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Thursday, 27 June 2013

My $3 teeth whitening solution

 There is a chance that I have a mild Diet Coke addiction. It's terrible for you, and I know full well I should not drink it.  It is also not a frugal choice by any means.  Yet I suppose everyone has their vice and if mine is a soft drink....well it could be worse.
Except if you ask my teeth.  Little is worse for your teeth than drinking can after can of diet cola. And I started to feel bad for my poor yellowing teeth.

My teeth have been very good to me throughout my life.  Never braces or night time head gear or even a simple retainer was needed in my youth. My teeth just happily did their bit for me.  So I thought I owed these good sports some whitening.
However, when I asked my dentist about teeth whitening procedures he told me I was looking at a cost of just over $200. Hahaha! (Am I the only one who sees the price of things as an attempt at humour? It routinely cracks me up!) Then the dentist said that because peoples teeth accept the whitening process differently he could only "guarantee" an improvement of two shades.  When he showed me the shade chart I was less than impressed.   So I figured teeth whitening was not going to happen for me.  And since there is no foreseeable future in which I would give up Diet Coke, my teeth were condemned to everlasting yellowness.  I accepted it and put the whole thing out of my mind.

Until about a month ago when I was online looking up some good homemade floor cleaners. I saw a recipe for one that included hydrogen peroxide.  The writer of the webpage was praising the many uses for hydrogen peroxide- including teeth whitening. That made sense, it was something I had always kind of "known" but needed to be reminded about.  So I started looking up peroxide a a tooth whitener trying to make up a pros and cons list.

After a bit I decided it was worth a try. So I took a before photo.
Then every night before bed I brushed my teeth.  We use a fluoride free toothpaste. I don't know if that makes a difference but I thought it worth mentioning.
Next I flossed.
Then mixed together 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide. (I used one finger amount of each in a smallish plastic cup I have in the bathroom for this purpose alone).
I used the mixture as a mouthwash, only swishing around in the front of my mouth.
Do not gargle with this mixture or swallow it. And again for good measure and just to be clear: Do not swallow this mixture. Are we good on that? Everyone is clear? Let's move on then.

Swish around in your mouth for about 30 seconds per mouthful.  It will get foamy as it reacts will all the business inside your mouth. Spit out your mouthful and then do another until your glass is finished. Then spit out your final mouthful.  Then spit again. Go ahead and do it one more time. As any residual peroxide continues to react inside your mouth it will continue to foam. Since you mustn't swallow it, just keep spitting until your mouth does not feel foamy anymore.   Do not use water to rinse your mouth.  In fact, stay away from food and drink for at least half an hour.  But since I recommend doing this as part of a bedtime routine, going without until morning is a pretty good idea.

I had read about other methods also using peroxide to whiten teeth.  The mouthwash method was the only one I found that did not pose a risk to your gums.  The other methods have you mixing peroxide with toothpaste or baking soda or both, then brushing onto your teeth.  But all that abrasion can be very hard on your gums, so please move cautiously if you decide to go that route.

That Guy asked me if it tasted gross, so I thought I should address that.  It, in fact, almost tastes like nothing. But there was a very very light lingering taste that reminded me of something....  After a few days I placed the taste! It tastes EXACTLY like Crest White strips back when I used those in my late teenage years. Which makes perfect sense since the main ingredient in those is...Peroxide!

Except my mouthwash version costs $3 for the whole bottle of peroxide, and the strip version was setting me back $50/box. (Yes, this was years before my frugal living came into play).
These photos have been cropped so you better see my teeth but have not been edited in any other way so that I could show you the truest results.  I even refrained from wearing super red lipstick in my after photo like all the advertisements do.

I have to say, I am very happy with the results.  These are better results than what I had been guaranteed by my dentist at a laughable fraction of the cost and without any major time commitment at all! 

Score one for frugal living! :)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Mirror mirror on my wall- for under $20

At our old house there were mirrors installed everywhere when we bought the place.
A full length mirror had been screwed into the back of each bedroom door, another full length one was hung at the bottom of the stairs and two long mirrors ran along the side of the main floor hallway. Since all the mirrors were there when we moved in we felt no need to buy any more in the three years we lived there.

