Category Archives: Holiday

The Island of Misfit Card-making Equipment

As I’ve mentioned before, certain paper crafting supplies are not cheap!

The market for such items is huge, though.  A few companies that sell fancy papers, paints, inks, die-cutters and the like, are in extreme demand among the multitudes of folks who want to DIY their own greeting cards.

At our crafting class the other night, a few of us were talking about the monthly card kits we subscribe to, which run about $30 to $60 per month.

“I subscribed to [so-and-so’s] kit, but I refuse to subscribe to [such-and-such’s] because it’s way too expensive,” said one of our members.

I agreed. I also have a lot of stuff I’ve accumulated from the 3 months I’ve been a subscriber, that I haven’t used much of yet. However, I had been looking at that particular expensive kit, because its current offering has some equipment in it to make pretty gift card holders for Christmas. After a few days of mulling it over, I decided maybe I wanted to buy into just this one-off kit. But, in the few days it took me to get to that realization, the kit sold out! The only option was to buy a 3-month subscription, which was $97, not including shipping costs which would come to another $12 or so. Well, I darn sure wasn’t going to pay that…but then again, it was very unique, and it would only average out to $33 per month or so…I tentatively looked at the 3-month option again, and in just a day’s time, it was sold out too! Unreal!

Meanwhile, the company whose kit I do subscribe to, gives a mystery freebie item away with each order (separate from the kits). Which brings me to this item I received a few months back:

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mystery freebie item

Can you tell by looking at it, what it’s supposed to do/be?

The title of it is “Monstrocity.” And inside the envelope are some metal wafer dies in the shapes you see in the image above.

I threw it in a drawer and stopped thinking about it until recently, when I began to get interested in making cards and stuff for Halloween, reasoning that maybe it could fit into the Halloween festivities somehow. So I went to the company’s web site and tried to find a stamp set that coordinated with the dies. No luck. It was not even listed anywhere on the site. I tried Googling it, and I did find a few images someone made using the stamp set back in 2015. On eBay, I found one used stamp set that fits these dies, and it was for sale for about $35, not including shipping and handling. So the freebie is pretty much unusable–destined for the Island of Misfit Card-making Paraphernalia— unless I want to buy the stamp off someone who bought it from the company back in 2015.  Or, I could die-cut the little monsters out of paper, then draw and color them in while eye-balling a picture of the stamps so I’ll know what they’re supposed to look like? What would you do, dear reader?

In the interim, I did have some fun making Halloween cards.

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distress ink background, black ink through a stencil, hologram sticker
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Art Journal page: distress ink, big brush markers, gelée pumpkins, Ferro paste bats in “Bordeaux” color
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Distress ink background, Ferro paste bats in “Graphite” color through a stencil
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paper die cuts from Tricia, fog is Perfect Pearls powder dry-brushed on

The seasons are maybe changing a little…

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Lots of squirrel activity in the neighborhood….another harbinger of Fall?

A Card-carrying Crafter

As a crafter/maker, you know that you must keep on producing…something, whether on a lathe, with hardware, the written word, paint, a sewing machine…something! Right?

We’ve revived the Knitting group once a week, and expanded it to include other crafts as well.

One focus that has come forth in the group is the making of greeting cards, mostly by Tricia and me. She went to a Papercrafting Expo and came back with some great ideas and a resolve to make all her own greeting cards.

Papercrafting is BIG! The amount of tools and materials available for such pursuits is staggering. Several companies sell monthly kits with items that, they advertise, you can make at least 10 cards. With all the scraps and options you probably have around from previous projects, you can probably churn out way more than 10 from a kit (which costs about $40). But when you go to the store to buy cards for an occasion, you’re going to probably spend $5 a piece, or more, if you can’t resist the really ornate ones. And several super You-tube makers vlog about the cards they made from the monthly kit, which can give you so much inspiration and ideas.

Here are a few that I have made in the past couple of months:

Cards made from Simon Says Stamp June 2018 kit, based on Vicky Papaionnou’s designs
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This one incorporates balsa wood letters Skip cut out with the Laser, and some Tim Holtz gears and tape
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This one features a raised pattern by an embossing sleeve that was included in the June SSS kit, dusted over with a gold powder
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These cards used leftover strips cut from 6×6 card stock from the June SSS kit

I learned how to use the leftover strips of card stock (hating to throw anything cute away) courtesy of Shari Carroll’s “Lovely Layered Cards from Top to Bottom” class on the Craftsy platform.

