Friday, July 17, 2015

The English Language

If you have ever tried to teach a child to read, or are coaching a young speller, you will soon come to realize how amazing it is that you absorbed this language as a child and are able to cope with it at all! English is a melting pot of words and influences. Phonics are great to teach reading, but you also need to memorize a lot of exceptions to the rules.

Through the years of teaching children to read, my students and I have been through many baffling moments. The silent e's have rules that are easy to learn, so they aren't so bad, but try all those other silent combinations. Knight and Gnat and Sign? Try explaining that pesky "-ough" that can make a sound every-which-a-way it wants. Bough? Trough? Thought? Through? Though? Enough?

(The poets decided they'd had enough, and went to thru and tho instead)

Then of course, if you take one of those words, like Enough, you also have to point out that other words that rhyme may not be spelled the same, like Stuff.
Bough and Bow and Thou.
Through and Blue and Blew, Too.

I recently started to listen to the Wycliffe Bible, English made a lot more sense back then in the 1380's. After listening to several of these, I have to say that I like Middle English.

I don't know how accurate the pronunciation is, though I have read that there is evidence that most silent e's were pronounced. Certainly the ghostly "ght" and "igh" letter groups make more sense spoken out loud. The letters K and G in Knight, for instance, were all sounded out in the video above. How we since managed to swallow them into silence I do not know.

I know some people are wanting to simplify the English language, but I wonder who might be for going back and making it the way it was?

Knowing how English was spoken in history helps me understand a lot of our words and their spelling. Now my students can be assured that those extra silent letters are not put into our words just to make first grade harder!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

2015 Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

Here are a very few photos of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show this morning. Quilts were hung all over the town, from porches, balconies, and buildings.

 There were 1,400 quilts on display. I only saw a small portion of them, I'm sure!

 The town was teeming with people. You could hear a low hum of many hundreds (maybe thousands) of voices. I didn't snap too many photos because it was hard to get close to some of the quilts. There were so many beautiful and intricate quilts.  I liked the one above, with the scalloped edges.

 Here is one in bright, new colors.

 The quilt on the left (the large nine-patch) is very do-able, and a good way to use up a stash of fabrics.

 This quilt was very detailed, richly embroidered, with lots of jewels sewn on too!

 This Oregon Trail quilt is so charming! Click to see larger photo.

 The colors really pop on this quilt. It was interesting to pause and study it, to note how the pattern takes your eyes traveling in one direction, then in another.

 This is a striking quilt.

I'm not really enthralled with modern quilts, but there is a lot to learn from them, from the different ways to use scraps, to simplified construction and new ways of quilting. I liked the colors on this one, and I think if the stripes were continued all the way across the quilt, it would make a sweet, homey quilt to put on a twin bed.

I wonder if planning and making quilts like these take as much time and patience as building a house?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy July!

July is a happy month, but a very picked-upon month in calendar land. I always thought the calendar makers used it as a place to put their worst leftover photo: usually some cactus-y place in the desert, a dry and dusty scene taken at high noon, all in shades of hottest yellow. July deserves better than that! 

I know that there is at least one loyal reader of the Times overseas, and I think a few more have visited even though it has been a while since the last post. I am glad that the big computer is fixed and I can once more type on a regular keyboard, The "smartphone" one-fingered typing style I have almost mastered, but there is no way I was going to attempt to write a whole post on one of those things! 

I now know why people are always walking around, head bowed over their smartphone, in deep concentration: they are trying to figure out how to use the dumb things. There ought to be a parking section at the end-cap of every grocery store aisle so people can stop and fool around with their smartphones, that way there won't be traffic jams in the aisles.  The phone calls people randomly, sends things where they weren't supposed to go, talks to you out of the blue, makes strange noises, and finishes your sentences for you. I'm used to reading strange emails now, where the "auto correct" has taken over, unbeknownst to the sender, who is concentrating on trying to get their finger to hit the right letters on the wee keyboard (see the article on loosing things). The new style of smartphone emails are like one of those brain exercises with the scrambled words that we are somehow able to read normally.

