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Monday, January 28, 2013

Is it a Shendyt or a Kilt?


The wearing of a kilt in its distinctive pattern is usually associated with the Scottish Highlanders.But did you know the shendyt, worn by Pharaohs and warriors in Ancient Egypt, is often called a kilt? It also is a piece of pleated linen wrapped around the body at the waist. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun derives from a verb to kilt, originally meaning "to gird up; to tuck up (the skirts) round the body."

The great kilt was a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head. The philibeg or small kilt, also known as the walking kilt (similar to the modern kilt) was invented by an English Quaker from Lancashire called Thomas Rawlinson sometime in the 1720s for the use of the Highlanders.

It is a tailored garment that is wrapped around the wearer's body at the natural waist (between the lowest rib and the hip) starting from one side (usually the wearer's left), around the front and back and across the front again to the opposite side. The fastenings consist of straps and buckles on both ends, the strap on the inside end usually passing through a slit in the waistband to be buckled on the outside; alternatively it may remain inside the waistband and be buckled inside.

Inhabitants of the isolated valleys of Scotland became known as clans and each adopted their own individual “sett” or tartan design. After the Jacobite Rebellion, King George II imposed the "Dress Act" in 1746, outlawing all items of Highland dress including kilts. The ban remained in effect for 35 years.  Once the ban was lifted in 1782, Highland landowners set up Highland Societies with aims to promote "the general use of the ancient Highland dress". The kilt became identified with the whole of Scotland.

One of the most-distinctive features of the authentic Scots kilt is the tartan pattern, the sett, it exhibits. The association of particular patterns with individual clans and families can be traced back perhaps one or two centuries. Most of the registered patterns available today were created in the 19th century.

Today there are also tartans for districts, counties, societies and corporations. There are also setts for states and provinces; schools and universities; sporting activities; individuals; and commemorative and simple generic patterns that anybody can wear. They are specified by their thread counts, the sequence of colours and their units of width.  Setts are further characterized by their size, the number of inches (or centimetres) in one full repeat. Tartans are commercially woven in four standard color variations that describe the overall tone. Organizations that sanction and grade the competitions in Highland dancing and bagpiping all have rules governing acceptable attire for the competitors.

Today most Scotsmen regard kilts as formal dress or national dress. In recent years, kilts have also become increasingly common in Scotland and around the world for casual wear, for example with the Jacobite shirt. It is not uncommon to see kilts worn at Irish pubs in the United States.

In 2008, a USPS letter carrier, Dean Peterson, made a formal proposal that the kilt be approved as an acceptable postal uniform—for reasons of comfort. The proposal was defeated at the convention of the 220,000-members.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sis

I'm sending birthday greetings to my sister Angie who is celebrating that special day tomorrow. With adulthood, our lives took separate paths and the miles between meant visits have been few and far between over the years. However, it is Alzheimer's Disease that stole the sister I once knew.

Over the past few years, the pernicious destruction of Alzheimer's has eaten away at our closeness until Angie no longer resembles the much-loved sister I once knew. She is being cared for in the special facility designated her home. She must be fed and bathed by loving attendants and no longer recognizes anyone, not even faithful daughters.

So...to the sister who drew an imaginary line down the middle of the double bed we shared and warned me not to invade her space.

To the young mother of four who helped build the home she shared with her family...who grew a humongous garden to feed them...who was famous in the neighborhood as the Tupperware Lady...and who released her exhuberance serving as captain of the softball team.

To the sister and woman who has been robbed of her memories, her vicacious personality destroyed, and has degenerated to the mere physical shell of a human being.

Across the miles and back through the years, I send happy birthday wishes to my sister Angie and look forward to our joyous reunion on the other side of the veil.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What are Idioms?












Ever used the phrases "Under the weather" "Shoot the breeze"  "Off one's rocker"? Then you spoke an idiom.

Idioms are words, phrases, or expressions that are either grammatically unusual, as in, “Long
time, no see!”, or their meaning cannot be taken literally, as in, “It's raining cats and dogs!”
This expression does not mean that cats and dogs are falling from the sky, but it is a metaphorical
expression (word picture) that means that it is raining very heavily. In other words, idioms don't mean exactly what the words say. They have, however, hidden meaning. When used in everyday language, they have a meaning other than the basic one you would find in the dictionary. Every language has its own idioms.

There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language. Some idioms, in contrast, are transparent. For example, 'lay one's cards on the table' means to reveal previously unknown intentions, or to reveal a secret.“She is pulling my leg” has at least two meanings: a literal meaning and a figurative meaning.  Pulling someone's leg means either that you literally grab their leg and yank it, or figuratively someone is trying to convince you of a tall tale.

 Proverbs such as these usually have figurative meaning. When one says "The devil is in the details", one is not expressing a belief in demons, but rather one means that things may look good on the surface, but upon scrutiny, problems are revealed. 

Take the idiom “to kick the bucket.” An English speaker would understand the phrase "kick the bucket" to mean "to die" – as well as to actually kick a bucket. But the same phrase in other languages sometimes doesn’t portray the same connotation. Idioms from other languages that are analogous to "kick the bucket" in English are Danish: at stille træskoene 'to take off the clogs', Italian: tirare le cuoia 'to pull the skins' or French: manger des pissenlits par la racine 'to eat dandelions by the root'. Somehow they don’t convey quite the same message.

