In February of 2020 I got this brilliant idea to have an advent calendar puzzle made. I bought a ready made box at Hobby Lobby and realized that the 1" cubes would not do at all. I eventually had George make me one and posted about it last December.
Around the same time I contacted Tracy Wood Clemons an began discussing a possible puzzle commission. My request started out rather simple. Hi Tracy, it's been a long time. My friend (now my husband) still hasn't opened the monkey box but it sits front and center in our office. I'd like to know if you might be able to make a puzzle box that is a duplicate of our house. You would have creative license with all but the outer shape."Hello Roxanne, can't wait for you to return home to send me more pictures for the puzzle box! So excited about this build! About 20 years ago I built a 8 foot dollhouse everything was built to scale on the inside and outside! set to put my dollhouse skills now into a puzzle box I think is just going to be epic! so yes as soon as you can get me those pictures would be great because my schedule for this year is so full but I want to start working on it ASAP! So I can fit everything in for this year! well thank you for the opportunity to let me build your house and we'll puzzle box I'm so excited I hope you are too!"
She sent me the photos of the doll house and we set to work. We sent 5 videos and 171 photos between us to create this puzzle. In June Tracy contacted me wanting to know the final completion date. I had initially wanted this as a Christmas gift for George, but we were embarking on a cruise that wouldn't return until 21 December so that ended that date. I then gave her George's birthday on 30 January, or our anniversary on 14 February as a completion date. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this completion date was moved again. I contacted her a few times over the next 10 months to see if the project was still going on. She always replied with a yes and you're going to love it. In one correspondence she told me she poured her heart and soul into the piece. On 1 April she told me it was the most complex puzzle she has ever done. Was this a joke? I had seen a few preview shots, but not the completion yet.
And then bam! I got a text message during dinner on 11 April with the photos pouring in! This piece looked amazing! I couldn't wait to see it in person. Tracy had made our house! It is not identical, there was quite a lot of poetic license taken with the fencing (we have none-but we do have tall hedges), the windows are all made as one giant window instead of the 6 or 8 pieces that make up each one, the outdoor shower is exposed to the street, but really, who cares when the end product looks this good.
In one of our conversations, she asked me about the property lines. She was spot on, and used the property line as a base to hold the house. This was made to scale, Our house is 11,000 square feet and the puzzle is 1:45 scale. Smaller than I initially wanted, but when I realized what the foot print would be, we agreed to change it.
Tracy's attention to detail is beyond belief. She installed the solar panels in the correct places, she placed the pool and spa exactly where they belong, she made the driveway octagon work. It's a fantastic piece. I keep saying that, but I can't help it, it's just blown my socks off.
We had issues with shipping this piece to Florida. I hired a shipper from Uship.com and he turned out to be a bit flakey. He first had vehicle problems but didn't tell either of us of this. Next, he said he was going to pick up the piece on Monday then didn't show up. Tracy called him and he said it would be another week before he could pick up the piece. We eventually went with UPS and the piece arrived before the other guy wanted to pick it up.
No, we haven't even begun to solve it yet. Unboxing it was a puzzle in itself. I've never seen such a box. If you thought Strijbos's packaging was excessive you should see this one. Then we removed the lid. Oh god! Disaster. First off, I knew something wasn't right when George was struggling with it. Tracy very clearly circled all the screws in red ink with massive arrows and very clear instructions on how to open the box. We had two of the Tesla workers in the house watching the unboxing because they had put the solar panels on Puzzle Palace and I knew they would recognize it. They spotted the extra screws and alarm bells started to go off. When we got it open and I saw the bubble wrap just laying around, I couldn't believe what I saw. It was such a poor job. I didn't want to believe that this was happening and I think I was in a state of euphoric shock. The puzzle was finally here, but it wasn't right.
Tracy took pains to explain to me how to open the crate:
hello Roxanne, the big box is in my livingroom waiting to go to its new home.
And a bit later we had this conversation about the internal wrapping:
So when I didn't see the wood holding it down I got scared. I pulled off what was there of the bubble wrap and the guys removed the puzzle from the top of the box. NOT as Tracy had intended. They put it on a table and I saw pieces of wood still in the box. The table tilted and then I saw the leg on the bottom of the box! I grabbed it and put it into place. I then told George I thought one was missing. There were 4 stabilizer bars on the bottom holding this monster up. Remember, it weighs 130 pounds. Three of them had been removed, and the one remaining in place was misaligned.
