Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Cruising again

 What do you do when you are living out of 2 suitcases and you are effectively homeless?  Travel of course!  George and I found ourselves in the interesting position of having a free (It was really paid for pre-covid, but you know how that went.) cruise and we wanted to use it before we lost our money. 

We are now on an 18 day cruise-2 cruises really-that lands in Ft. Lauderdale after 7 days.  We are making the most out of it though. I mean, it's warm, we are at sea, and all is right with the world.  

Both houses are now packed up.  We have 3 empty suitcases in the museum closet and a few personal items in the big house.  There are no puzzles, no toys, no nothing.  Our plan?  When we finish this cruise we will have a pile of puzzles waiting at the house to play with and then they all get packed in those extra suitcases and brought down to our daughter's for storage until we head to Europe in April.  

When we return to Boca, I have a bit of dental work to do then we are hopping in the Tesla and spending the next 2 months traveling around the States visiting friends and family before we leave for good.  

So.  Back to travel blogging it is.  

We are now on the Holland American Rotterdam. It is a massive ship.

This one holds a maximum capacity of 4,173 passengers and crew.  That's a lot of people!  Many more than we are used to.  But at this point, we had no choice.  Not that it's a bad ship. In fact, it is brand new.  It went into service in 2020 and we were supposed to be on it then.  And then again in September of 2022, but life just got in the way.  We cancelled our TransAtlantic crossing to pay for the castle instead.  

Our room is quite large. There is a nice balcony, the bed is comfortable, and the shower is big enough for two.  

We had a blast trying to get onto the ship. It turns out the folks on the phone at corporate and those at the pier didn't get the same information about having stars on drivers licenses.  Our passports are at the Italian consulates awaiting our longterm visas.  When I called I was told we could get on with just our license and a copy of our passport.  As it turns out at the pier they wanted a copy of our birth certificates.  Fine.  George had his but I didn't.  Trouble! We lucked out!  I called our man Scott at home and he knew exactly where the file marked personal papers was in the crate.  He pulled it off the truck, opened it up, found the file, took photos of the birth certificate and we were in business!  Now I have added a copy of that to the travel folder as well.  That folder is sure getting bigger.

The artwork on the ship is very interesting.  I post some of it here.  More will come later I'm sure.

Our first stop was at a private island, Half Moon Cay, and as usual, it did nothing for us.
I bought a swim suit because of course ours are all in Italy.  We had the "Island BBQ" which was just a shoreside version of the Dive In Diner food.  Listened to a man give us a first person account of his life as Jesus and we went back to the ship.  It turns out that 1/5th of the ship this first 7 days is some Southern Gospel Singing group.  Just our luck.  We've been prayed for more times than I care to account on this trip. 

I brought along a set of nano blocks to complete on the ship.  This one is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It's fun.  Much harder than Lego's simply because they are just so small.  I had fun running around trying to get cups to sort the pieces in.  The Baristas thought I was up to no good.  

The next day was a sea day and I spent the greater part of it in bed.  Thankfully there was no real sickness this time, but there was quite a bit of nausea.  I took the pills and was good within about 3 hours.

Today we are in Jamaica.  We've been here before so we went ashore to get George some swim trunks-I think he's going to look like Bad Santa, but he assures me they will fit well. Either way, I promise not to post photos.  Nothing to report from here.  We stopped at Margaritaville for the free wifi, posted the blog and headed back to the ship.  

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Small hiatus.

 I am still alive and all is well in Florida. 

We have just been busy packing up the houses.  At last count we are ow at 100 pallets and the guys have told me I'm no longer allowed to purchase any puzzles.  They don't want to crate anything more.  

It's Christmas Eve today and time for me to make a short post on the happenings around us.  Our houses are packed.  The 100th crate has been filled and will soon be on its way to Italy.  

There is no puzzling in the Miller household as every puzzle that came in had to be sent out right away.  George got to play for a day with a few from Fortunate Son Puzzles, and I have unboxed and repacked a large number of new crystal puzzles to build on our 2 week cruise to Italy.  At a very young 55 years of age, I recently assembled my first lego type puzzle.  It was a Christmas tree that had been sitting in the attic for a while. I loved it.  I'm hooked.