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Card papers from the kit, with floral butterflies

These were made from 1) plain cards (the pink and blue “borders” in the photo above are the actual pink and blue cards that the decorative papers were glued onto)  and envelopes that came in a big package of 80 sets from Michael’s on sale for $5, 2) two 6×6 pieces of card stock that came with the SSS kit,  cut down to size so the background paper looks like a border, 3) the sentiments came from a couple of clear stamps and Archival jet black ink, 4) some large sequins I had leftover from my grandmother’s sewing stash, 5) floral butterflies from Hobby Lobby that came in a pkg of 4.

The package of four floral butterflies and the package of 80 sets of cards and envelopes were each the same price; go figure!

Anyway, loads of fun!

 

Wow, Spring!

After being under the weather for about seven weeks, I finally felt okay enough to resume walking in the mornings before going to the gym. I was surprised that suddenly trees are blooming in the neighborhood! It’s Spring already!

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rain runoff
street
street
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fountain
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azaleas
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Liveoak leaves falling
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azaleas
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tulip tree
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jungle palms
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budding trees
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It was Abe Lincoln’s birthday
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the end of the line

 

 

 

The Steve McQueen Connection

Maybe you’re one of those hard-to-shop-for people who already has  everything.  So, for a holiday gift this year, maybe you got a DNA test kit from Ancestry.com or another company that was advertising them at a cut rate.  You spit in the tube, send it off, find out what the pie chart of your ethnicity shows by way of percentages European, Asian, African, etc., then what?

We did the test a few years ago, after I was charmed by an Ancestry.com vendor at Rootstech.

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test kit

Oddly (to me), most of the DNA connections I’ve found through ancestry.com  have no pedigree listed on the site at all, so I have no earthly idea how I’m related to them. You can go and see what matches you have in common with them, and then presume that you’re related to them through a common ancestor from the match in common. But when you have some Smiths, Williams’s, and other such very common names in the various ancestral lines, it could be any one of them.

For one thing, my parents’ few siblings had no children, so I have no first cousins. The second cousins should be the descendants of my grandparents’ siblings.  So I would have at least 4 common ancestors with a DNA match who is a second cousin. Third cousins: we would have 8 common ancestors to be descended from.  Fourth cousin: 16 common ancestors.  Unfortunately, in the majority of my matches, I have to guess which one of the 32 common ancestors the match is descended from. That generation (5th cousin) is my great-great-great grandparents, and most people haven’t gotten that far in their research. But, some people have gotten far. And maybe they can help me, because when you go back many generations, there weren’t  as many people in the world.

Another quirky thing about the DNA test, is that a person inherits 50% of his or her DNA from their mother and 50% from their father. So it is actually possible for a brother to have a DNA match and his sister to not have that match. I have seen that first hand, since my son and daughter both had their test results registered on the site. The DNA match I’m referring to would be at the level of distant cousin.

Ancestry also has an affiliated phone app called “We’re Related.” You also have to link up with Facebook somehow, to get matches. And DNA has nothing to do with these matches, they’re all based on the pedigree you’ve entered on the site, and enhanced by information from other people’s pedigrees, I guess.  So every now and then, we get a notice from “We’re Related” telling us who may be a cousin, and exactly how we are possibly related. This week, for me, it was Steve McQueen.

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Me & Cousin Steve

When we first get the notice of a match, it’s fun and interesting to see who is our distant cousin, but I never took it very seriously, since practically everyone in the US who has colonial ancestors, is related at the level of tenth cousin or so, right?  [Or, as one friend put it, “we’re all brothers and sisters when you go back to the beginning!”]

But it wasn’t until I was reading a blog called A Tree Grew in Oakland that I realized I should be checking the connections given in these notifications, to see if they are feasible. I knew by clicking on the 10 in the notice above, and seeing the ten generations the site came up with for my lineage, that I only had an ancestor for the prior 5 generations. It ended with my furtherest-back ancestor, a great-great grandmother, but they listed 5 more generations previous to hers. You could say that I had a brick wall. I didn’t know where she came from. I still don’t know for sure, but these new connections are feasible, and when I entered some of the information, hints popped up to show that there are historical records that confirm the data.

Another coincidence is that a few days before, I’d gotten a notice that Derek Jeter is possibly my 8th cousin. When I clicked on the 8 to see what they came up for our common ancestor, the lineage included that same great-great grandmother, but this time it showed  three previous generations in her maternal line, rather than paternal like the Steve McQueen connection.

Amazing, do you think that great-great grandmother wanted her lineage to be found? Time to stop all the fun speculation and actually follow up on some of these leads.

As Pat Shaul, the author of A Tree Grew in Oakland, says, not all of the connections on “We’re Related” are correct. But when he wrote that he had some checking to do, it hit me that those speculative relationships from Ancestry.com can be a gold mine of a starting point for research!

