Caffeinated Puzzles

Caffeinated Puzzles

What's your name?
Bree Cowan

Where are you based?
Sacramento, California

Tell us about what your ordinary day looks like.
I'm a high school English teacher living in the California state capital. I am lucky to have a lot of free time, so when I'm not teaching, my typical day always includes doing something creative, doing something physical, like working out or going for a neighborhood walk, and doing some kind of self care, like puzzling!

How did you get into the world of puzzling?
I've always been a fan of puzzles, but moving around a lot as a teen and young adult meant I never got to have a big collection. It wasn't until the COVID 19 lockdowns that I actually let myself start to collect puzzles and document my progress on Instagram. I started my account in April of 2020 during time off from work to give me something to occupy myself with, and it grew into one of my favorite and most treasured hobbies. Now, my bookshelf of puzzles and my dedicated puzzle space is my favorite part of my home!

What makes you keep puzzling & how often do you puzzle?
I make time to puzzle every day. I moved into my dream apartment a year ago and made sure that I set up the space to facilitate puzzling, so I have a nice table in front of windows with lots of natural light. I'll usually spend some time in the evening puzzling to decompress from the day. I also look forward to finishing puzzles so that I can photograph them and post reviews to Instagram. I get such a kick out of the puzzle community on Instagram - there are so many lovely people, and I get so much inspiration from them!

What is your favorite type of puzzles?
I typically gravitate towards ribbon/normal piece cuts, and I waffle back and forth between really graphic, colorful collage-style images and more calm, soothing, still life images. I like when puzzles show me a life that I want to step into (like "Creative Studio" by Trevell, or "Girls Room", by Soonness). I feel like working a puzzle is like reading a good book - the illustration of the puzzle captures you, pulls you in, and helps you imagine yourself in another world.

During puzzling sessions, do you listen to anything or puzzle in silence?
I have a hard time doing anything in silence, so I will typically listen to podcasts or have YouTube videos on in the background. I listen to a mix of comedy, political, and book/video game review podcasts. Currently on my puzzling soundtrack are The Besties (a video game review podcast), Her Dark Materials (a chapter by chapter review of the His Dark Materials book trilogy), and Cult Podcast (a comedy podcast about various cults).

If you were to describe what puzzling means to you, what would it be?
It's hard to quantify...I think a lot of people would look at puzzles as just a fun little hobby to kill time, but for me, it's representative of the way that I have healed my relationship with myself and improved my mental health. I've struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life and I used to think that I needed to make myself small and take up as little physical and emotional room as possible. Getting into puzzling gave me literal permission to take up space. I need shelf space, and table space, and space for photographs. I need to spread out all the pieces so I can see how they will eventually fit together. Puzzling has helped me understand and accept that I am just as deserving of taking up space as anyone else, and I get to fill that space with beautiful art and color, which makes me so incredibly happy :)

Tell us about your other interests & joys.
As for other hobbies, I make friendship bracelets (another COVID 19 hyperfixation!), play video games, and give myself manicures. I love taking walks in my neighborhood, spending time with my giant doofus of a dog, and eating good food. I also work part time as a trivia host at a local bar, which is a blast, and lets me socialize with all kinds of new people each week.

Do you have anything you want to share?
I have been working to slowly build an in-person puzzle community in Sacramento! I'm currently hosting bi-monthly puzzle swaps. We've had four so far, and each time, we have more and more people turn out! Starting at the end of April, I'll also be hosting a monthly Pints and Puzzles night at a local brewery where folks can show up, work on a puzzle, and enjoy some food and drink. I'm really passionate about creating the kind of community that I want to be a part of. I like doing puzzles and talking about puzzles and I want to make more friends who do as well! If you're in Sacramento, all the dates and times for upcoming puzzle events can be found on my Instagram @caffeinatedpuzzles.