Then we moved to this house and the only mirrors are the ones hanging in both bathrooms, and neither a full length one. So I had started browsing at IKEA for a mirror. And I saw a really nice one. It wasn't breathtaking or very special in any way, it was just nice.  It was a plain full length mirror with a thick black wooden frame around it. The black frame gave it some visual weight and it made it feel more like a piece of furniture.  They wanted $100 for it. Ha ha ha ha! That wasn't going to happen, gentle readers! Not in this lifetime! But of course it got me thinking about a DIY project to create my own furniture type mirror for our master bedroom.

First I reached out to all my local friends to alert them that I was looking for a full length mirror. Sure, I could have got one for $7 at Wal-Mart, but why buy new when I was certain someone would be getting rid of one eventually? Then the message came from a friend that her neighbour had put a full length mirror by the side of the road for garbage. But she didn't think it would work for me. It was likely just garbage, this mirror. There was no backing on it, and the cheap plastic frame had pulled away and was laying on the grass next to it. But I was sure this was the mirror I needed, so she offered to drop it off at my place. It was a mirror only a DIYer could love, and it was perfect!

Next, I packed the kids in the wagon and walked down to the hardware store.  There I picked up a can of oops paint (paint that was ordered by a past customer but had been mis tinted) for $9/gallon in flat black.  Since I had been looking for a dark grey colour anyways, I was pretty excited with my find. I also picked up some Liquid Nails $7 and sandpaper $3. Bringing my total cost for this project to $19.

Once at home I cut a piece of on hand plywood to the size I wanted, then sanded and painted it. I also painted the plastic frame for the mirror. I dug up an old piece of trim we had in the basement and a shelf that reminded me of a piece of crown molding and hadn't been used since our move. Those both got black paint baths too.
Sanding my ply wood
first coats of paint

That Guy helped me with the Liquid Nails, and we attached the mirror to the center of the wood and the plastic frame back onto the mirror where it belonged. Still using Liquid Nails we attached the shelf to the top, and the trim to the bottom.  Adding those really gave it the visual heft I was going for.
Yes, that is sawdust on the camera lens from my previous sanding step. 
Because I like all things glittery I decided I would attach some clear glass pebbles I had on hand from a project years (and years) ago around the mirror.  Using the Liquid Nails I ran a bead about 1 foot long beside the mirror frame and pressed in the pebbles one by one, then did the next 1 foot bead and continued until I was done.

I had to wait a while for the whole thing to dry because of the high humidity that day, but after a few hours it was good, and That Guy hung it in our bedroom for us.


Thursday, 20 June 2013

Getting it for free

There are so many projects I have in mind that I want to share with you, gentle readers.
I plan to build my own sofa, redecorate our living room and dining room spaces, fashion a mirror for our master bedroom, build a new coffee table, replace the glass table top to our outdoor dining set that broke recently and create a "driveway" for the kids Cozy Coupe car beside their playhouse in the backyard.

But here's the thing. Even though doing all these projects myself will save me tons of money over buying them pre-made (and give me a strong sense of pride in the completed project that I wouldn't get from buying an item) they all call for materials that I don't readily have on hand.  Like plywood, 2x4's, bricks ect. And those supplies are expensive.  So expensive that I have not yet been able to start any of the above projects.  Even though a lot of these projects would only cost about $20-$50 to complete (minus the sofa, that's a $400-$500 project since I plan to build a six seat sectional) our budget is too tight right now as we look ahead at some upcoming expenses during the summer.

Then I thought about the materials I was needing, and I realized that I did not need a lot of anything.  In fact I  needed about the same amount of bricks and wood that someone else might have left over from a project. Left over pieces they might see as garbage since they cannot use them.
I could probably get a lot of what I needed for free if I put a little energy into finding it.

So far I am still on the hunt for many things.  But gentle readers, I just want you to know that there are some great resources out there!

 **Very important**: When dealing with free items it is crucial that you are courteous and polite!
I have offered free items many many times and am often frustrated that some people did not show for arranged pick ups, do not notify me that they are not coming, or are rude because they feel entitled to my free item simply because it is free. A few years ago this behavior was so frustrating that I started asking token sums of money for things I had planned to give away ($2-$5) to encourage people to see value in what I was offering. 
If we want people to continue to offer free items we must approach the offer with a grateful heart, not an entitled one. 