George of course said I was crazy but indulged me with the condition that I don't stray from holidays.  Deal.  Sort of.  I am buying The Colosseum to assemble, The Leaning Tower of Pisa and Trevi Fountain just because I must given where we are going.  This week I assembled a load of Christmas ornaments and characters.  He won't let me have a tree, but that doesn't mean I can't have a Christmas scene.  Watch this space next Christmas.  I've a year to sort out what I want to do.

On the 28th we leave on a 3 week cruise if all goes according to plan.  There won't be much puzzling then.  If our homes sell quickly, we will be traveling around this wonderful country visiting friends and looking at giant lobsters, balls of twine and other such things.

For now, we would like to wish each and every one of you a Buon Natale! 

Monday, December 5, 2022

The move continues

The time is flying past.  The guys are filling more boxes than we have, another 14 pallets have left the building, George continues to work on new puzzles, and I … well I do whatever is left to be done.

Almost all of the big house is packed up and shipped out.  We only have our bedroom and the remains of the garage workshop to finish up.  Of course, we have a few bits of furniture left, but those will be the last things to leave.  The mirror room looks so sad with nothing in it.  This is a drastic change from what it was before. But it is a beautiful room. 

We continue to have puzzles come into Puzzle Palace here in Florida, but I have begun to send all to our new address in Italy.  This is a daunting task in itself as I have a large number of people I have made a deal with to purchase one of everything they make.  This really is a time when I need a better system.  I know that I have forgotten at least a few.  

Thanksgiving was nice.  We had our daughter, some friends from the club and Bill and Scarlet here for dinner and a very small bit of puzzling.  I hope everyone out there had a good holiday.

The work continues and now the garage is full of crates awaiting the next pick-up.  Bill fixed the cracks in our coffee table and is in the process of crating it for shipment.  Our bed is gone; all the remains is the platform we had built.  Sadly, the castle will not take a round bed.  The Murphy beds will all remain as they too are too large for the castle and the hotel rooms.  I’m sure we will be able to do something even more wonderful there.  

I was pleased that they could take the wine shelves and two of the custom desks. Mine was made to fit a specific octagonal room so it stays.  Perhaps this will show the new owners how wonderful this house is and will prevent it from being torn down as is the recent want of everyone purchasing in Boca Grove.  

My kitchen now holds only 2 pans, service for 4, a kettle and a few utensils.  We have moved out of our bedroom and back into the game room.  This is a fitting end to our time in Puzzle Palace Boca Raton.  We have returned to where we started when we first came to visit in 2018. 

I hope we never do this again.  Moving is a big deal for most people, moving country, even bigger.  But this move takes the prize for being a stressful situation.  I supervise the move out of Italy while George is supposed to do the same for the Italian end.  Unfortunately I am caught in the Italian side of things as well and I’m starting to lose my calm.  :) I am shouting because the bank won’t let me in, I’, shouting because our man there is sending me messages and George emails and I don’t want to deal with it.  

Add to all of this a lack of knowing what is happening with our visas and I am wound up tighter than a clock.  Katherine has moved into her own flat, but has failed to put anything away.  This past Friday I spent the day organizing her kitchen and getting rid of a lot of unneeded stuff.  We managed to empty around 1/2 of the boxes she still had not gotten to.  A job well done I’d say.  

We have cleaning ladies in here today and some guys fixing the screens that came down during the last storm.  

The house is so empty.  It echoes.  I forget how big it is.  It sure looks different empty.  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Over due update

It has been a while since I posted. I’ve had good reason.  We returned to Florida, spent the next day opening boxes and putting things away from our trip to Italy.

On Friday that week, we headed to Italy to Miami to apply for our permanent visas.  Typical of Italian bureaucracy, we needed 2 copies of each item because we are after all, 2 people.  This should take 3 months to complete.  Sadly, even though we had all of the forms they request on line, we were still missing documents so home we went to send them back down again.  Even though we were told to send it all via email, two days later we received another email telling us they needed hard copies.  And on it goes…But we still want to move there. 

This past week has seen us do nothing but packing of the house.  The guys we have working for us are truly amazing.  It took me 4 days to open and repack the 250 odd packages that came in for us while we were gone.

During that time, they wrapped and boxed up my entire office, the garage, and George’s attic workshop.  I feel incompetent.  

Our garage now has 14 pallets in it.  They told me so far they have shipped out 58 and we figure there are another 12 or so here to pack.  793 boxes in total have been shipped and all of the crates they assembled already.  Each box has to have a pallet # and a box # on it. This system will help on the other end to make sure we received all that we sent over.  If only I remember to look at the numbers.  

