Just recently some of us on the Schimmelman (my maiden name) side of the family began to realize that doing jigsaw puzzles is a family pastime. We never had one out at home when I was a kid, but after my father and stepmother bought a cottage on Suttons Bay, he was always working one. I used to have one going all the time years ago, but for some reason Wayne put my project table upstairs, so I didn’t have a place to do one. I also noticed, when I used to visit my Uncle Fred and Aunt MM, that they always had one out, usually a very complicated one.

When we were at my niece’s house this year to decorate Christmas cookies, they had a puzzle out, and I noticed that my great niece, Mischa, who is 11, has the ability to just look at an open spot, glance around, and pick up the piece for that place. Ares said that they always do a puzzle when they are on holiday. John and Lucie and I tried to help with the puzzle and spent several hours only placing a few pieces. So, since the puzzle (1000 pieces) was only about 1/4 done when we were there, when Ares sent us a photo of the completed puzzle the next day, we were amazed. That’s when we started talking about Dad always having a puzzle out, and John told us that Amy, our cousin, had one out when they visited her on their way here. They told us how she had it on a board so that she could move it if she needed the space, something that will be necessary for us, too.

Here’s our solved puzzle. I’m not sure where this one came from, as it’s not the type of puzzle I would have bought myself. You’re supposed to read a story that goes with it and try to solve the mystery, but although I love mysteries, I expect this one was probably a stupid one.

I have half a dozen puzzles in the closet, so when we went home, we got them out and picked one and started working on it. I generally like scenic or art puzzles, but we picked out a mystery puzzle because John, who is colorblind, thought it would be easier for him to do it by shape. We worked on it a bit, but they found their new home so quickly that we barely had the edge pieces in before they left. They said they wanted to have one going in their new home, so I took them another mystery puzzle when Sue and I went to visit.

I have been working on it for a bit every day, and Friday I finally finished it, with Wayne helping a little bit, especially at the end. It has taken us a lot longer to do than I expected, but Friday I also bought a lightweight board to use under the next puzzle. I generally break up a puzzle as soon as I finish it, but this time I let it sit on the table for a day.

I am now working my second puzzle, which has a lot of areas that are the same color, so it’s proving difficult. Unfortunately this weekend I’ll have to find a place to put it, because we are going to be full up. At least, I think we are. Nancy is having a 70th birthday dinner for my brother Mark, and John told me Sunday that Steve and co. (alias the Cirque du Schimmelman) were coming and planning to stay with us, and did anyone tell me? To which I answered, of course not. And they still haven’t told me. So, this week I’ve been cleaning house, a set of tasks I’ve been procrastinating about since the holidays, so the house is pretty messy. I will need to find an opportunity to sneak downstairs and change the bed and clean the bathroom, since Luke gets very upset when I go down there.

And speaking of Luke, he astonished me on Saturday during class. For the first part of the class, we heeled our dogs from one spot on the ground to another, not moving forward until the dogs looked at us. He did okay with this. He tended to look up at me quickly for the first two spots and then take longer for the second two, but at least I wasn’t the last person left standing. We did that several times and then were responsible for keeping our dog looking at us while the other people in the class came in and did the same thing with the spots.

After a while of that, they had us take the dogs into the yard and heel in the circle. After we went around a couple of times, they told us to take them off leash. Up until now, when I take Luke off leash he heels for a little while and then stops and looks confused. This time, I took him off and he continued to heel for the rest of the class, around and around. That is great, because I want him to be able to go with me places off leash, and once I can be sure he’ll stick with me most of the time, I can get a short leash and get rid of the prong collar.

It’s true that once I picked the leash back up, he dragged on it as he usually does until we get heeling sorted out again. I meant to try to practice with him on the road on Sunday, but I was busy putting away the Christmas lights and when I finally was ready, it had started raining. Monday afternoon and evening it just poured. On Tuesday, Maja and I went for a hike, but we just stuck to Lewisville Park, because of threatening rain. It actually worked out pretty well that we got wet, but not too wet.

I may have mentioned that the day of our New Years party, the smoke detector at the top of the ceiling started to beep. Some moron installed it at the peak of the roof, which is about 25 feet high. We have a 12-foot ladder, and we had to have Ares, my niece’s husband, stand on the next to top rung of the ladder and use a grabber to take out the battery and install a new one. He came over that day and did it, and later my brother John suggested that we leave the battery out next time and install a new smoke detector lower on the ceiling where we can more easily reach it. (Actually, we hired a guy to wire all the smoke detectors into the wiring of the house, but apparently he didn’t do the one that we needed done most.)

So, we just put a new battery in on December 31 (or Ares did), and Tuesday morning at 5 AM I was awakened by a beeping noise. At first, I thought Wayne, who was already up, was walking around squeaking his shoes on the floor, but of course it was the smoke detector again. Wayne found a brush with a very long pole, and he whacked it until it stopped, but Tuesday evening it started beeping again. This time I was able to pop open the battery casing just a bit from the floor. I know it opens more than that, but hopefully it is enough to break the contact. We will have to buy a new smoke detector soon.

Sure enough, as these things go, the smoke detector started going off again at 2:00 this morning.