I have typed newsletters on the typewriter in the previous photo, which I got for a dollar many years ago, before the magazine stylists and decorators made them surge in popularity. I'd be lucky to get one for under $60 now! The quilt on the lawn above is a family heirloom. It obviously used up a lot of scraps for the maker, and I wonder what each fabric was originally used for. I like the blue material with the roses and open books. 
The lace-wrapped bouquets are another pretty print.

I think these rosebuds are back in style!

Here's a hot summer month tip: water guns are fun until some little imperative plastic part breaks off inside, or they sprout a leak, or just plain fall apart. Try empty & washed "squeezable" ketchup bottles & lids instead. There are no tiny plastic parts to break, and though they don't spray as far, they are fun for the little kids.

Enjoy your July!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fancy Fiddle Case

What to do with an old fiddle case? One which was okay on the inside, but starting to get beyond "scuffed up" on the outside?
Handle wrap coming off the metal handle, the main clasp kind of "sticky" (have to use the side clasps...)
...back fabric peeling up...

I thought about putting the case on Craigslist. There may be someone out there who wants something like this. So I tucked it out of the way until I had time to list it. 
Months later, it occurred to me that I could renovate the still-unlisted case and make it uniquely my own! 
It was all wood underneath the fake leather. The covering was fabric and bootblack maybe? I thought I would tear it off and paint the wood underneath. Whatever they used back in the old days to equate pretend leather, it came off almost in strips and left a lot of powder behind. 

  I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time sanding all the remaining glue off, so the surface was very rough. That didn't matter too much because I was going to decoupage the case. I painted the metal hinges and parts, rust and all. The rust does show through, but I was going for "shabby chic" style anyway.
Out came the scrapbook papers...
...and the bits and pieces of papers saved just for times like these... a paper bag from the music shop (printed with teal sheet music!), music score tissue-paper, doilies, stickers, clip art...
...I also printed some images of little girls with violins off of the internet, and hand-tinted them.
This little girl had three howling dogs with her, but I thought that was a bit too many...
...especially since the other little girl on the front of the case had a howling dog, too! 
The painting is by Charles Burton Barber, "The Broken String." The other painting had no title, but I suspect it is either by Charles Burton Barber or a Sir Arthur Elsley.
The Broken String

Isn't it a cute painting? You see the kitten is playing with the broken string. The poor little girl is trying to practice as best as she can on the remaining three.

Another print out from the web just fit on the side, it can be found here.

As the project came together, I discovered that it was no longer for me, but was claimed by a little fiddler of mine, so I wrote her initials on the labels. The dove is from a calendar, the labels made from various punches and dies. 
Sheet music from an ATC paper pad.
Stickers and doilies.
 The pink bit of paper "lace" came from packaging. Real lace and even a real chiffon ribbon rose glued on just fine, and are, after five coats of Mod-Podge, as stiff as a board. 
 I found a flourish printed on scrap-book paper and cut it out. A flourished-shaped die would be so handy to have!
This project took a couple of days just to "compose" the new covering, and then many more days to put on extra layers of Mod-Podge to make a clear finish. I hope it will last a long time. 
My best friends turned out to be the sheet-music tissue paper and the paper sack! They were great for moulding around hard-to-cover spaces, and yeilded themselves to be glued very nicely. I covered the handle with scalloped grosgrain ribbon from the dollar store. 
Overall, I am very pleased with how it turned out.

The only mistake I felt that I made was curving the paper around to the inside. You see, I did the whole project with the case open, flat on the table. It did not occur to me that the case might not close with layers of paper and glue added to it! I did some sanding and trimming of paper, but still it was a tight fit. I should have sanded the box down at the closure edges ahead of time to make room, or closed the box, marked where the lid came down, and only put the paper up to that point, maybe finishing off with some kind of decorative tape. 

And so, the shabby-chic-victorian-scrap-fancy-fiddle case is done, and it's a keeper. When not in use, it it sure does look nice laying around the house!
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