The Lovers, the custom furniture, and the teak root sofas are on their way to Italy. Then the furniture and the extra crates go.  They have a running joke to the effect of "if it isn’t packed yet, throw it in with the sofas".  We have 5 of those heading over.  There are 8 folding tables of over 6’ in length and 2 smaller card table sized tables.  The dining table seats 12 and the guys were kind enough to refinish it before sending it over.  Thankfully they have left it and the chairs for me so I can host Thanksgiving dinner.  

George has designed a new soma cube with letters on it.  I’ll not explain more as he is thinking of giving it as an exchange gift coming soon.  He’s also worked on something he calls the clueless crossword. I have supervised and returned to cooking for the lads.  I try to feed them vegetables and some healthy food, but as George says, they only want calories.  He’s right.  Eggplant Parma with garlic bread is on the menu as is some heavily sauced ribs that they like. 

The guys have managed to take down most of the Kallax boxes and we donated them to a school.  They were so glad to have them, that the lot was gone in 2 days time. There were over 150 of them given away.  Now it’s plastering and painting time.  The only thing that remains in the museum are the big furniture pieces that need to be crated and 2 sofa beds for the guys to sleep on during the week.  

Both houses are all but empty and it is surreal to be here now.  It saddens me to see the emptiness of our home.  The halls echo and the void has never been so empty. there is something unnatural about walking across it and not catching the lovers out of the corner of my eye.  It is but a shell of a home now.  But on to bigger and better(?) things right?!?

I continue to study Italian and have begun to work on the driving book. What a bother that is: the written test is only in Italian, I need to do 8 hours at a driving school, and then I have to pass the driving test.  But if I want to drive….Ah well. I also spend hours pouring over the blueprints and measurements of the castle and the palace (the old hotel-it will truly be a 14th century palace when I’m done with it) designing a new kitchen, bathroom, some closets, oh, and shelves for puzzles. Just over 3 miles of wooden shelves have been ordered.  We will be installing floor to ceiling mirrors in one of the rooms and adding around 1km of glass shelves to house the kaleidoscope of crystal puzzles I have put together.  We have decided to have a rainbow room for Oskar’s puzzles and the Internal walls of a cube for the twisty’s.  The IPP room will have a unique cataloguing system, and I’m working on the placement of a bookshelf door.  

There is just so much going on and so much more that needs to be done.  All in good time.  

Fino all prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Puzzle Palace Hotel

By now you if you read this blog you will have realized that we have purchased two more properties in Panicale.  You didn’t think we were really doing nothing all this time did you?

Honestly, it all started as a way to find a parking spot for our Tesla. We looked at a number of places that were too far away from us, and the one right next door would have been perfect, except that the current owners dropped the floor by a foot to make the garage an apartment.  Not to worry.  We found the hotel.  Now all we need to do is break down a wall, add a garage door and we have parking.  

We initially saw the for sale sign on the hotel when we came and visited the castle last April.  It registered with me and I had mentioned it to George once or twice as a lark in case we ran out of room.  Well, we did.  

When I was pouring over the blue prints for the castle and placing our puzzles in rooms I began to realize that we would be placing some puzzles 13 feet up and others would be 2 or 3 deep.  Now there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s just not ideal.   Problem solved with the purchase of the hotel.  Now we have a room for almost every puzzle individually.  I jest.  But the extra rooms really help to ensure that we will have room for further purchases and donations.  

Now to answer a few questions I’ve had from those who were not at DCD this year.  No, we will not rent out the rooms.  We now have 20 bedrooms 12 of which have en-suites for our guests.  We don’t want to deal with the tax implications.  But this really is only a few more bedrooms than we had in Florida.  

Yes we plan to have puzzle parties. My ideal would be to have 2 a year, one during the early spring, and another in the fall.  Of course this depends on the timing of other puzzle parties.  George is more inclined to have people just come and visit when ever they want.  He’s a curmudgeon and doesn’t like large groups.  He doesn’t want me to cook so much. :)

Initially we will be living in the castle because I realize now that we will be unable to get the bathroom and kitchen set up before we return in April.  I don’t expect this to last long (I’ve been told in Italy, a year is fast).  But once I get here, we can begin to do things ourselves.  It will be better with me here supervising things.  This really is a repeat of putting together the big house while we were in Hong Kong.  Thankfully, it is only 6 months that we will be gone instead of 8.  

