CEDAR HILLS, Utah - It's been more than a few decades since Doug Nufer lived in the Upper Peninsula and yet it's a place he still considers home.
"It's still in my blood though," Nufer said during a phone interview Thursday. "I was originally a (United States) Air Force brat; my dad moved around quite a bit."
Born in the country of Norway, Nufer's family relocated several times during his childhood, living in Massachusetts, California and Utah before moving to Houghton when he was 7 years old. His dad was a history and political science professor at Michigan Technological University. Like a missing puzzle piece, he quickly fell into place - made new friends, enjoyed the outdoors (even during winter) and played sports until he graduated from Houghton High School in 1981.
Proud of his "Yooper background," Nufer still today shares stories with family and friends of life in the "frozen north."
"I tell them that the U.P. is the one place in the world where the more you exaggerate about it, the closer you come to describing it accurately," he said. "I felt it as a badge of honor to have that much snow that I had to shovel out of the driveway."
He likened driving down the road to a bobsled run because of the snowbanks on both sides.
Nonetheless, he was enjoying living in the U.P. while he could until he moved out west to go to college.
While Nufer currently resides in Cedar Hills, Utah, he's taking his childhood memories and transforming them into a tangram, which is an ancient Chinese puzzle consisting of seven pieces.
The newfound entrepreneur, who was laid off in May of 2011 when the company he was working for 23 years, WordPerfect Corporation, was purchased.
"I took a good portion of my severance pay and used it to fund a game I invented," he said. "I managed to launch my game - "Tangram Fury" - last fall."
According to his website tangramfury.com, "Tangram Fury" is a "competitive and amazingly addictive" table-top game where players attempt to be the first to recreate images using the seven pieces of a standard tangram puzzle. Not only that, Nufer said they challenge the mind and have been used by teachers and students inside the classroom.
The pieces are made out of a durable foam material and measure out to be one-quarter inch thick.
"While the original puzzle is a square, the pieces can be rearranged to form thousands of other abstract images ranging from people to buildings to animals to fish and so forth," he said.
Success from his initial game led to his creating what he's calling Souvenir Packs, that could be sold in gift shops.
"I thought well, what better theme than the U.P. because there's so many quirky things about the U.P. like the Yooper Scooper and all that stuff," he said.
The U.P.-inspired puzzle, "Yooper Pack" includes images such as white tail deer, outhouse, snowmobile, pasty, mosquito, miner's hat and more.
Nufer said the Yooper Pack is a fairly new puzzle and not many people know about it just yet, however, they are welcome to visit tangramfury.com/tangram-library.php to find out more.
Free teachers' handouts can be found at tangramfury.com/teacher-resources.php.