You might be interested in consulting special idiom dictionaries. Here are some helpful online idiom

Friday, January 18, 2013

18 Things With Jamie Ayres

I've never done the Bucket List thing. My life's motto is to live each day to the fullest and be prepared for whatever surprises enter that you never expect.

When I found Jamie's blog I decided to give it a try. So here's eighteen things I'd like to do in the remainder of my lifetime.

1. Top of the list is to spend a summer in a little cottage somewhere on the Northeast coastline.
2. Would love to drive a red convertible; not necessarily own it; just want to drive around with the top down and my hair blowing in the wind.
3.Want one of my books to get noticed by Oprah Wnfrey or make the NY Times Bestsellers list.
4. I've always wanted to spend a month in Greece.
5. Someday I hope to reunite with my estranged grand-daughter Carlie.
6. To be able to play 'real' tunes on my guitar instead of just plucking notes.
7. Have a studio flooded with light in which to paint.
8. Take a riverboat trip down the Mississippi.
9.  Buy myself a VW bug. Have always loved that car!
10.Turn my yard into a magazine-perfect spot.
11. Learn how to get organized and clear away the clutter.
12. Spend some time on the Big Island of Hawaii.
13. Take my husband to see the Grand Canyon.
14. And Niagara Falls.
15. Take a trip cross-country on a motorcycle.
16. Take all of my extended family on a cruise.
17. Take part in a scientific expidition to Antartica.
18. And last, but not least, spend more time appreciating the life I have instead of always wanting to change things.

Gardening On The Dashboard

Once upon a time, my sister and her family occupied a suburban-type home where she indulged her love of gardening. There was a large vegetable garden on the hill every summer and she spent much of her time beautifying the yard with landscaped beds. Tucked away into a corner of the back yard, a bed devoted to herbs thrived and a wall of blooming morning glory flowers greeted anyone who climbed the steps to the back deck.

But then, with family grown and moved away, retirement approached. They made the decision to take to the road. So, they sold their house, along with much of its furnishings and invested in a luxurious recreational vehicle.

For almost ten years this couple has travelled the highways from coast to coast, visiting just about every state besides both Canada and Mexico. The one activity my sister really missed was being able to get her hands dirty and watch things grow.

Oh, there have been attempts along the way to satisfy that yearning. Each springtime - no matter where they happened to be at the moment - pots of flowers were purchased and carefully packed each time they moved to a different location. At times she would have to leave the plants behind with friends because they were headed for colder climates.

Hope springs eternal, so they say, and my sister made the best of a not-very-satisfying situation. Then, with the adoption of a cat, came further complications. Being a mostly-indoor creature, pots of plants set about drew the cat's natural curiosity with disasterous results. All plants had to move out-of-doors in order to survive.

Still, my sister missed the pleasure of caring for growing plants indoors.

Something caught on a TV garden program provided a possible solution. Now she has both a cat and plants sharing the close indoor space of their RV. The solution? Terrariums on the dashboard.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Who Stole My Thunder?


Ever hear the expression: 'steal your thunder'?

Perhaps it has to do with the god of thunder, Thor, Thrym, and Loki. Thrym stole Thor's hammer that created thunder. Then Thor sent Loki to get it back from Thrym. But various sources say this term is used when someone takes credit for something but the work is done by you. Someone 'steals your thunder' when they use your ideas or inventions to their own advantage.

Devices that produce the sound of thunder have been called on in theatrical productions for centuries. The methods used include - rolling metal balls down troughs, grinding lead shot in bowls, shaking sheets of thin metal. The latter device, called a thunder sheet, is still in use today. 

In 1704, playwright, John Dennis invented a new method of creating the sound of thunder for the production of his own play, Appius and Virginia. Dennis's experience was the source of this attractive little phrase.
The play was not a success and was soon taken off in favor of a production of Macbeth. 

On opening night, Dennis was astonished to hear his thunder machine being used. His response:  "Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder."



Friday, January 4, 2013

Mixing Joy with Sorrow

If you were expecting the type of blog I usually post – a choice of subject that would both entertain and            inform -- you will be disappointed. Instead I’d like to share something more personal that has occupied my thoughts this week. Events in my life took an unexpected turn and I’ve been struggling to sort things out.


Originally,  my husband and I looked forward to an occasion that would allow us to spend time away from the farm this weekend. Plans were to drive to Austin to attend a nephew’s wedding on Saturday evening. It will take place in Austin which meant a half-day’s drive and overnight stay. We planned to stay an extra night. That would allow us to spend time with a sister who travels a lot but just happened to be visiting her daughter living in San Antonio.

However on New Year’s Eve I received a phone call from this same sister. She called to say their son-in-law, who had serious medical problems, had died. So…instead of a fun get-together we will be attending his memorial service on Sunday. The possibility exists that I will remain after my husband returns home on Monday.

I’ve been busily completing obligations made for the coming week, just in case. All the while I wonder about the irony of attending a wedding one day and a funeral ceremony the next. It’s not often the stark reality of life and death is so closely entwined. And I’ve been struggling with that reality ever since I got the call.

I’ve lived enough years to have the death of family member or a friend or an acquaintance happen more and more. But this was a young man with a young son and a loving wife. He should have had many more years to live. Although I’m not certain of the age difference between the nephew and my sister’s son-in-law, I would have to say they were probably within ten years difference in ages.

So, while one young man is taking a decisive step into the future, another has ended his lifespan on earth and is now experiencing the next stage of his existence.

Somber thoughts, I agree. I hope you will forgive me for opening my heart in this way.