Don’t Forget to Vote! + Fun Political Puzzles

It’s time to register to vote! November will be here before you know it and the 2012 Presidential Election is going full speed ahead. We’ve got some really fun political puzzles to share with you – no matter who you’re voting for, you’re sure to find a red or blue puzzle that will be fun to put together this election season.

US Presidents poster puzzle for kids - will the puzzle have to be redesigned or will it stay the same? It’s up to you to vote!


Click for for more information on when voter registration deadlines are due for your state.

GottaVote is also a great site for learning more about registering and how to vote and what you need to do in order to vote.

Artist James Mellett has chosen key moments and key players in the ongoing dialog between Left, Right and Center. Whether you grit your teeth or laugh out loud, you won't be bored by this incredible puzzle. 1000 pieces.

Take a break from all the media coverage and political debates and just have some fun learning about the presidents. Here are some neat facts you may not have known about the first 44 leaders.

  • James Madison was the smallest and measured at 5’4”. The tallest was Abraham Lincoln at 6’4”.
  • John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe all died on the 4th of July, while Calvin Coolidge was born on it.
  • Andrew Jackson killed a man in a duel.
  • Martin Van Buren was the first born as an American citizen. Jimmy Carter was the first born in a hospital.
  • William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia after only 31 days in office.
  • Zachary Taylor never voted for in a presidential election.
  • The White House didn’t have a stove or running water until the time of 13th president, Millard Fillmore.
  • There was no First Lady during the 15th president’s time. James Buchanan never married, so his niece was the White House’s hostess.
  • Ulysses S. Grant had some trouble with the law: he was fined $20 for speeding in his horse and carriage.
  • The first president to have a phone was Rutherford B. Hayes, and his phone number was pretty simple: it was merely “1.” The first president to have his photograph taken was James Polk, and the first one to ride in an airplane and appear on television was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    These trivia cards are a great way to learn about past USA presidents.

  • James A. Garfield was a talented ambidextrous. He could write with both hands simultaneously—in different languages!
  • Grover Cleveland is the was the first one to get married in the White House. He married his business partner’s daughter whom he had known since she was born. They also were the first ones to have a child born during a presidency.
  • Campaign buttons were first used by 25th president William McKinley.
  • Theodore Roosevelt officially dubbed it the White House in 1901. Before it was the Executive Mansion, the President’s Palace, or simply the President’s House.
  • Poor Woodrow Wilson never fulfilled his dreams. He wanted to be a stage performer—instead he was just the president.
  • John Tyler, a father of fifteen, had the most children. James Madison, James Polk, and James Buchanan were all childless.
  • Warren G. Harding liked to gamble. He gambled away a set of the White House’s china.
  • Gerald R. Ford was either really cool or really protective: he held his daughter’s high school prom in the White House.
  • George W. Bush has a collection of over 250 signed baseballs. Barack Obama collects Spider-Man comics.
  • The state where the most presidents was born was Ohio, with 7 presidents. No presidents have been born in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, or Wyoming.
  • Imagine if your mechanic or your teacher became your president. That’s what happened to many customers and students when Lyndon B. Johnson took office. Other notable careers of presidents before they were presidents: Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, Ronald Reagan was a movie actor, Abe Lincoln chopped rails for fences, Andrew Johnson was a tailor, Calvin Coolidge was a toymaker, and Gerald Ford was a model.

Can you name them all? This is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

How about these guys?

5 Reasons You Should be Reading Game of Thrones

I’m three books deep into the magical series Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. So basically every time I check out our website for puzzles and I see wolves, dragons, or anything slightly resembling from the fantasy realm (even if it doesn’t occur in Game of Thrones, like fairy jigsaw puzzles) – it’s all I can think about. I drag this book with me everywhere I go, and you can bet whenever I’ve got a spare ten minutes I’m back in Westeros cheering on my favorite House for the throne.

