Tuesday 26 February 2013

Who is this Mr Huey ?

I've never met him but I'm well acquainted with his fabulous palette of sprayable mists.
I have a few ... well quite a few actually but you can never have enough I say . The trouble is , I can never remember which ones I have when I'm out and about and sometimes end up buying a duplicate, then kicking myself when I get home.

Problem solved. I've devised a colour chart which I've printed onto white card, trimmed and added sample squirts , through a rectangular mask, of the ones I already own. I think it's the full list unless they've brought out some more in the last 5 minutes ... you never know , so just in case , I've added a few rows at the end for new additions.  If any of you eagle-eyed archivists spot any errors or omissions , please let me know. I've counted 68 in total but I think I may have duplicated on the whites - they all seemed to be called something different depending on what site your looking on.

It's in alphabetical order which works best for me , although you can always re-arrange it into colour families. Frustratingly , I think a few are now discontinued , I'd have been intrigued to have seem what 'Lunch tray' looked like .

If you had the chance to name a brand new Mr Huey - what would you call it ? Suggestions please ... I'll send a prize to the best answer. If you'd like a PDF of the chart , just leave your details below and I'll forward. I can't believe I've only got 2 of the colours on the first page ... and excuse to buy more perhaps ? Happy shopping ( or as Jackie would say ... enabling ! )

Yes , I know , I should get out more but I'm procrastinating about having to go upstairs
and do the teenagers' bedrooms deep-clean which I've been putting off for days... so now you understand .

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Wood Veneers

I’m not sure I’ve ever actually used one of those wood veneer shapes on a scrapbook layout but it hasn’t stopped me acquiring a few packs because they are just so collectable. One day I will find the perfect use for them but until then I’ve been having fun wondering how to store them. Prompted by a thread over on Studio Calico, I started to browse the web for vintage fishing tackle boxes, then hit upon the idea of using an artist’s wooden box intended for paints and brushes and found this on ebay for £6.99. It measures about 8" x 14" and has a lovely sliding lid and 5 subdivided interior compartments. I think the wood is birch and it even has beautiful dovetail joints in the corners. Altogether a lovely little item.

It came lined with nasty yellowing foam sheets which were easy to remove. After a quick rub down with some sand-paper and the addition of a few remnants of patterned paper , I had managed to turn it into the perfect storage box.

Very pleased with the end result especially as it’s made from wood and so it seemed rather apt. It also reminds me of an old pencil box I used to have as a child that held Reeves pastels, so a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. I now have the perfect excuse to buy a few more packs as it’s looking a little empty !

Oh and just for a bit of maverick, I couldn't resist putting the cats in with the birdies !

Friday 15 February 2013

GCSE English

I'm sitting an English GCSE , not because I need to but because I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. I needed to understand what students go through from start to finish when they embark upon this exam ; How they learn, or sometimes don't learn, what they understand about the process , how they approach each task, what they get from it, or don't and whether it enriches their understanding of the English language.

My youngest son will be sitting  this exam in just over 2 years time. He is dyspraxic and dyslexic and struggles with exams in general. I wanted to understand the labyrinthine workings of the exam system and the hurdles he'd have to encounter and how these would affect his chances of getting a good grade.

I feel like an undercover spy but the government now offer free GCSE courses in English and Maths to adult learners , so it was too good a gift horse to ignore and it's all in the interests of the learning process.

Good grief  has it been an eye opener ! As a parent , If your child has no learning difficulty , you may never need to know any of this aside from the odd bit of nagging around exam time and a couple of parents' evenings at school where they'll tell you their predicted grade. Lucky you. If your child is at a good school you can leave it all to them. If neither of these apply then you're in the lap of the gods.

I'm not sure where to start . Deep breath I guess.

Firstly , if you know which exam board will be setting your exam and the correct syllabus code, you can go online and check out the specification. If you have several hours to spare , you'll be guided through a 40 page booklet ( at which point does a booklet become a book I wonder ? ) of  edu-speak with a vocabulary all of its own - you'll encounter words and phrases like ... moderation procedure, consortium arrangements, internal standardisation, terminal rule, multi modal submission, Electronic Data Interchange ... I could go on.

If this isn't enough to confuse you then wait until you get to the AOs ( Assessment Objectives).  They range from AO1 ( sophisticated / Impressive) - AO4 ( Limited -  as will there success outcome in life be  ) . Life is cruel, exams are crueler.

There's a nifty decision tree to navigate , varying permutations of units, then there's a plethora of Controlled Assessments to get your head round, a variety of texts to read , skills to master and make sure you sharpen up your memory skills .You'll know essay titles in advance which means you'll have written a draft before you sit the Controlled exam so if you can memorise what you've written before you'll get the same grade as you achieved for your draft. What's the point ? Isn't this supposed to be an English exam not a memory test ?

... and where is all the literature buried in all of this ? If you can't spell, struggle with reading , have weak processing speed and a compromised memory , the whole process must be a nightmare and you don't even get to enjoy the book !

If I were Michael Gove,  this is what I'd recommend :

Shakespeare - complimentary access to stage productions of the chosen text. Role playing ( in full costume and make-up) for a couple of chosen scenes, a trip to Stratford.

Poetry - every student gets to choose their own poems - they're all free online. If your child has a semantic pragmatic disorder , poetry may well be a closed book. Find some accessible contemporary poets, Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough , Adrian Mitchell , arrange a visit from a local poet - they'd be only too pleased to come in and talk to the students about their writing process and thoughts - pay them of course.

