. And you want to save the puzzle box so they know what the picture is and have somewhere to store it too.  I did fill some of the eggs with candy.  I do like those M&M easter eggs and surely the kids will share some with me!?!

Need more ideas?  Check out my Easter Blog Post from last year too!
Happy Hunting!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Perplexing Puzzles 3/25/15 - Game of Hexes

Game of Hexes Tile Boards

Here is a classic Pencil and Paper game for you today.  It's called the Game of Hexes.  The object of this game is to create a continuous path from one end of the game board to the other in your chosen color.  It's a game for two players.  If you click on the picture above, you can download a pdf file from Google Drive with three different sized game boards.  There are 11x11, 13x13, and 19x19 game boards for you to use with 2 to a page and brief instructions.

If you'd like to learn more about the Game of Hexes, Wikipedia has a great article about it.

Good luck!

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Games for 2015

IQ Candy

The game developers have been busy again!  There are a bunch of really fabulous looking new puzzle-style games coming out this year.  (Some are already available!)

IQ Blox

These two IQ games are new this year from SmartGames.  I have many of the other IQ games, including IQ Steps, IQ Link, and IQ Fit...and they are all awesome!  One of the best features of these little genius games is that they can fit in your pocket for puzzling on the go.  I can't wait to get my hands on these two new versions.  Especially IQ Candy!

You can click here to see a list of all the new puzzle games coming out from SmartGames this year.

Battle Sheep

We love sheep at our house!  So this new game from Blue Orange really speaks to us.  Battle Sheep is a game for 2-4 players ages 7 and up.  What looks interesting about this game is that the game board is dynamic, meaning that the board shape can change to a different configuration at the start of each game.  The little sheep tokens are pretty cute too!  Oh, and the play on words for the title, Battle Sheep and Battleships...just silly.

You can visit the Blue Orange main page to see what other new games they have available.

Rush Hour Shift

Thinkfun has released a new version of Rush Hour this year.  It's called Rush Hour Shift.  So if you can't get enough of the classic Rush Hour puzzler, you might want to grab a copy of this.  It's a 2 player version of Rush Hour where players rush to get their hero car off the shifting game board.  Check out their website for a really nice video explanation of how the game works.  I'm totally a fan of Rush Hour, so I'm excited to give this version a try!

Maker Studio

Another interesting new product from Thinkfun is Maker Studio.  There are Propellers, Gears and Winches sets available so far.  These are not puzzles or games, but more construction sets.  They do offer 10 engineering challenges with each set, so those logical thinking skills will still get a workout!  The neat thing about these construction sets is that they give you the working parts (like the gears), but you must build the support structure for your creation using things you'd find around your house, like toilet paper rolls and empty cereal boxes.


And last, but not least, we have Houdini!  This is another puzzle from Thinkfun.  Houdini is a disentanglement puzzle.  There are 40 challenges in which you must disentangle Houdini from a mess of ropes and locks.  What's interesting about this puzzle is that you are really getting 40 disentanglement puzzles in one!  I'm sure we all have some of these puzzlers sitting around our house.  Check out Rob's Puzzle Page about Tanglement puzzles to see what I mean.  There are hundreds shown on his website!  Houdini looks like it will be pretty engaging!

You can find other new games from Thinkfun here.

Do you know of any other awesome new games I might have missed?  Let me know so I can check them out!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perplexing Puzzles 2/18/15

Word Targets #1

This week's free puzzles are called Word Targets.  For this puzzle, you must figure out which word is hidden in each circle of the target.  The words in each target all fall within a category which you must also identify.


Word Targets are based on WordARound, a game from Thinkfun.  We just got this game last week and it's quite a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, there are only 100 cards with 300 words total and somehow that just wasn't enough!  Ginny and I played this a bunch of times, and the words started to repeat.  So I thought it would be fun to create some more circles like this.

Word Targets #2

Here's another set of Word Targets that should be a little bit harder than the first set.  I hope you hit the bullseye on each target!

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

What We've Been Reading 3/14/15

1)  Bomb by Steve Sheinkin - Bomb is my favorite history chapter book!  Steve Sheinkin does a wonderful job of telling the story of the building of the atomic bomb.  He mixes the science and history with spy stories, which makes this book really intriguing!  He tells us about the spies who kept the Germans from getting the bomb and the ones who stole the bomb from the US for the Russians.  We meet the scientists involved, learn about their experiments, and even learn about some of the politics involved.  My kids enjoyed reading this book too.  Just a small warning...the very last page of the epilogue will send shivers down your spine.