So, if for some reason you haven’t picked up this series, first: gods be with you. Second: DO it. There is no easy way to summarize this series because it is so intricate, but I will try before I give you five reasons you should drop everything you’re doing and dive into these novels.

Basically what you need to know is that the Kingdom of Westeros is under threat from presumed rightful heirs as well as mysterious dark forces to the North, with a 700-foot Wall to and only a few hundred men sworn to keep it safe. The current king stole the throne fifteen years prior to the beginning of the novel from the Mad King; to some he is an usurper, to many he is lovable and good ruler. However, his chief advisor has just died and there’s something fishy about his death. His new advisor, Ned Stark, is determined to unravel the truth, but he finds himself digging around the Queen’s business. Meanwhile, the long ten-year summer is coming to an end, and the world is turning cold. All of these events lead to a battle for the Iron Throne and raise the question: Should the one to sit the throne be the one with the rightful claim, or the one fit to be the best ruler? And then there’s a more pressing question: what’s happening North of the Wall, and is the Kingdom prepared?

This snowy scene looks like it could take place in the wild lands North of the Wall. This image is on a 1000 piece Cobble Hill puzzle – check it out!

So, five (spoiler-free!) reasons you should read Game of Thrones:

1. It’s a fantasy series for people that “don’t really like fantasy.”

I’m one of those people. Game of Thrones came out in 1996, but the new HBO show based on these books is going into its third season next March, so now the series is engrossing the masses. You’ve probably already heard about it, and heard how good it is, and how people can’t put it down, how they are totally addicted, and like me, still thought, “You don’t get it. I don’t really like fantasy.” Besides a few casual mentions of fantasy-elements, like dragons, that had all but disappeared before the timeline in the story starts, it’s really not all that fantastical. The otherworldly elements are minimal in the first 800 pages of the series and only start to pick up once you’re seriously invested in the characters and storyline. And when they do show up, these elements are so awesome that you’ll probably think, “Don’t like fantasy? How could I have ever said that?”

 2. It will rip out your heart and stomp on it—in the best way possible.

You will become grievously attached to some character. Maybe it won’t even be a main character, but maybe it will. Either way, this person will probably have to weather a severe storm in the plot that will make your heart ache. You will design a godswood in your backyard and pray to the Old Gods that your character will be saved, redeemed, or rewarded for persevering through whatever brutal thing s/he has had to go through, but it will all be in vain. He or she will probably die, and you will be left a withering mess on the floor. George R.R. Martin is, in the best way possible, not afraid of his fans. What happens in the story happens because it needs to, and don’t worry about it when it does. You will fall in love with a new character, or you will find yourself becoming attached to one you previously despised.

Each family has a sigil. The Stark sigil is a direwolf. The six Stark children in the first book find a litter of direwolves that they raise and care for and come to be their great protectors. Click on the image to see all of our wolf puzzles.

3. It’s got everything.

It’s both a complicated murder mystery and a passionate love story. As much as it is a story of the war happening on the battlefield, it also depicts a quieter war of the old, new, and newest religions. Then some of the greatest action is an underhanded political move. It depicts good and bad marriages, the loving parents and the terrible ones. There’s funerals, weddings, affairs, attempted murders, sorcery, hero’s journeys, dragons, and much, much more. The dead seem to walk, the seasons stretch for years, and the future is told in dreams and fires. Characters enact vengeance, back away honorably, or run away as cowards. They rise up out of difficult circumstances or they fall deeper into pits of despair or they prevail stoically and honorably as their lives take a drastic turn for the worse.

Continue reading this post

Nellie Bly: A Closer Look

Nellie Bly is most famous for her extraordinary trip around the world. This journey was undertaken by Bly in an attempt to challenge the record of Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg in the novel “Around the World in 80 Days.” In 1889, a time when a woman’s place was considered to be the home, Bly’s travels had her as a passenger of ships, trains, rickshaws, camels, and even burros. Bly did beat Fogg’s record: in just 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes, Bly returned to a crowd of cheering people.