I use and there is as well.  Just type "free" into the search bar and you may be shocked at what you can find.  Of course you will need to act quickly as you're not the only one hunting out free items :)  If the item you are seeking out is not listed as free, try posting a wanted ad.  Someone may have 200 bricks in their shed they had long forgotten about until they saw your wanted post. is a great site too- with only Free offers. Fewer people know about freecycle (compared to kijiji) so fewer people use it.  As a result it may take you a bit longer to find what you need, but since it is a site committed to helping our neighbors its a really awesome resource!

I use a ton to get items I need (both for DIY projects and items for the kids) and to give items that we don't use and need clearing out. This is one of my favourite sites and I highly recommend it.

But mostly I just get the word out.  I talk to people I know and tell them I am looking for plywood (which I then got delivered to my front door the next day because someone had some that was to dirty to use for new construction clients, but only had boot marks on it so I was happy happy happy to have it!), or glass jars or any other project material I need.  I post on social networking sites and tell friends in person.  Often times I get hints about where something was last seen, rather than free door front delivery.  But that information is just as useful to me. I cannot be everywhere and when people know I am looking for something most of the time they are willing to be my eyes around the region.

Fingers crossed, gentle readers, that I can get my hands on a few free supplies this weekend and will be sharing with you an new DIY project come Monday!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Home made fruit snacks- $1.56

That Guy works almost every Sunday.   What that means for me, gentle readers,  is that I have to take both kids to church on my own.
Our church is set up in such a way that first there is service, followed by Sunday school for the kids - not Sunday school at the same time as church service. Trying to keep a four year old boy and an almost two year old girl quiet and happy for an hour has been a bit of a challenge for me.  I  have brought books, activity pads and crayons, Leap Pad, hot wheels cars, magnetic dolls with magnetic clothes and on and on the list could go.  You might ask, "What have you found to work the best?" and the answer is, without a doubt, food! (Although, for the record, glow sticks from the dollar store work pretty well too- for about six minutes)

Yet one cannot bring just any food as I have discovered through some very poor choices. Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, animal crackers and cookies are all bad ideas. They cause crumbs and when dropped on the ground they immediately get stepped on and ground into the carpet.
Fresh fruits, chocolate or candy of any sort are bad ideas for the immediate mess factor
Raisins, dried fruits and fruit snacks have been an all around win though.
But those fruit snacks!! Talk about expensive. And ingredients that made me feel terrible giving them to my children.  So I decided it was time, with much help from That Guy, to brave the kitchen and DIY some fruit snacks for the kids. Here is how we did it...

What you will need :
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 2 cups frozen mixed berries
- 3 tbsp honey
-1 cup orange juice
- 1/4 lemon juice
- 6 gelatin packets
- 1 disposable tin tray
- large saucepan
-blender or hand blender
-tiny decorative cookie cutter (optional)
What you will need
Total cost for us comes to about $9.50 for the whole recipe.  Since one batch makes just over 36 servings, that works out to 26 cents per serving.  Since most of the fruit snacks you buy in store come in a box containing 6 servings we are comparing a cost of about $3.50 for 6 servings to $1.56 for 6 servings.  So it costs less, tastes great, is church friendly and much healthier for the kids.

First, clean and slice your strawberries.
Add strawberries to saucepan along with all ingredients except gelatin.
NO gelatin 
Cook on med-high heat approx 10-15 minutes until frozen berries are very soft.

Using blender (or hand blender in our case) puree until smooth.
not smooth 

Remove from heat. Add all gelatin, and again puree until smooth.
Now is the time for gelatin
With care (this stuff it hot!) pour into your disposable tin tray.
hot stuff
Refrigerate min of three hours, although That Guy usually tries to leave it over night.

Remove the tray from the fridge. Slice into half inch squares or use cookie cutter to cut adorable shapes.
Using a cookie cutter

Enjoy both your fruit snacks and your money savings!
Big thanks to That Guy for putting up with me in the kitchen as I "helped" make these :)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

DIY Fathers Day gift -$6

My post yesterday (read it here) was Walter's gift to That Guy for Fathers Day.  Wouldn't it be easy if that were all the gift ideas I had to think up for the occasion? But, alas gentle readers, such is not the case.

This post is my Fathers Day gift to That Guy.  He really is a great dad and I want to celebrate that.

