A Puzzled Dilemma Emma …

Dear Dilemma Emma, Thank you for really helping! I clicked on you because I am called Emma but then I read and was so pleased I did. I have a family of dyslexics and my youngest son is showing all the signs of following his 2 siblings and my husband. I printed it off and you are on the fridge! It really hit home, made me think and I’m going to follow it. I’m really interested in you saying about puzzles, really? Old cardboard puzzles? I’ve spent a fortune on apps and laptops and and and …. And it hit home when you talked about everyone saying they know some genius dyslexic like Richard Branson. Thanks for all you said, Cheers. Emma. (details with-held)

Emma, you are so welcome. I have replied to you personally, as asked some specific questions but I am thrilled to be able to share your thanks and your question about puzzles – which are currently a hot education topic and one I’m obsessing about.

Puzzles may be the answer for quite a few readers’ dilemmas: Debbie wanted more focus in her household of teenagers; Alana in Twickenham was bemoaning childhood dependence on electronics and Jani asked for alternatives to electronic games.

So, puzzles you say with a puzzled inflection… puzzles I repeat. Research and dare I suggest.  A little sprinkling of common sense, suggests it’s time to bring those puzzles out of the attic and into your child’s life, if not your life. Go crazy and purchase age appropriate puzzles; you will discover a whole new interactive activity that is rather comfortingly gentle, calming and doesn’t require batteries or chargers or you to drop a quick 300 earthling pounds…

The act of slotting bits of strangely shaped card together whilst interpreting related outlines, will get all those marvellous little neural pathways zooming. Teenagers will think this is all very retro or tell them it is a vintage retro puzzle and their brain will be there, off their phone and working out your charity shop buy.  For your teenagers and adults alike, never underestimate the excitement of the Rubik’s cube, a classic and one all ages seem to still love, either bemoaning their inability to do or display their baffling ability to do!

Whilst you await the seeking out of puzzles… make cookies using this cutter!

A mere 99p !


Cut Out Cookies



  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 400 grams plain flour – preferably Italian 00 (plus more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300 grams icing sugar (sieved)
  • food colouring


You will need biscuit cutters and two baking trays, greased or lined. This dough freezes well, so you can always stash some away.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so very sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Halve the dough, form into fat discs, wrap each half in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it (not taking out the other half until you’ve finished with the first) and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about ½ cm. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the biscuits a little apart on the baking sheets. Puzzle pieces all over the place!
  1. Bake for 8–12 minutes, by which time they will be lightly golden around the edges. Cool on a rack and continue with the rest of the dough.
  1. When they’re all totally cooled, you can get on with the icing. Put a couple of tablespoons of just-not-boiling water into a large bowl, add the sieved icing sugar and mix together, adding more water as you need to form a thick paste.
  1. Go for it, colours and sprinkles abound!

Munch away and herewith a few of the top puzzles currently available:

Our Blue Planet World jigsaw. The Conran Shop


Harry Potter (500 pieces). Waterstones


Flags and Capitals! Mulberry Bush


Pringles Puzzle. John Lewis


Room on the Broom. John Lewis


Biscuits and puzzling children, happy days.

Do let me know how it goes  ???

Dilemma Emma