The Allez Gators Quilt

Thanks to Google, I was able to quickly find out that the French word for quilt is courtepoint. I have to admit, I’ve never ever seen or heard the word courtepoint before! Not that I have much of a working vocabulary for French anyway; my formal training in French words is limited to 2 years at Herndon High School back in the seventies…“Où est Phillipe? Il est a là piscine….”

But I have a family member who majored in French at the University of Florida. In fact, her grandfather was a French scholar and chairman of the languages department.  Owing that French words and being a gator are dear to her heart, I designed a lap quilt around those two elements.

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la courtepointe est finie

The design is based on the chants they make you do when you go to a football game. “Orange!” “Blue!” “Orange!” Blue!” et cetera.  So in French it would be “L’Orange! Le Bleu!”  Not exactly rocket science here, but… we’re talking…college football. Then, I added “Allez Gators!” Get it?  The standard greeting in Gainesville, if you come across anyone who is dressed in orange and blue, no matter what the occasion, is “Go Gators!”

The stripes in the quilt were made after the manner of Edyta Sitar’s Mix ‘N Match Inspired Scrappy Quilting class from Craftsy. Fabric is cut into strips, then pieced together, then cut into the desired shapes: in this quilt, the shapes were cut from the Rick-rack template on an Accuquilt Go! Big cutting machine. And the green gator was just a freehand sketch.

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strips into stripes, the orange version

Sitar has a recommended mix for this type of assembly, with 5 types of fabrics that blend well with colors, including a large print, a small print, a polka dot, a stripe,,,but I used fabrics that match up with the gator licensed collegiate fabric. Florida has a distinctive paprika-colored orange and a royal blue; you wouldn’t want to end up with, say, a Tennessee orange which has more yellow, or the Auburn orange and blue, which is burnt orange and navy blue. Totally different orange and blue. Oh, yes, there’s more to college football rivalry than prowess on the field, you have to get the true colors right. There’s room for some creativity, but one must uphold the standards, as set forth here.

Ah, for the lettering…I could have used one of the cool Rivermill machine embroidery appliqué templates, but the problem there, is getting the individual letters sewn onto the quilt top one by one, with a pleasing amount of space in between each letter. If you’ve ever done calligraphy, using a Speedball pen and ink guidelines book, you’ll recall that every letter has a standard dimension, and the spaces between the letters are not the same. When you are appliquéing letters on a background fabric using machine embroidery, you’d have to know the exact dimensions of each letter and how far apart to space them.  I thought it would be easier to just draw out the letters, then attach Wunder-under to the back of the lettering and glue it onto the fabric before satin-stitching around the edges. Easier said than done! Wunder-under consists of a piece of paper that has glue on both sides, one side having an additional backing paper. The idea is to iron it on to a piece of fabric, then peel off the backing, exposing the glue on the other side, then flipping the appliqué over and ironing that side down to another fabric. But to use that “easy” procedure, you’d have to draw the word backwards on to the Wonder-under first, which is something that the left-brained aspect of me, was unable to pull off.

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ironing Wunder-under to the back of a fabric

So what I ended up doing, was sketching the word on the back of the Wunder-under, the crinkly, textured side that has the first application of glue to be ironed on, then ironing it onto the wrong side of the fabric, then cutting out around the sketched letters with embroidery scissors and an X-acto knife, then peeling off the backing of the Wunder-under and ironing it down to the quilt top.

After all the appliqué pieces were backed with the adhesive sheets and ironed onto the quilt top, I stitched around them with zig-zag or satin stitching to anchor them down. Then I starched both top and backing (both fabrics being white cotton), and quilted them together in random stipple stitching with orange thread,  with a layer of poly-cotton batting in between. I sent off for some pre-wound orange bobbins on Amazon from a dealer who had originally bought them from Superior Threads, and I had no trouble with tension. Then I squared up the edges and applied a binding strip 2 1/4 inches wide, also cut with an Accuquilt die. I bet it would have looked great with rick-rack shaped edges, but I was chasing a deadline at this point, so straight edges it was.

Happy holidays, and though they didn’t even get a bowl game this year,  Go Gators!

Holiday Brunches

WARNING!! If you have gluten sensitivity, are vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, Paleo,  or have any other dietary limitations or qualms about eating fattening food, just pass on over this post, nothing to see here…<

I love the idea of having a late breakfast -slash-early lunch during the holidays. As craftspeople, we like the satisfaction of making things when it comes to meals, too, or just basking in the glow of other people’s creations.

We had brunch at the local breakfast house, 43rd Street Deli, Saturday. Take a look at their creative specials menu:

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holiday specials

I had to go for the Crabby Patty special, needless to say.