That Guy is very supportive of this frugal living ride I have been taking us on. But at the end of the day most of his interests lie in commercial things.  Like comic books. He still loves to stop by the comic book store on his way home from work once a month and pick up the latest installment of his favorite super hero. Who is, by the way, Green Lantern.
I try my best to tie his interest into things I can DIY when gifting for him.  At Christmas time I made him a pair of PJ pants with the Green Lantern logo on the leg. And now, today, with this Fathers Day gift.

This is not just a gift for the sake of a gift.  Back when we moved into this house six months ago many things got lost or broken in transition as frequently happens. Most of the broken items happened to be our drinking glasses.  We have made due for the past six months with four drinking glasses. Since the kids are both young enough for plastic cups we can get by day to day just fine.  But once we have any guests over it becomes tricky.

So I thought I would buy That Guy a set of glasses (okay they are beer glasses- it is Fathers Day after all, and my apple juice will taste the same from a beer glass) and glass etch the Green Lantern logo into them.

Here is how I did it:
You will need
- a set of glasses ($6)
- scrap pieces of self adhesive vinyl (on hand)
- foam brush (on hand)
- glass etching cream (on hand from a project years ago)
- a print out of the logo (or what ever else it is you choose to etch)
- scissors
-ready access to a sink/water

First I printed off the logo from this website. In an ideal world I would have used my Cricut machine to do this cutting, but I do not have a Green Lantern cartridge.  So the next thing I had to do was trace my logo onto a scrap of vinyl.
Green Lantern logo
Then using my scissors I very carefully cut out the logo so I was left with the negative image.

Next I peeled the paper backing off the vinyl and stuck it to the glass. Be careful to make sure all edges around the logo are firmly down so the cream does not seep under.
negative image on the glass
I opened my rather ancient bottle of glass etching cream and generously applied it to the glass with a foam brush.  The bottle says to leave the cream on for one minute.  I decided to go with five minutes because my cream was so old.
Etching cream applied
When the time was up I rinsed the glass under running water using a paper towel to help get all the cream off.

Then I just peeled off the vinyl and Volia!
Finished product.
Continue until all glasses have been etched.

Not too shabby for $6! Happy Thursday, gentle readers.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Fathers Day gift- under $1

Back when That Guy and I were expecting Walter (could this really have been five years ago now?!) we had our mid point ultrasound scheduled the Thursday before Fathers Day.  When the technician gave us the us pictures something about the timing nagged me to tuck one of them away. I had no idea what I would do with it at the time, but I slipped one of four photos into my purse.  And there it stayed for almost a year.

As That Guy's first Fathers Day approached the next year, I knew I needed to do something great but it HAD to be inexpensive. I was on mat leave and we had not yet jumped into the frugal living lifestyle so finances were a delicate thing for us.
I remembered that ultrasound photo still in the compartment of my old purse. I pulled it out and looked at it.  I thought it might be cute to compare Walter a year ago with how big he already was. Then the wheels started turning. Photos were less than 25 cents to get printed....I could manage a gift like this every year.....

I dug out a photo album I had bought forever ago because it was on sale and not because I had a need for it (remember: this was pre-frugal living).  I thought I could fill each of the pages in the photo album with pictures of Walter each year documenting his growth.  It was cute, but it felt to be a lot more about Walter than That Guy, and this was supposed to be for Fathers Day.

The wheels kept turning and I thought, what if instead of comparing Walter now to the Walter of a year previous, I compared Walter now to That Guy....? What if I dressed Walter in one of That Guy's shirts every year and documenting him growing up, into a man like That Guy.... YES! I felt really excited about the idea.

So I dressed up Walter in one of That Guy's shirts, snapped a photo and sent it to be printed for next to no cost. Then I looked up a very sweet poem about sons and fathers. I included the poem and the ultrasound photo in the photo album along with the picture I had just taken of Walter.
That Guy loved it on Fathers Day! And it has been a gift we continue to give every year.

This year will be our fifth (wow!!) photo entry and its an idea I am still excited about even after all these years of doing it.  Each year we both catch ourselves looking back at previous years photos and marveling at how quickly he's grown.

