And You Thought Puzzles Didn’t Travel Well {Review}

You know by now that we are full-time RVers. What you don’t know is that when we had a house, we owned a lovely little collection of puzzles and were avid puzzlers. Some RVers take puzzles on the road with them, but not us. That is, until Enlivenze LLC gave us this Solar System FlipStir Puzzle in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

What is a FlipStir Puzzle?

A FlipStir Puzzle is a puzzle contained within a cylinder. A hooked stick protrudes from one end of the cylinder. You use the stick to put the puzzle together.

Can you picture that?

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

The knob pulls the hooked wand in and out to navigate the puzzle pieces. Oh, now you get it!

We have the solar system puzzle, but they also have a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Rainbow Pencils, and the Statue of Liberty. I chose the solar system because we are studying astronomy right now…and dinosaurs are scary. Rar.

Rex and the Rainbow contain straight pieces, but Lady Liberty and the Solar System contain curves, making them even trickier. Doable, but tricky…for some of us.

Now, there’s only so much you can do with a puzzle–assemble…disassemble…assemble…disassemble…. As my fellow RVers can attest, there is little room in a travel trailer for anything that does only one thing…except, of course, a popcorn popper. Mmmm…popcorn.

So that the puzzle could make the travel space cut, we came up with this list of things to do with a FlipStir…I mean besides pausing directly halfway through the trailer door and assembling it and totally forgetting you’re supposed to be doing your math.


Here are other things you can do with it:

  1. Assemble it–duh.
  2. Record your time and try to beat your personal best.
  3. Compete with one another’s times.
  4. Reward a student working hard at astronomy by letting them “play” with the puzzle instead of doing lessons or at the end of a lesson–that’s actually reviewing the solar system planets, but they don’t need to know that.
  5. Sit in a circle, place a piece, and pass it on.
  6. Do number 5 to a timer and try to beat your team’s high score.
  7. Blindfold one participant and have another tell him what to do.
  8. Put the puzzle together with your weak hand.
  9. Put it together backwards. One side of the puzzle is white, so if you angle it properly, you’ll end up putting together a pictureless puzzle. Tricky!
  10. Buy two and race head to head. Woo hoo! It’s like the Olympics all over again, without the tape to hold your body together.
  11. Use it as part of a race–run down to a table with the FlipStir on it, put one piece in position, run back, tag the next person. It’s best with two teams and two FlipStirs, because racing against air is lame.
  12. Assemble it behind your back while someone else tells you what to do. I think that’s ridiculously hard, but I have yet to assemble it frontwards. My kids and hubby can do it. We all have our gifts.
  13. And my favorite: not groan over missing pieces. Woo hoo! Let’s have a cookie over that one, shall we?


Hey, fellow RVers, here’s something you’ll appreciate. The puzzle is lightweight for the most part, but it holds up to the abuse that life on the road (at least our life on the road) throws at it. The flip and stir stick is metal, which translates into sturdy, so when your one-year-old hypothetically throws that baby across the trailer, it should hold up. Don’t you love vivacious one-year-olds. So full of life, such good pitching arms–they’re excellent FlipStir Puzzle durability testers.

And conveniently, these fit into Christmas stockings. There you go. Now you all want one.

Look…he did it! Clever lad.


He doesn’t get that from his mama. Everyone played with the puzzle. Everyone except one person solved it. Thus ends the discussion of the FlipStir Puzzle.

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Does Valentine’s Day Complicate Relationships?

At the risk of sounding like a hater, I admit that I’m not big on Valentine’s Day the way it is often celebrated in my great big beautiful USA. What’s not to like?

Does Valentine's Day Complicate Relationships? {}

Here are the Valentine’s Day biggies that rub me the wrong way:

  1. Crowds of “last-minute” men in the 20-items-or-less aisle hoping their tinted carnations and cheap chocolates show enough “love” to appease their significant others, but knowing they’re probably in for a fight. 
  2. The false belief that the obligatory expression of affection on that day is, indeed, affection.
  3. The thought from far too many women that if a man doesn’t open his wallet on Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and Sweetest Day (if you’re in the Midwest), the love and commitment he shows the rest of the year is negated.
  4. The thought by a normally-negligent man that a pink bear and a $4 box of Russel Stovers will cover his backside.