But this isn’t all that earned Bly her fame. She was a leader in women’s equality and this sometimes gets overshadowed by her exciting trip around the world. So what do you need to know about Nellie Bly to realize she’s one of the most awesome ladies in history? Actually, quite a lot. She was a leader in investigative journalism with a spirit that couldn’t be tampered or toned down by anyone.

This 300 piece puzzle turns into a game board - a fun way to play and learn all about the adventures of Nellie Bly!

Elizabeth Jane Cochran, the thirteenth and most rebellious child of the wealthy landowner, judge, and businessman Michael Cochran, would someday grow up to be a famous journalist under the pseudonym Nellie Bly (a name she chose from the Stephen Foster song). Bly’s family fell into financial ruin when her father died when she was just six years old, leaving behind no will to protect the children of his second wife, including Bly and four of her siblings.

From an early age, Bly was not afraid of controversy or standing up for women. She testified against her mother’s second husband during their divorce trial about his abuse and alcoholism. She attempted to find an independent living for herself that would also help her support her mother and went to train to become a teacher at age 15, but was forced to give it up after only one semester because of insufficient finances.

Bly worked for a few years in jobs that brought her little money and no recognition. Then, incensed by an article written by popular columnist Erasmus Wilson on how women belonged in the home cooking and sewing and the like, going as far as to call the working woman a “monstrosity,” Bly was compelled to write in an angry, spirited response signed “Little Orphan Girl.” Her fiery attitude and well-reasoned response actually impressed the editors; Wilson wrote an open letter to “Little Orphan Girl” to get her to present herself. She did, and was hired.

But this wasn’t yet a major breakthrough for women. After a few stories that contained substance, the editors demoted Bly to write on the things they deemed appropriate for a woman because her exposé on the conditions of female factory workers upset factor owners. Her new assignments were on flowers and cotillion dances. Bly found this unacceptable; she continued writing stories with meaning, but was rejected. She even traveled down to Mexico and reported on its culture and exposed political corruption, but this merited nothing. Her frank reporting was getting her in trouble. Fed up, Bly quit, writing a simple two weeks notice to Wilson and made her way to New York City, telling him to “look out for her.”

Wilson couldn’t have missed her if he tried.

In New York, Bly searched for six months until Joseph Pulitzer (of the Pulitzer Prize) hired her for New York World. Her first assignment was to write a feature story about the conditions inside the local insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. One of the first reporters to go undercover for a story, Bly made up an entire identity, faked insanity, fooled the psychiatrists, and got herself admitted. She stayed there for ten days.

Her articles on the asylum shocked everyone, revealing the abusive conditions these women were forced to live under, such as ice cold baths, cruel beatings, and meals made with rancid butter. It caused an absolute media frenzy and secured an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections and a reform of the institution. Bly’s work was finally starting to get the attention it deserved. She was a founding mother of investigative journalism, but she didn’t stop there.

She got herself landed in jail and hired by a sweatshop to uncover injustices and poor treatment of the vulnerable, voiceless people in those places. An advocate for social justice and a voice for the disenfranchised, Bly reported on corruption, shady lobbyists, and inadequate medical care given to the poor. Her report on the Pullman Railroad Strike in Chicago was the sole article to give a voice to those that were actually on strike. She always injects personality into her stories, giving her reactions, feelings, and observations along with the facts.

At 30, Bly retired and happily married industrialist 70-year-old Robert Seaman. When he died ten years later, she became president of a steel manufacturing company and
became a leading female industrialist of the time, setting a precedent for working conditions that included ensuring fair pay and health care. There are alternate claims, but some believe she went and invented the steel barrel that became the model for the widely used 55-gallon drum (others think the credit belongs to a man named Henry Wehrhahn). She did, however, invent  a stacking garbage can and a novel milk can. Eventually, however, the business went bankrupt due to embezzlement by employees. She returned to reporting and helped find homes for abandoned children, wrote on the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Convention, and stories Europe’s Eastern Front during WWI.