I was tempted to do something similar when we were expecting Audrey. But I finally decided that it was okay for Walter to have a special gift for That Guy on Fathers Day, it's their thing. Audrey is precious and wonderful and sweet and all her own, she does not need to piggy back on Walters gift in order to do something great for That Guy on Fathers Day.
2013 photo of Walter in Daddy's shirt

Monday, 10 June 2013

DIY housewarming gift - $5

Why do I always leave things to the last minute? Will I never learn?!  *sigh* Likely, no, I will not ever learn.

On Friday night I was starting to panic because I was still short on an idea for a cost effective DIY housewarming gift for some very dear friends of ours.  Buying a new home - and more, buying your first home- is a very big milestone.  We had plans to celebrate with our new mortgage owner home owner friends...on Saturday.  Remember now: This was Friday night and I did not even have an idea, let alone a completed gift.

In desperation I started running down a list of things I could buy with my average $8 budget. Some flowers, a small houseplant, a loaf of bread, dollar store wineglasses, inexpensive tea towels.. all fine options but not my style. I am DIY to the core and it seems bizarre after all these years to think of going to a store, buying an item and just giving it to someone as is, haha.

My sewing teacher had suggested me buying (or making) our friends a guest book for their home.  I remembered my parents having guest books for their home.  I liked the idea but I couldn't shake the feeling of  it being outdated.

So I went online looking for some decent DIY guest book ideas when I saw this one.  It's intended for a wedding, but I loved the simple and very personal idea.
Go here for the source
This is just an image of a "blank" tree trunk and branches.  Then, at the wedding guests press their fingers or thumbs into ink stamp pads and  onto the paper as tree leaves.  This bride and groom had each guest sign next to their own finger print.

Yet there was no reason I could think of that this very same idea could not be applied to new home guest book to end up with the same beautiful wall art.

So I gathered some supplies:
- one medium sized canvas from the dollar store ($2)
- two green ink pads ($1.50 each) from the craft store
- brown paint (on hand)
- paint brushes (on hand)
- my Cricut cutting machine and self adhesive vinyl (on hand) or some artistic ability

I began by using my Cricut machine to cut out the couples surname and the year they bought their home. I just stuck the vinyl letters down right on the canvas.
Step 1
I also added a panda to the bottom left corner of the canvas. That is a personal touch just for this couple. 

Next I cut out an image of a tree, sans leaves, from my Cricut.  Since I did not have any brown vinyl on hand I used the negative image as a stencil and painted the tree with on hand brown paint. If you use a stencil approach as I did be very sure that it is stick down well right around you image to prevent the paint from bleeding under.  I also recommend feathering the paint on lightly and into the center of the image.

Negative image.

Finally I pulled off the vinyl stencil and added the two tones of green ink pads I bought.

Taa-daa! Complete gift for $5! I think it is pretty darn cute and will look awesome with the thumbprints of their friends covering the tree.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Toddler bed makeover- less than $14

I have finally got That Guy on board with moving Audrey from her crib to a toddler bed. Knowing she is our last baby makes it a little harder to let go of that stage of "babydom".  I know Audrey is ready for the transition though, so we must find a way to embrace it.

Weeks ago I was given a free toddler bed from  frugal mommy.  The description simply said "white toddler bed" and that was exactly what I had been looking for. So on his way home from work one day, That Guy stopped and picked up the bed.
I admit, gentle readers, I was the tiniest bit crestfallen when I saw it. It was, indeed, a white toddler bed. But it had a very industrial feeling metal frame. It had clearly spent some time outside before we picked it up and was a little rusty and pretty banged up.
Bed outside begging for some love

Close up of some of the scratches
But beggars cannot be choosers and I had literally been the one to ask for the bed. So I had to make this bed work.

First we picked up a can of  Rustolem spray paint in white ($7) and I took the bed to the backyard and gave it a few decent coats of spray paint. It was still a very industrial looking metal frame, but the new paint brought the life back into it.
Spray painted and happier
Once the bed frame was dry I wanted to add some "girly" features to it to help detract from the hard appearance of a metal frame. So I picked up two meters of white tulle from the bolt at Fabricland ($5 for both meters). Tulle by the bolt is very cost effective and very pretty and when you have a membership card at the fabric store for 50% off, its even better. :) I wrapped the tulle around the headboard and attempted to tie it into a big lovely bow.  Gentle readers, there are some things I am good at, and some things I am simply no good at all at.  Making a decent bow is something I have never been able to do.  I have even looked up tutorials online about bow making.
Anyways, I don't know why I thought this time would be different and I'd be able to produce a lovely girly bow, but it wasn't different at all. I *may* have even shouted at the "bow", begging it to co-operate. It refused.
So I gave up and just knotted the tulle and cut the strands short. Then I knotted again at a different angle, and then a third time. The result wasn't too bad.
My "not a bow" 
I secured the tulle to the posts of the headboard with some super glue I had on hand from a previous project.