Grrrr. Yes, I growled. Out loud.

Let’s get one thing straight right here, right now: Valentine’s Day the way it is celebrated today is a complication, and no relationship needs complication.

A Simple Valentine Tradition that Stuck

Does that mean we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day? No, it doesn’t. At The Simple Home, we keep it simple and fun…no unrealistic expectations!

This year we are having a Post-it note party. Each family member gets a pad of Post-it notes to write (or draw) on and exchange. It’s simple, heartfelt, creative, and a ton o’ laughs!

The Post-it exchange is a tradition that started accidentally the year my husband and I forgot the date (a regular occurrence) and hastily scratched out our feelings on Post-its. It was my favorite Valentine ever, and it stuck…no Post-it pun intended there.

Perhaps the main reason it stuck is because the simplicity of it fits our relationship.

Does Valentine's Day Complicate Relationships? {}

Keeping Simplicity in Our Marriage

One thing my husband has always appreciated about me is my lack of expectation…about some things. I don’t demand (or expect) a big deal made out of Valentine’s Day. I don’t demand (or expect) a big to-do on our anniversary. (Truth be told, I don’t expect him, much less me, to even remember our anniversary!) I don’t expect my birthday to be fussed over.

I do expect effort to be put into the relationship itself, however.

He appreciates that lack of focus on ceremony…and so do I.

We have always focused more on the marriage than on ceremony. The planning we put into our wedding was nothing, nothing compared to what we have whole-heartedly poured into the marriage. We place more emphasis on the days than the dates, on the day-to-day marriage than on the “Hallmark” occasions. We always have, we always will, even if that means a Post-it note instead of roses and restaurants on Valentine’s Day.

How to Not Complicate Your Relationship {}

Does this sound utterly unromantic to you?

Romance in the Real World

Life is dirty. It’s gritty. It’s real. We are two very real people in a very real life loving each other in a very real, raw way. That’s not romantic in and of itself.

Or is it…?

I see young love, which is nice…and young…and lovely…and idealistic…and romantic, maybe, but the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen is the old couple, scarred with years of raw gritty love, still standing by each other, still grumping and fussing and  pestering and nagging and laughing and crying and holding on tightly. Still living together, still loving, still forgetting anniversaries and laughing about it, still hurting and forgiving. Knowing each other so well…so very well…but still learning about each other.

How to Not Complicate Your Marriage {}

That’s romantic in my book.

And that’s simple love.

Simple love does not mean it’s easy. Simple love means it’s uncomplicated.

How do I Know if I’m Complicating my Marriage?

I have to, from time to time, look in a mirror and ask that crazy lady a few questions:

  • Am I complicating my marriage by focusing on dates more than days?
  • Do I put too much emphasis on appearances and dreams rather than on the raw grit of reality?
  • Are my expectations based on a movie or a friend’s (not necessarily accurate) portrayal of her marriage?
  • Do I hold my man up to the standard someone else has set (say, my grandfather, his dad, Mr. Darcy) instead of encouraging him to be the man God intended him to be?
  • Do I forgive and accept him the way I want and expect and need to be forgiven and accepted?
  • Am I loving my man out loud for who he is every day, or scorning him because today, on Valentine’s Day, he didn’t follow the script I wrote in my head?

Think about it.

Periodically I revisit a 14-day series I wrote on building strong families. When the nation is focused on the mush and gush, I like to build up my family’s foundation a bit, and remind myself (because I need reminding) what really matters in a marriage and on Valentine’s Day…and…I can’t believe I’m saying this…it isn’t chocolate.

Love in Action - Building Strong Families {}


I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Happy Valentine’s Day.