Basically, Nellie Bly did more than many of us can ever hope to do in terms of pioneering. And she did it in a time when it seemed even more impossible. But she remains an model of encouragement: in the present, women’s issues are at the forefront of our attention, and it’s inspiring to be reminded that with a determined, blazing spirit, we can make things happen and change the world.

Full texts are available if you are interested in reading Nellie Bly’s famous article on the asylum.

 

EASY WILD ALASKA BERRY RECIPES

This is a handmade wooden puzzle made my Peaceful Wooden Puzzles. Makes an awesome and memorable gift!

Seeing this beautiful picture of our wooden Alaska Wild Berries puzzle, I was curious: what kinds of delicious foods could I be prevailed on to make with these, as I am in the beginning stages of learning to cook at all? Here are some fun, easy recipes for Alaska Wild Berries, and some interesting information about the berries as well!

Juicy – 1000 piece summer berry puzzle is sure to inspire some tasty treats!

Wild berries that found in Alaska are an excellent source of antioxidants, those helpful substances that fight other substances which roam around and deplete healthy cells of oxygen and contribute to aging, heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Basically antioxidants counteract other bad things going on in your body, so they’re very good for you.

Some of Alaska’s berries, like lingonberries, have just over eight times the amount of antioxidants as blueberries found in the contiguous U.S.

So you can use that excuse when you treat yourself to these sweeter indulgences offered below.

ESKIMO ICE CREAM
Eskimo ice cream, or Akutaq-Alaskan, is a light and fluffy dessert that can vary quite a bit as to its ingredients. Some recipes call for moose, caribou, or fish fat and oils. The recipe holds quite a bit of history: Native women traditionally made Akutaq after the first polar bear or seal catch, and the dessert was shared with the community members as part of special ceremonies. The modern recipe, which omits the animal fats, is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (more is optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 cups of berries (salmonberries, blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries)

Directions

  • Soak raisins in hot water
  • Whip Crisco and water in a bowl until smooth/creamy
  • Add in 1/2 cup sugar; mix well
  • Add berries and soaked raisins; mix well
  • Chill before serving

NAGOONBERRY SYRUP
Nagoonberry syrup is a delightful recipe to put over the classic waffles and pancakes, but also tastes delicious over ice cream or hot biscuits. After it is prepared, it will keep up to six months in the refrigerator without sugaring.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups nagoonberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

  • Extract juice by combining 4 cups of nagoonberries with 1 cup water in a bowl
  • Crush berries
  • On stove, bring mix to a simmer in a covered pot for 10 minutes
  • Place mix in a jellybag OR layers of cheesecloth in a colander
  • Let juice drip into a bowl (do not twist or press jellybag/cheesecloth)
  • Combine nagoonberry and lemon juices and sugar in saucepan
  • Heat to 160 degrees; do not boil

ALASKA WILD BERRIES MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups Wild Alaska berries (1 cup each of blueberries, cranberries preferred)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (more is optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more is optional)

Directions:

  • Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in large bowl
  • In SEPARATE bowl mix Crisco, vanilla, sugar, eggs
  • Combine both mixtures together
  • Add milk
  • Fold in wild berries
  • Pour batter into lightly greased muffin tins
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes

WILD BERRY STUFFED FRENCH TOAST

This is a recipe which could be used with any berries of your preference, but would also be great with the syrup you made from the noganberry recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf Italian bread, unsliced
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 cup wild berries (blueberries or raspberries preferred)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Maple syrup

