Monthly Archives: April 2015



a bit of razzle-dazzle

It was fun to hear someone use the term “higgledy-piggledy” the other day.

Say what?

You know, higgledy–piggledy, hodge-podge, hurly-burly. These words have more in common than their shared meaning: confusion or disorder. They’re formally called “reduplicative compounds,” meaning paired words that usually differ only in a vowel or consonant. Commonly, they’re called “ricochet words.” Think nitty-gritty, lovey-dovey, tick-tock. Just saying them seems to make the sound ricochet around the room.

Or how about exact reduplications, like bye-bye, boo-boo, or twenty-twenty? Or comparative reduplications like “It’s getting hotter and hotter” or “My cow is getting gentler and gentler.”

One interesting thing about reduplications is that they seem to enter the language at times in history when people are feeling lighthearted and playful. For example, the 1920s (immediately following World War I) spawned reduplicative terms like the bee’s knees, heebie-jeebies, and boogie-woogie.

Louisiana Five Jazz Band, 1919, Courtesy of Nunez family collection via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite reduplication?


While its first meaning, when introduced way back in 1703 in Sir Richard Steele’s The Tender Husband, or The Accomplish’d Fools, a Comedy, was to be indecisive,

“I’m for marrying her at once. Why should I stand shilly-shally, like a country bumpkin?”

It’s come to mean, for me at least, an all-purpose piece of cloth for glamping adventures … and you can see how it all started with a bit of indecision. Here’s the explanation from my Ideabook:

“What’s a ShillyShally? I came up with this name for a three-foot-square piece of pure cotton fabric when I once tried to describe my attachment to this versatile piece of cloth. ‘Shill I be a bandanna? Shall I be a bath towel? Shill I be a tablecloth? Shall I be a boa? Shill I be a bathing suit top? Shall I be a hankie? Shill I be a dishtowel?’ It’s all those things and more, and when I’m camping, it becomes my faithful companion as well. Dishtowel fabric, maybe colored, works best, and I prefer one with a bit of embroidery; it just seems more special that way. It has to be thin so it dries out fast and knots easily. Sometimes, I choose pure white, especially when I’m camping in the desert—white just seems to speak ‘reflect’ better. When I’m backpacking, it becomes my ‘blankie’ of sorts, a source of comfort and security.”




Pen Pals

Pen pals are back in style in a new and creative way, thanks to a gal named Janette Lane and the growing sensation of her Pocket Letter Pals network. Pocket letters are pen-pal letters in a pocket format. The idea is to fill all nine pockets of a 9-pocket trading card sleeve and send it to someone who’s agreed to swap with you. Pen pals connect by signing up on the free network, where they can also create a profile, join groups, receive news, and message other members.

Pocket letter samples via

The swap can be a one-time exchange, or you can exchange indefinitely if you find someone you really like. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a collection of new pen-pal friends from all over the world? I’m thinking it would. Visit to learn more.




MaryJane Butters was milking her cow

When Megan cried, “Hurry, Mom, follow me NOW.”

Together, they ran to the garden to see …

A beanstalk (heirloom) as big as a tree.

Photo by Tim Sackton via Flickr

That, my friends, was a clerihew.


No—like this:


More than mere willy-nilly rhyming verse, this type of half-pint poem has rather distinct rules. A true clerihew must contain …

  1. A bit of wit
  2. Four lines of uneven length with the rhyming scheme AABB
  3. The name of the subject within the first line

But, wait—there’s more …

According to Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), originator of the form (at age 16!), a true clerihew will either a) position the subject’s name at the end of the first line, or b) use only the name as the first line. Why? Because the whole point of the poem, he declared, is to rhyme with awkward names.

Maybe I need to take another stab at it? Perhaps something more along these lines:

MaryJane Butters

Was stymied by stutters

When she spied a strange cat

Wearing THIS as a hat.

Merit Badge: Sew Wonderful, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,346 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,010 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/Sew Wonderful Beginner Level Merit Badge, I took advantage of the fact that I had been a human pincushion one too many times this month.


I know, you’re not following. Perhaps that’s because you’ve never spilled an entire collection of straight pins into your entire collection of fabric?

Well, count yourselves lucky, my chickadees, because, well, darn it, I don’t recommend it. Ouch. There’s another one.

Sucking on my poor, Swiss-cheese fingers, and determining never to attempt acupuncture—at least not without a professional—I made up my mind to do something about this awful situation, and why not earn a badge? Seemed sensible. Yowch.

Time out to find the homemade first-aid kit …

All right, I’m back and more determined than ever. (And wearing thimbles on all 10 extremities).

I sorted through my bolts and squares and stacks of calico, gingham, toile, corduroy, denim, satin, flannel, and the like. In order to earn my Beginner Level Badge, I needed to make a sewing kit, complete with pinkeeper, to give to a friend.

You know what they say: Be your own best friend.

What? No one says that? That isn’t a quote? And I was going to embroider it on a pillow.

Well, fine, I’ll simply make two, because I have the puncture wounds to prove I need a little organization as well. Ow.

I decided there was no need to shop to earn this badge. Not with all the lovely things I have lying about my home. Upcycling is the name of game with this farmgirl these days. Why, I hardly remember what the siren call of the mall sounds like, now that I’ve turned over a new (organic) leaf. (Okay, okay, I do occasionally answer the siren call of the Pretzel Palace, which is inside the mall, but hey … I’m only human).

I found two sweet baskets left over from my basketry-making season, and they were a perfect fit for the following:

  • A few adorable fabric squares (perfect for quilting)
  • Several different shades of threads, both for machines and for hand embroidery
  • Straight pins (since evidently I own approximately eleventy-seven thousand)
  • Safety pins (oh, how I love them … and am considering switching to them for all my pinning needs)
  • A handful of buttons
  • A fabric pen
  • A small embroidery hoop
  • Scissors

To top it all off, I put together two rather charming pincushions. One is the old-fashioned, stuffed-strawberry type. You know the one: made of red felt and stuffed plump, it’s extra endearing with the white-tipped pins. The other, I got fancier with: it’s a blue satin dolphin. Well, it was supposed to be a blue satin dolphin, but it turned out more like a cheerful and overfed flounder. Either way, it’s cute. Until I started poking him with pins, and then I felt terrible. Like a flounder killer. I should have stayed with strawberries.



What’s your “emotional intelligence”?

Look closely.

Photo by Fanny Schertzer via Wikimedia Commons

What do you suppose this dairy darling is thinking? Perhaps more to the point, how is she feeling?

Your guess is as good as mine, but I will tell you that I just scored pretty high on a quiz to determine emotional intelligence. Not that I’m bragging.


Play along …

According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, “Facial expressions are a universal language of emotion, instantly conveying happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and much more. Reading these expressions is essential to compassion and empathy.”

So, they came up with a quickie quiz to measure emotional intelligence.

Are you yawning … or laughing?

Photo by why 137 via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway …

Visit the quiz site and try to identify the emotion conveyed in each photo (there are 20). “Each answer will pinpoint the exact muscles involved in that emotion and explain the subtle differences between expressions,” explain the authors. “Some emotions appear more than once.”

This guy isn’t in any of the photos, but he looks pretty happy to me! What do you think?

Photo by Sam via Wikimedia Commons