Monthly Archives: September 2012

Artist Profile: Annie Lee

My Cup Runneth Over – a 550 piece puzzle from artist Annie Lee.

Annie Lee is an artist that describes herself as painting scenes of every day life, saying, “I try to paint things that people can identify with.” Art commentators have called her distinct style “Black Americana.” She paints two-dimensional figures and incorporates elements of humor, satire, and realism in her work. Notably, she does not paint faces on her figures because, she says, “You don’t need to see a face to understand emotion. I try to make the movement of the body express the emotion,” she says.

Lee was born in Alabama where she and her brother grew up being taught to cook, wash, clean, and sew together. She began painting at the age of ten and her talent was immediately apparent: she began winning contests and even secured several free semesters of lessons at an art institute. In high school she continued honing her artistic talent and cheered for her high school football team on the cheerleading squad. She turned down a scholarship to Northwestern so she could marry and have a family, saying, “At the time, it wasn’t a hard decision to make.”

Lee ended up in Chicago and did not return to painting until she was 40 years old, after she had lost two husbands to cancer and had raised two children. While working at a railroad company by day, Lee began to take art classes at night. After eight years, she earned a master’s degree from Loyola University and recalls the experience saying, “The best thing I ever did for myself. It reopened my mind.”

Lee’s passion for painting stayed intense. Because she was painting so much, she developed tendinitis and spinal problems while the acrylic paints she used cause other illness from the fumes. But she never stopped. Instead, in 1986—a year after her successful first gallery show in which her paintings sold out in the first four hours—Lee made the transition from painting’s being hobby to a full-time job. She left the railroad permanently while on leave after her son died in December in an automobile accident. “Now that my son was gone, I didn’t need such financial resources,” she said.

The risk paid off. Lee has since opened her own shop; had her art featured in numerous shows and movies, including Bill Cosby’s “A Different World,” Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America,” and ER; and she has considerably recognition in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, and Japan.

She currently lives in Las Vegas where she continues to paint in the open air where it helps her health.

Lee is just one of many wonderful artists featured in our African American Art Collection.

Hattie’s Delight is a really popular puzzle by Annie Lee. 500 pieces, made by Sunsout.

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.

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