 2)  I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai & Patricia McCormick (the young readers edition) - Ginny says this is the BEST history book we've read yet.  It's the story of Malala, a girl from Pakistan, who is tormented by the Taliban.  About the first half of the book is about her life in Pakistan.  She's loves being able to go to school and learn.  She fights with her brothers.  She avoids doing the dishes.  Just like a typical kid in the US!  But the Taliban soon move into her area of Pakistan, the Swat Valley.  They don't want girls to attend school and take away other rights from women.  Malala and her father speak out against these things, and the Taliban take their revenge.  Malala is shot in the face on her school bus.  This book doesn't go into too many gory details, so it isn't too scary for kids to read.  It simply talks about her brave recovery and her continuing desire to help girls have the right to get an education.  Jack commented, "She's is my age when all this is going on."  And it's still happening.

3)  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - Ginny and I read this story for Reading class.  We both really liked it!  It's the story of a girl named Sal, some crazy grandparents, a father and mother, a best friend and a lunatic.  SPOILER ALERT (don't read past this point if you don't want to spoil the story for yourself!):  It's a touching story, but it made me cry like a baby.  Throughout the book, we know that Sal's mother has left her and her father, and we learn why.  But until the end, I didn't realize that her mother had actually died.  I don't know if I missed some clues.  Ginny says she had figured it out early on.  I guess I just hoped her mom would come back.  Anyhow, that very morning that I read the ending, I had just heard that a dear friend's mom had passed away.  It was just too heart-wrenching to read of Sal's loss too.  Truly, this is a wonderful story.  Sal's grandparents are a hoot!

4)  Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw - This is a play that Jack and I read for his Literature class.  It's a very straightforward kind of story with reasonably easy writing.  Quite doable for an 8th grader.  I did not realize that this is the play that "My Fair Lady" is based on.  We did watch the movie too!  I think there was too much singing in the movie for Jack, but he seemed to enjoy reading the play.  It's well written and worth reading, but it doesn't sit at the top of my favorites list.

5)  The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West - Ginny read all 5 of these books on her Kindle reader this past month!  She really enjoyed them.  She says they are about paintings that you can jump into using magical glasses or by holding a magical cat!  Sounds pretty cool to me!

6)  The Unwanteds: Island of Shipwrecks by Lisa McMann - Jack has been reading this series since the first book came out.  He totally adored the first book.  When I asked him if he liked book five, he said, "Of course I liked it!"  I can't get much more out of him.  This series is about a place where when kids reach the age of thirteen, they are put into categories like Wanted, Necessary and Unwanted.  The Unwanteds are eliminated.  If I remember correctly (I read the first book), the main character becomes Unwanted because he likes to draw and has an imagination!  And don't worry, they are not actually eliminated!

7)  Edge of Eternity by Ken Follet - I am currently reading this huge tome on recommendation from my mom!  It's book 3 in a series, and they are all very good.  These are historical fiction, and it's been fun to read this while at the same time the kids and I are studying these same periods in history.  It's just a LONG book.  But I'm close to finishing!

Currently, Jack is reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Ginny is reading The Enchanted Castle, and we are listening to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Happy Pi Day!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Perplexing Puzzles 3/11/15

Astronomy from A to Z

Two free puzzles today, one for older kids and one for younger.  The first one is a trivia style puzzle.  You must try to identify the correct definition of the Astronomy related words.  There are 26 words starting with the letters a to z!  This one would be for older kids.

Hidden Words #4

The second puzzle is another Hidden Words puzzle for first graders.  These worksheets help students practice spelling first grade words.  You can find more of them here.

And finally, just a little something fun...a math video!

It's about numbers and linguistics...very fascinating stuff!

If you liked that you'll love Numberphile's other videos!

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

So many on Sunday

We've been out of touch lately, but that's because we were in Florida for a week and have also been sick!

While in FL, we visited with the Vrolyk Grandparents in Bradenton.  We got to see Solomon's Castle and eat at Hungry Howeys (one of our favorite places to eat while in FL!)

We also stopped for a quick visit with our pals in Jacksonville.  Jack had such a blast playing with these guys!

Our last stop was Titusville, where we visited friends we have known since we lived in Germany.  We hit the local zoo...

the Dinosaur Store (where we bought rocks!)...

and did a Wildlife Drive where we saw an armadillo and a ton of birds!

It was a lot of fun and so great to catch up with everyone!  Unfortunately, I also came down with bronchitis which I can't quite seem to shake.  Two trips to the ER later and I now have an inhaler which is keeping the lungs open so I can breathe!  It feels really good to be able to breathe!  It's the little things that make you appreciate life!

Keep checking back for free puzzles on Wednesdays, and I've got a neat crafty-puzzly project in the works too, that I know kids will love! 

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