Everyone asks me if the hotel is ready to move into and the answer is no.  The previous "owners" removed everything they could.  Even the wall sconces have been removed.

We have hired a couple to do most of the electrical work, clean, and to supervise all the other work that needs doing.  

Every time I look at the floor plans, I make changes, well, yesterday I went in with painters tape and started marking up changes that need doing.  We are tearing out 2 bathrooms and extending them to the size of a small bedroom.  This will become the master bathroom.  We are also adding a few broom cupboards, and of course I get to completely design a new kitchen!  We’ve decided to do one room a month for any major changes.  Basically, there are none.  Each room will have a sofa sleeper and a wardrobe for guests to hang their things in, And of course, they will have the obligatory puzzles on display.  With 95 rooms between all of the buildings we should have enough space for them.  

Instead of giving you photos this week, I’ve loaded walk through videos and a copy of our presentation at DCD on my YouTube Castello di Panicale playlist.  Please enjoy e fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Dutch Cube Day 2022 Presentation

 We were once again invited to speak at Dutch Cube Day on our move to Italy.  The following is the presentation we gave.  Watch it fully, there is BIG news inside.  Don't worry, it's very short.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

A puzzling visitor and other weekly musings

 Not much is happening in the castle.  We keep playing Eurorails and enjoying our time together.  We know when we return to Florida we will be too busy to do that. 

I have gone into the dungeon and opened all of the boxes that have a snap close lid, or that are cardboard that could be easily taped closed.   Sadly, I can't really unbox until the current owner removes all of his things.  Lord knows when that will be.  

I discovered quite a few interesting puzzles inside.  One of which George has been trying to program a solution for. It is pretty neat.  I'm sure he will solve it eventually.

I've poured over the floor plans for the castle and have discovered that we have enough room to house our entire collection and double that amount.  We even have 4 large areas to store our duplicate puzzles.  This was unexpected.  

We have prepared a short talk on the New Puzzle Palace for DCD and it will be posted here next week for all to see.  I don't want to give it away before then.  

George has been teaching our new friend Antonio how to design in CAD so he can make some gears for his clock.  The two of them are funny to watch.  Antonio has little English and George has even less Italian, but they seem to do quite well together.

I have continued to purchase puzzles, and am pleased to say that I now understand the system here.  Th postman leaves a note saying he tried to deliver (even though he didn't), the delivery people call me a few minutes before arriving at the door, and Amazon uses the post office for deliveries.  If on the off chance we are not here, the delivery people will leave the packages at the local post. Some delivery companies will try again the next day or two, and everything that is in the post office takes ages to receive.  You see, our post office is only open 3 mornings a week and everyone goes there just to chat with the girl behind the counter. It's an experience.  I'm not complaining, just working things out. 

Our last little bit of fun this past week was having Tanya come visit us.  She was at Essen toys fair and is headed to a weeks vacation with her husband so between the two, she spent 2 days with us.  We took her to Città della Pieve for lunch and a wander around the town.  It was a nice meal, and (sigh) just another medieval hilltop town.  Much larger than Panicale, but it's now hard to get over excited about places like this when you live in paradise.  Ok, I know. I'm biased.  We did see some lovely doors though.  

While there, I found the car I simply must buy.  

And then we taught here how to play Eurorails.  All in all, it was a very nice visit.

Fino alla prossima settimana, arrivaderci e continua a rompicapo.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Minor problems and major deliveries

Another week gone and nothing to show for it.  

Ok, that’s not true.  We got our first shipment of puzzles here in Italy.  The truck arrived early Monday morning with 160 boxes of puzzles ready to be stored in the dungeon awaiting shelves that need building in the castle. 

We had Antonio and Elena here to help us unload, and the thing was finished within 1/2 an hour.  This was astounding to us as we expected it to take 4 hours.  In fact, we had a bit of an emergency problem to solve.  I didn’t know we needed to notify the commune in advance that we would have a truck coming.  Problem solved though.  Antonio is brilliant and got our permission.  We put out a few signs to have the vehicles removed by 8 am Monday and were ready to go.  

As expected, people don’t always read signs and one car was left in our reserved spot. No problem, the truck just blocked 1/2 a lane of traffic for an hour.  Now I know this sounds terrible, but it’s October, and well, Panicale.  The 'season' is over and there is little traffic now.  