I felt pretty happy with my transformation already, but I wasn't done.  I had picked up a large white silk flower from the dollar store ($1.25) and I positioned it right in the center of the bow with more glue. My heart begged me to add a pretty faux jewel to the center of the flower but my head stepped in and reminded me that Audrey would pick at it and if it ever came loose it would be a serious choking hazard, so I refrained.
With the flower
I put the bed together with the bedding she already had from her crib. (Well, I did quickly whip up a pillow last night from the bumper pad of the crib)

All done in Audrey's room
You can still tell that this is a metal framed toddler bed. But the idea wasn't to hide that fact. Just remake it so that the metal headboard did not look so cold and industrial (or so banged up). In that regard, I think I completed this project successfully.

Monday, 3 June 2013

A frugal answer to storing puzzles and games

I love puzzles, gentle readers. Both for me, and as a great quiet activity for the kids. Walter enjoys puzzles during his quiet time while the daycare children in my home nap, and its a really great way for both Walter and Audrey to wind down after dinner before they go to bed.
But I don't like puzzle boxes. Those flimsy cardboard things don't last two days in this house before there is a rip along the side rendering the whole box useless in any puzzle piece holding capacity.
A while back I thought I was pretty smart. I figured I would but the puzzles in bags! Well....plastic bags wouldn't work. Not with having a daycare and therefor always young children around. Unless I kept the bags out of their reach at all times.  But that wasn't what I wanted to do.  I think its a great thing to let the little ones explore puzzles and other cognitive games before they are dexterous enough to complete them.

After more thinking I decided I would go the way of mesh laundry bags- the little ones intended for dedicates in the washing machine.  Those should be perfectly fine for the kids.  So I had gone out and invested in a number of these bags from the local dollar store. (This was in my pre-sewing days. Now I simply would have whipped up a few mesh bags on my sewing machine. But I digress.)
For the most part the mesh laundry bags worked. I cut out the picture of the completed puzzle from the front of the box and included in the bag with all the pieces.

I found I had two issues with my mesh bag "solution".
Problem one was that these bags did not stack. In all my frustration over the torn boxes I had forgotten to appreciate their stack-ability. The bags really just ended up tossed in the bottom of the toy box for lack of a better, on hand, bag storage solution.
Problem two, although not unique to mesh bags, is that several puzzles would often be played with at any given time. This meant a very high likelihood that I would have to assemble each puzzle at clean up time to be sure that I had all the pieces there, and only pieces for that puzzle went into that bag.

One day while changing the diaper of a day care child a light bulb came on in my head. These baby wipes boxes....they were sturdy....and stack able....easy for children to open....and posed no immediate danger to children.  I could store my puzzles and games in old baby wipes containers! I was brilliant! Except we only have two baby wipes containers. One for upstairs and one for the main floor.  We only buy the refills, not the new tubs every time.

So, I reached out to some friends on and asked if anyone had wipes containers kicking around that they would be willing to part with.  The response was awesome. I needed about a dozen containers, and my need was filled in under a day.

Next I took the image of the completed puzzle from the front of the puzzle box and super glued it to the front of wipes box.  Using clear packing tape would work pretty well too. I also wrote the number of puzzle pieces on the top of the container with permanent marker.

Here is where I stepped up my brilliance. I assembled the puzzles to make sure all  pieces were there. Then I flipped over each piece and wrote a symbol on the back of each. I used a dot for all pieces of one puzzle, a star for another, a square for another and so on.  Then I added this symbol to the top of the wipes box beside the number of pieces.
Now I knew not only that 48 pieces of puzzle should go in this tub, but which 48 pieces without having to assemble the whole puzzle.


Happy Monday, gentle readers.