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Crabby patties for breakfast

Those curvy-shaped fried things with the green undertones are fried avocado slices. Pretty delicious! And their toaster was on the fritz, so I had to get rye toast that had been grilled in just a thin even layer of butter…savory-crisp on one side…

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Skip always gets pretty much, this

Skip’s usual: 2 eggs, any style, with sides. Amy went for the creative and exotic.

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Cajun Persuasion Benedict

Noele liked the decked-out Holiday Waffle.

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waffleicious

Amy asked for a sample of the blackberry-thyme topping that went with another menu item we passed over, and tasted as good as it sounds.

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Berry Thyme

We got a Swiss Colony breakfast  box as a gift from James and Danielle, so we decided to break it out for Christmas morning.

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Swiss Colony Christmas gift breakfast

The part we enjoyed included peppered bacon, Canadian bacon, marmalade and strawberry preserves, but there’s much more for another day’s brunch….

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bacon, eggs, toast and orange marmalade

I got the recipe for this Olive Shortbread from a recent magazine; it’s a sweet-salty nibble.

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Kalamata Olive shortbread

We still have a little bit of mini-canolli and cherry-topped cheesecake leftover from the family party, for dessert. Oh, did I mention, breakfast comes with dessert at Christmas?

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desserts

This was Amy’s Christmas morning brunch.

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Amy’s Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza brunch spread

Is that spiced cider in the lower right? Mmmmm.

John and Amber had biscuits and gravy after opening presents. I didn’t get a picture, but I can picture it in my mind, with hot sausage,  big flaky buttermilk biscuits, thick-sliced crispy bacon on the side…

Merry Christmas everyone!

Simple Holiday Sewing with Buzzkill Fears and Trepidations

Which is better, cotton or polyester?

It used to be cotton all the way, however, there are so many cool polyester fabrics, it would be a shame to miss out on them. Am I right?

The idea for this Santa blanket came from looking through my fabric stash. The stash includes a big box of polar fleece, minky, minky dot and velour-type fabric remnants, mostly polyester or cotton-poly blends. Our local JoAnn store will roll up some fabric remnants for sale at 50% (sometimes 75%) off.

Most apparel remnants are less than a yard, but most Home-Dec items, including blanket-type material, can be a yard or more. I figure that one yard of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide is a good size for a lap quilt or a baby blanket. If less than .8 of a yard, it would look better pieced with some other fabric.

The main part of this Santa blanket is a high-pile red minky that’s velvety soft on both sides. I think it’s the ideal fabric for a soft blanket. The edges are trimmed with thick bands of white minky dot fabric sewn on right-side edge to back edge of blanket, folded over and sewn down, which are supposed to be reminiscent of the trim on Santa’s hat and suit.

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Santa blanket

The next is a takeoff on the Santa blanket, except the center part is pieced and backed. The top is made of 3 pieces of flannel (flannel is a cotton fabric) in red, black and white. The top was sewn, right sides together at two edges, to a piece of red minky dot fabric (polyester). Actually, the back is two pieces; I had to add a strip because the back wasn’t quite big enough. The big fabric cylinder was then turned inside-out. Then two wide strips of black minky dot fabric were sewn on the two ends with still-raw edges, folded over and sewn down, à la Santa blanket above.

I wasn’t very happy with the way it looked constuction-wise, so I decided this one is going to be kept on our couch, ain’t nobady’s business if I do. If I decided to give this as a gift, I probably would have put a layer of polyester batting in the center and quilted it together.

If not tacked together in the center (which this one isn’t), these layers of fabric will probably crackle with electricity when you shake out the blanket. I always worry about stuff like that. For instance, you see along the selvage, on really cute children’s pattern flannel and other fabrics, the buzz-kill warning: Not to be used for children’s sleepwear.

You can google this and find that there are several points of view: that some of these fabrics could catch fire easily. But then, commercial pajamas for kids have chemicals in them to serve as flame-retardants to the fabric in case it does catch on fire. I can remember my kids wearing sleepers that, when they’d been washed about a zillion times, really did crackle and spark with static electricity when they were romping around in them. Wonder if the flame-retardant chemicals washed out after a while? Wonder if the chemicals contributed to eczema? Wonder if shaking out these blankets full of static electricity could cause a fire?

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take off on Santa blanket

And while we’re on the subject of polyester fabrics, there’s a new contraindication going around: shellfish are eating little pieces of plastic that they find in their natural habitats, which are in turn passed on to us at the dining table. Researchers have found that one source of the tiny plastic particles in seafood is run-off water in which polyester clothes are washed. Here’s one article.