I got a kick out of watching the truck driver run around the castle taking photos of it.  He looked like me when we first decided to buy the place.  He’s from Prague and thought this was more beautiful.  Nice guy.

When we finished, George and I went upstairs and had lunch.  But me being me, I ran back down and opened as many of the containers with lids on them as I could.  I wanted to see what it was we got.  You see, this is a collection we purchased and much like many things in our marriage, we hadn’t seen it before we bought it.  

We expected to have maybe half of the collection already, but were thrilled to see that in fact, most of it was new to us!   We’ve probably added another 5000 items to our growing museum.  

On Tuesday we had our language lessons as usual, and on Wednesday I decided to go open some more of those boxes.  I managed to go into Tavernella and get some packing tape, so again after lunch I headed downstairs.  This was fantastic!  Like Christmas.  The first 5 or 6 boxes I opened contained company catalogues.  Even better.  When I left Hong Kong I left all of mine behind.  It was just too much to send over.  Our library just grew some more with some very needed missing pieces.  

On our trip to get packing tape, George suddenly shouted at me to stop the car!  I did as requested and pulled into a parking lot.  He saw a field full of Marijuana growing on the edge of town.  This was a real shock to us.  We of course walked over and took a look.  We then noticed a small farmers market stand and decided to look at that as well.  The owner came over and asked us if we wanted to buy some weed!  Pass. But how funny.   

And you just know I'll be buying my shallots and garlic here. 

We have rather substantially increased our disentanglement and glass puzzles with this purchase.  There is of course some 'big wood' as well.  I still have well over 1/2 of the boxes left to open.  Sadly, we decided to leave them taped up until our return next May.  While I am eager to see what is inside, I agree that we should wait until the shelving is all in place.

This of course brought us to another problem.  We have to redo our floor plan of where everything will go.  You see, we bought this castle because ALL of our puzzles would fit in it with room to grow.  We didn’t take into consideration my buying more puzzles on the scale that I do.  Not to worry though, the ceilings here are in many rooms, almost 4 meters high.  We plan to use the full extent of that for puzzle display.  More fun for me to work on while we are here.

We had the man who designed the water and heating system of the castle come out and turn on the heat this week.  It dropped down so cold that we have had an electric heater turned on at night.  As it turned out, the system was still not working.  I had to replace the batteries in the on/off controls.  We did, and no joy.  But at least the weather has turned warm again.  

We had breakfast with a lady from the village on Friday.  Nice girl who gave us a lot of information on the city and how to do things.  I think we will get along just fine here.  Now to get those visas sorted.  One of the things she told us was that people here just stop in the middle of the road to answer their phones. I was surprised to hear this as I'd never seen it.  She cursed us! On the way to Perugia that afternoon, it happened twice!  

Another thing we noticed is that people will just stop anywhere, block the road and talk to their friends and neighbors.  As I write this, I heard a motorcycle stop outside the window.  I got up to look and sure enough, there was the driver chatting away with a driver of a pickup truck.  You guessed it, the road is blocked.  I just love these little things here.  

Last night after dinner, I turned on the water to warm so I could do the dishes.  About 2 minutes later, it just stopped.  No water.  Sigh.  That means no shower and dirty dishes left in the sink. We are Floridians so I quickly ran in the bathroom and filled a basin full of water so we would at least be able to flush the loo in the morning.  I'll have to call out our guy again and get this fixed.  It seems rather odd that this happened right after the heating system got turned on. 

I’ve been to the post office twice this week to pick up packages that were not delivered to the house for one reason or another.  Most were puzzles, but one was a blanket I ordered from Amazon back in early September.  Amazon here uses the post office for deliveries, and the post office is only open 3 days a week.  So much for Prime delivery.  I’ll learn the system eventually.  In the interim we plan to have a punch code on one of the doors so the delivery folk  can open a slot and slide the packages in.  I’ll have to learn how to write that on my address in Italian too.  

And speaking of language, I’m getting along better each day.  I just wish the Spanish vocabulary would replace itself with Italian. That would sure make life easier.  I’ve now got post-it notes throughout the apartment we are staying in with everything labeled.  I’ve also made up 100’s of vocabulary cards to flip through daily.  This will help me lean quicker-or at least that is the theory.  I don’t want to be living here 30 years on and still not understand what people are saying to me.  I mean, if I can get enough Chinese to survive Italian should be a walk in the park right?  Fino alla prossima settimana, continua a rompicapo