Literary texts - same old , same old. I'm not saying Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird aren't exemplary must-reads but maybe when they're good and ready. There's a wealth of hidden contemporary gems out there ready to be discovered and the children will have a far greater connection with them than something that happened in another continent in another lifetime. You never know they might even enjoy reading them. What a bonus. Cover the literary greats but let them watch the film adaptations as well .

Creative Writing - it should be just that. Let them find their 'voice' . Blogging should be made compulsory.

Spelling - This is the 21st century . We are not living in the time of pointy dunce's hats and standing on stools in the corner of the classroom. Spelling is NOT an indication of intelligence. Some of the brightest minds can't spell for toffeee ( that's a joke) . Their minds are much better employed creating new ideas and exploring the universe. For goodness sake, let children who struggle to spell use spell check . It's a bit like inventing the wheel and then saying that bicycles must operate without them. Yes I know it would be great if they could learn how to spell everything correctly but why punish them if they can't remember all of the ridiculous spelling rules in the English language - and anyway there are more exceptions to the rule than rules themselves so could we concentrate on the content instead please ? In 50 years time , we will look back on our current system and think - weren't we cruel to punish for such a ridiculous thing.

Exams - banned . Their teachers will know whether they've reached the 'required' standard. Rather than battle through the administrative nightmare of controlled assessments, assessment objectives , grade boundaries and the like, let each teacher write an individual report on each student based on practical observation and discussion. Youngsters will have a lot more respect for education and literature and the exam inspectors would be mightily impressed with their opinions and how much better they're able to express them when they're not under the cosh.

There endeth my rant, for now.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Been busy ...

... making Valentine's Day cards . Yes I know it's a all a load of commercial nonsense to get us to spend money in the depths of the bleakest month of the year ... but not if you make your own. Any excuse for a celebration I say and the boys don't seem to mind being bombarded with chocolate hearts and truffles.

The Silhouette Cameo was made for celebrations and it was a snip to make these - having said that I'm only just clearing my desk after a frenetic cutting session that's made my carpet look as if there's been a wedding's worth of confetti thrown about the place. Hey ho , what price love and all that.

Now I don't usually do 'cute' but there's 'cute' and there's cute and this ted bears a striking resemblance to my youngest's teddy so I couldn't resist.

This is what the insides look like

and these are some boxes I cut and filled with the boys' favourite bubble gum . They'll go in their Valentine's goody bags which are still a work in progress .

Better go get the hoover.

Thursday 7 February 2013

owt for nowt

I've gone all Yorkshire in celebration of their local dialect . There a teacher somewhere oop North that thinks that children should leave their local dialect out of their written exam papers, fearing that they'll be marked down and fail. I have some sympathy with her anxiety in this educationally competitive world . Who wouldn't want their students to get the best marks possible in order to maximise their employment chances ? But it's sad that regional differences should make the potential difference between a pass and a fail.

I'm wondering what the hell any examiner would have made of my essays back in the sixties when I was living in Scotland and sounding like a guttural Glaswegian ? Would  "I didney ken yah wee hen" * have cut the mustard with Miss Jean Brodie ? I think not.  And I can't imagine Rabby Burns being asked to re-word his  "sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beatie"   so that the Southern softies could understand it.

Sadly my mother sent me off to elocution lessons when we moved to England to knock the Scottish out of me. I don't blame her. It was an act of kindness as I spent the first few weeks at my new school sobbing in the corner of the playground as the other kids said they couldn't understand a word I was saying.

It reminded me of the hilarious Stanley Baxter sketches "Parliamo Glasgow" - all the funnier because my parents had bought the original vinyl LPs " Parliamo Italiano" in their quest to master a foreign language at a time when Freddie Laker and Clarksons were taking to the air with the first wave of package holidays to sunny European destinations. He really was a comedy genius and way ahead of his time. Thanks to You Tube , I have just laughed my wee socks off at one of the original sketches.

As I'd once have said  "ye cannae whack'em "

The gremlins won't let me upload the You Tube video but if you got a few minutes to spare and fancy a laugh , just google Parliamo Glasgow. Time well spent

* Translation - " I don't know my dear "

Friday 1 February 2013

Notebook Nirvana

What makes your heart leap when you're out and about shopping - not the supermarket kind but the heavenly sort , in pursuit of a thing of beauty ? For some it's handbags, maybe shoes but the world is awash with a plethora of strappy, little, leather numbers . Who could possible need more ?

But stationery ... well that's another matter. That's the stuff of heaven. You can never have enough notebooks ready and waiting to be filled with earnest notes and jottings, heartfelt sentiments , the odd quote here or a calculation there. The permutations of cover and contents are infinite, combining to provide a tactile object of desire.

Every now and then I come across a shop that makes my heart skip a beat. Whilst browsing online I stumbled upon just such a place called Present and Correct. Page after page of loveliness and not just notebooks - every item that your desk or workspace could possibly ever covet . As pictures paint a thousand words , less verbal from me ... just feast your eyes on this tiny selection of what they have to offer ... in fact I hardly know where to start . These people have clearly scoured the earth for an eclectic selection of well-made, functional, simple and yet beautiful products and I have to compliment them on the photographs - every one a gallery still life. When you've finished lusting after the eye candy go check out the shop here and feast your eyes on what else they have to offer. You won't be disappointed.

Who wouldn't want to make pie charts with this lot ?

Ingenious. I'll be writing all my titles from now on in a circle and underlining them with this.

And I leave you this duo of shop bags "Guten Einkauf " or " Good Buy "