When I looked at the octagon on the front drive, it was missing pieces, the screen over the pool area was missing pieces, the solar panels were not just taken off, but were forcibly removed and broken. It was becoming glaringly obvious that this crate had been broken into and that the puzzle had been removed and purposefully damaged.
The stabilizing wood that was not holding the puzzle in place was in the bottom of the crate. Not on top where it belonged. The bubble wrap was missing. This was a disaster in the extreme.
Another conversation about the wrapping:
If I weren't already impressed with Tracy, this last bit of the conversation really got me. I'm glad she is going to come down to Florida and fix the puzzle. Yes, it was insured for the full value. Yes, we put in a claim and made a police report. We are now just waiting on the UPS investigators to come over and look at the damage to the crate and watch the unboxing video I took. Tracy has already sent them all of the before and after photos. The good news is, it can be repaired. I'm very grateful that she is willing to come down and do this. Talk about going the extra mile! I wish I had better news to report, but sadly this is it. I'll be sure to make a blog post and a new "unboxing" when it has been repaired.
For now, I give you some of the photos of the puzzle as we received it. These are in NO WAY indicative of The Green Eyed Lady's work. They show the malicious destruction of the puzzle by a UPS driver somewhere along the route. I suspect it is on this end. I waited all day Saturday with the delivery map open and watched the puzzle go around and around and around the estate without ever coming in. While we were at dinner, there was a note on the door for the UPS man to call me so I could come running back to the house to take delivery. I did a very taboo thing and kept looking at my phone during dinner (no phones allowed in the clubhouse) waiting for the delivery. It popped up as "Undeliverable"! What! they never entered the estate. The truck then went back to the depot in Deerfield Beach. On Monday I got a message saying it would be delivered between 3 and 5 in the afternoon and so I waited some more. At 10:30 or so I got a confirmation of delivery. I chased down our UPS delivery driver and he got on the case. He showed me his truck without the package and called into dispatch to get the case delivered. We had a special delivery and you all know the rest via that unboxing video. It's my conjecture that the person who did this was the driver who had it on the truck for Saturday delivery. I believe (s)he saw the insurance value and the weight and thought it was something else. They took it somewhere, ripped it open expecting anything but a puzzle, removed it from the crate, and was so angry that there was nothing really valuable to steal and maliciously damaged it. Hopefully the investigation will catch the guilty party.
|Broken solar panels|
|Pieces that were broken off|
|Back of house with screen removed.|
|Empty nails where feet should be|
|Broken and missing solar panels|
|Who steals a leg?|
|Obviously the thief can't read|
|Something is fishy!|
|Front of house|
|Back of house|
I have faith that when Tracy gets down here she will be able to restore her to her former glory. Perhaps this was meant to be. After all, when George and I bought the house in 2017, she was damaged and unloved as well. We revived her with great care and attention. Perhaps the mega-mansion had to be damaged to live up to her namesake.
On to the weekly museum update. We spent the week here while Tesla installed the solar panels on the roof. No work will be done during the time that Tesla is in the house. They do not allow others on the property. They told us installation would be 3 days and this time I hope they are right. We've a lot of work to complete before the puzzles arrive. They were wrong as expected, it took 5. The work is now complete on the roof, now we just need to wait for a new inverter and the inspection of the power walls and we are good to go.
The garage floor was ground down and the base coat and white flooring laid. The swimming pool pump and heater were installed and are now up and running. We hung a few more photos on walls, and this Monday we will be installing the floor decals and the rest of the cabinets will be mounted inside the house. It's moving along now.
Speaking of; they are now on their way to Miami. But as it turns out, the two containers have been shipped on two different cargo ships. One will arrive around the 17th and the other around the 25th. Both will be held in customs quarantine for at least 2 weeks before they get to the museum. I've been watching both of them travel around Europe and will pick them up again when they hit the East Coast of the US. I am enjoying watching the containers come over. It reminds me of our wonderful trip to the US in 2018. To be able to do that again would be magnificent. Sadly, George is now 'too old' for that because of no doctor onboard a cargo ship, passengers over 75 are not allowed. so it's just a dream.