Directions

  • Slice end off bread (save for another use)
  • Cut next slice part way through so that it has a pocket and is thick, but to your preference
  • Cut next slice all the way through
  • Continue until all bread is sliced (6-7 pieces preferred)
  • Place slices of cream cheese in each pocket
  • Add spoonfulls of berries
  • Place bread on cookie sheets
  • In large/shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup, and melted butter
  • Dip each slice stuffed bread in egg mixture; coat well
  • Place on greased griddle over medium heat
  • Cook until lightly browned (about 3 min. per side, turning once)
  • Remove from griddle, sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional)

NASA releases new photos of Mars from Curiosity Rover

On November 26, 2011, the rover called Curiosity was launched into space from Cape Canaveral. Nine months later, after a 350 million mile journey, it landed safely on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on the planet Mars to much celebration and cheering from Nasa. NASA released new photos of the planet on Tuesday.

No ideas what a rover is? Scroll to the bottom of this post.

We have an awesome 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle of Mars made by Euro Graphics. Who knows - maybe we will see some new puzzles pop up now that NASA has released new photos of the planet.

While on Mars, Curiosity will be investigating the planet’s geology and climate and we’ll begin to look at the big question of whether or not Mars could have ever supported life — looking into the role of water and the planet’s habitability.

So now is a pretty good time to review what we already know about Mars because we’re about to be learning a lot more about the fourth planet from the sun. If your interested in outer space and the great unknown – make sure to check out some of our educational and fun jigsaw puzzles about space.

Fun Facts about Mars

  • Mars is named after the Roman god of war because of its red color. Other civilizations also gave the planet names based on appearance—Egyptians called Mars “the red one” (“Her Desher”) and ancient Chinese astronomers referred to it as the “fire star.”
  • In reality, Mars’ color appearance is a result of the fact that Mars has a lot of iron in its soil.
  • Mars is the only planet whose surface can be seen in detail from Earth because it is our nearest planetary neighbor
  • The diameter of Mars is 4,200 miles—a little over half the diameter of Earth
  • Mars is home to the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, which tops out at 15 miles high—three times the height of Mount Everest! Its diameter is even more impressive: it’s 370 miles, enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico
  • Mars also has the deepest, longest valley in the solar system, Valles Marineris, which can go as deep as 6 miles and runs east-to-west for about 2,500 miles (the distance from Phiadelphia to San Diego).
  • The Martian “day” is about a half hour longer than Earth’s day, and Mars orbits the sun every 687 Earth days.
  • At its brightest, Mars loses only to Venus, which outshines it
  • Mars is covered in valleys and canyons, so it’s very possibly Mars was once home to large amounts of surface water which now do not exist due to its cold, thin atmosphere
  • Scientists believe the climate of Mars used to be a lot like our climate on Earth—warm and wet.
  • Mars has seasons just like Earth because also just like Earth, Mars has an axis that tilts in relation to the sun.
  • Mars’ seasons are more extreme because its orbit is elliptical and more elongated than any other major planet’s orbits.
  • The average temperature on Mars is about -80°F, though it can drop to -191°F during the coldest periods and rise to 70°F during the hottest at the equator.
  • Mars has two moons, Phobos, meaning “fear,” and Deimos, meaning “rout.” In the Greek version, Mars is named Ares, and his sons are Phobos and Deimos. This is where astronomer Asaph Hall came up with the names.
  • Mars holds another record in the entire solar system: it has the largest dust storms. These can blanket the entire planet and last for months!

Soon we’ll be compiling an even larger list of things to know about the red planet. In the meantime, keep updated on the newest photos of Mars – we’ve never seen in this type of close up, high quality image.

What is a Rover, anyway?

From Wikipedia: A rover (or sometimes planetary rover) is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other astronomical body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots. Rovers usually arrive at the planetary surface on a lander-style spacecraft. Their advantages over orbiting spacecraft are that they can make observations to a microscopic level and can conduct physical experimentation. Disadvantages of rovers compared to orbiters are the higher chance of failure, due to landing and other risks, and that they are limited to a small area around a landing site which itself is only approximately anticipated.