We could wall ourselves off from all polyester and acrylic contamination: wear only organic fibers, eat only organic foods, wash with soap that doesn’t contain exfoliating pellets of man-made whatever.  Or maybe it’s too late for that? Maybe it’s a step in the ultimate direction of The Singularity, where mankind becomes one with machine…it starts with our food sources ingesting plastic, and then little by little, those plastic components creep into our metabolisms, our anatomies, our selves?

I think I like cotton better.

 

Simplifying Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!

Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile.  So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.

The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.

I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.

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Santa’s dirigible, an Urban Threads design

Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.

For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…

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gold fabric for backing
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or maybe one of these?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.

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this was the backing we ended up with
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coffee table cover being snagged by cat
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under the cat-proof tree

On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.

 

 

 

Most Lame Halloween Ever

It’s even more depressing to talk about it.

We didn’t even have one trick or treater come to the door.

And I hurt from the knuckles up from my three-hour visit to the dentist to get prepped for a crown.

So the thought of “more candy for me” doesn’t even sound good.

I tried to “friend” my dentist on Facebook a couple of years ago. She was like “hell, no.”

Because I am the worst patient ever. I woke up this morning (All Saints Day, la la!) with crumbles of that rubbery material they use to make impressions of your teeth, two trays of which I barfed up onto the reclining chair of doom, stuck in my hair. Ew.

But here are some pics that capture the spirit of the holiday, at best…

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neighborhood hi-jinks
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Who are the people in your neighborhood? Ghouls.
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Our Sheenah and the new 99 cent Publix shopping bags
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in your space decorations
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open front door, see butt of 12-ft tall scary cat

Thanks to Danielle for the last two pics of their decorations, they were so funny I had to share them. The skull, with its rotating eyeballs, is maniacal!

Bats, Bats and More Bats! The Halloween Type!

by Skip…

Inspired by David Picciuto’s Rockler-sponsored video on making puzzles using a laser, we decided to download his puzzle template, fire up the Full Spectrum laser and make a puzzle. In the past couple of years, we have produced holiday-themed puzzles using the laser (2016 Ghoul,  2015 Christmas Tree, Thanksgiving 2016, Halloween 2015  ).  So with Halloween approaching, it was time to put out another puzzle.

Bat puzzle

 

I searched the internet and found a Halloween image with some bats, and sized it to fit in a 10 inch by 7 inch space. Then, using the laser in raster mode I burned a light image of the subject on a piece of 1/8 inch thick Baltic plywood.  I then loaded up the puzzle template, sized it to fill the 7 inch by 10 inch space, and in vector mode with 100% power and 60% speed, cut out the puzzle. Oh, before laser cutting, I covered the raster image with painters’ tape to reduce burn residue from collecting directly on the wood surface.  I peeled the tape off after the puzzle was cut.

So why did I pick bats this year?  I like bats. They are high tech, insect-eating machines.  If you get up close and personal, they are really kind of cute.  We have several bat houses on our UF campus and it is really fun to watch them come out at dusk to do their thing…. eat insects!

In a September 2016 blog post by Christina Wang, Spooky Symbolism: The History and Meaning Behind Iconic Halloween Images, Christina writes

“Bats have long been associated with mystery, evil, death, and the supernatural. They’re only active at night, plus they live in caves (which evokes the underworld). Vampires are also often said to transform into bats, a connection popularized by Stoker’s novel and the many Dracula films.  One theory for the link between bats and Halloween has to do with the festival of Samhain. When the Celts celebrated the end of the harvest on October 31, they would light bonfires to keep evil spirits at bay. This practice would attract insects and, in turn, bats.

For some great Bat Facts (and to see baby bats in blankets) go to Brandon Keim’s Wired article, October 31, 2012 entitled: Tricks and Treats: 12 Amazing Things About Bats.”

Back to the puzzle: after removing all the tape and cleaning up the parts, I turned the puzzle pieces over to my wife for PLPPP (POST LASER PUZZLE PIECE PROCESSING).  I thought the image I laser-printed on the puzzle would make it easy to put the puzzle back together before painting…NO! It took my wife a couple of hours [days, actually…J]  to reconstruct the puzzle. The image was too light and the puzzle pieces are so uniform that it made it really difficult to put the puzzle together.

Once it was together, I sandwiched it between two boards and flipped it over. I covered the back side with painters’ tape to hold it together while my wife painted it, using acrylic paints and glitter. I followed this up with a couple clear coats of acrylic spray.  My wife decided to extend the challenge she had undergone, and painted the puzzle in a fashion to keep the difficulty at a high level.  Nobody is going to quickly solve this puzzle like a bat out of you know where!!