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Last update: 2013-06-26

Nik Wallenda's wife.

2013-06-26
Length: 11s

Well, you've probably all heard about Nik Walenda, the man who recently walked 1,500 ft above the Gran Canyon on a two inch thick wire, with no protection, and no net. I watched him 'live' as he took every step, and every breath. I actually found myself(1) holding my breath while he walked and balanced and prayed. Judging by(2) his facial expression, he was more relaxed than I was. I was so nervous; my hands were sweaty, and my fingers were tingling. And then I remembered to breathe. "Oh, that's right. He's doing it, not me." It was too much for any normal person to see comfortably. And the "Thank you Jesus", and "Halleluyah" that he repeated, which I'm sure helped his performance, made it worse for me, because I kept on(3) imagining one of those Halleluyahs turning into a "Halleluyah!" His wife and three children and a group of friends and family were watching him from the other side of the Canyon. I couldn't decide if that was good or bad. Of course his family wanted to support him by being there(4), but what about them? What if he f-e-l-l in front of them? What a tragic and bizarre situation that would be for his kids. What would they do? Gasp, and then call out a quick, "Bye!" But, Nik Walenda is good. Infact, he's spectacular. He is 7th generation of a family of tightrope walkers, so as he says, "It's in my blood." I bet his wife wishes that accounting was in his blood instead. Imagine the sleepless nights that she has experienced, the nerves, and the stress. She must be a woman of steel, and unusual patience. He's done the same across the Niagara Falls, and plans to walk between two skyscrapers in New York. He is brave, focused, and determined. And he's now a bit of a national hero. But my hat goes off to(5) his wife. Most husbands come home and talk about what went on at the office. He comes home and talks about how much he wobbled(6) in practice. She's the one who I'd love to interview. What does she do to relieve stress? Does she have any hobbies? Is she an extreme knitter? If she is, her house must be full of the most amazing sweaters and socks. Maybe it's her knitting that drives(7) Nik Walenda to get as high up and far away as possible. Ok, I'm being strange and random. But, don't you think that crossing the Gran Canyon at 1,500 ft is strange and random? Add to that a wife and children. How does that all work? Well, even though I don't understand how extreme tightrope walking and a family can work well together, it does seem to. And I think it all works because of the wife. She is like the Gran Canyon, solid as a rock, and her patience just as big. As they say here in the U.S, "He owes her big time!" 1. 'To find oneself' + gerund is a common expression in English. It implies that you started doing something almost unconsciously or that some emotion or instinct pushed you into doing it. a. She found herself agreeing with everything he said because he was so handsome. b. He found himself washing his car. It was a habit; he always did it on Sunday's. 2. 'Judging by' speaks for itself really. It is like a comment on what you hear or see, and then a conclusion follows. a. Judging by his tone of voice, he was not please at all. b. Judging by their lazy attitude, the project won't be finished on time. 3. 'I kept on imagining' to keep on + gerund is the same as 'to continue + gerund'. a. He kept on golfing even though it was raining hard. b. They kept on interrupting while we were talking. 4. 'To support someone by + gerund' a. We support them by donating every month. b. They support the arts by giving talks in schools. 5. 'My hat goes off to' means I honour/ respect/ look up to/celebrate. a. My hat goes off to the second place runner who had a knee injury. b. Our hats go off to the even organizers who did such a great job. 6. 'To wobble' is to move in an unbalanced way. a. The gymnist walked across the wooden beam and didn't wobble at all. b. That ornament wobbles each time someone walks in the room. 7. 'To drive someone to do something' means that a person is emotionally forced into a situation. a. My noisy neighbors have driven me to talk to the police about them. b. His bad behavior drove them to leave early. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Need the app? It's available in iTunes called A Cup Of English.  Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 18 + Interactive English.

2013-06-19
Length: 11s

It's so good to see you both again; I can't believe it's been almost 3 months! That's what your father and I were saying darling. Time flies, but especially for you. Yes, it's been a busy two and a half months. Lots of ups and downs, but mainly ups. I'm glad. It's such an exciting time of your life. Well Mum, I was thinking that as soon as Dad wakes up, we'll go to my favorite cafe for breakfast. Oh, that sounds lovely. Frank does get jet-lagged quite badly, much more than me. I'm sure it's because he insists on drinking wine on the plane. It gets you so dehydrated, you know. Yes, he would be better off drinking water on the plane. But hey, he's on vacation! Join me on my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Need an instant download? My app is available in iTunes, called A Cup Of English. Also, check out my mini shop on my blog page for some great English learning books.  Tweet //…

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Lake Chelan.

2013-06-17
Length: 9s

"A change is as good as a rest" is a common saying in England. And that's what I've been having. It's summer, the children are out of school, our routine is up in the air(1), and we've been getting out of town. Have you noticed? I haven't been talking into my little snowball microphone recently because I've been going here and there(2). The place I've been to most recently is Lake Chelan. It's only a forty-five minute drive(3) from Wenatchee, but it feels as if you are in another state. Obviously, there is a lake there, and it's a huge one. It's actually the 26th deepest lake in the world, at 1,486 ft. It's name, Chelan, is taken from the Native American word 'Tsillan' which means 'deep waters'. It's also very long: 55 miles total. It's a popular place for boating, water skiing,  and fishing. There are many species of salmon, trout, and bass in the lake. The salmon, called the Chinook, can get up to 30lbs in weight, with the average weighing between 9 and 16lbs. It's very exciting fishing when you can get such a big fish, and one that's so delicious. When we fished there unfortunately the salmon were not interested in our bait(4) or hooks. Maybe we were making too much noise because we were having too much fun. The fun continued later, back at the campsite, when we rode our dirt bikes(5) along a dirt road(6) that circled through the forest and back up to where we were camping. Night came, and we settled into our trailer, the trailer that we use for the dirt bikes. We slept on mats and in sleeping bags, all packed in like sardines. It was funny, uncomfortable, and we didn't sleep much, but that's all part of the camping experience.  1. 'Up in the air' is a phrase that means 'random', 'unorganized', 'unsure' and 'unplanned'. a. My plans for summer are up in the air still; we haven't planned anything definite. b. I don't know if their wedding is on or off; it's all up in the air. 2. 'Here and there' talks about unspecific locations. a. Where have you been?    Oh, here and there.  b. He leaves his shoes here and there, all over the house! 3. 'A forty five minute drive' 'a thirty minute walk' 'a two hour hike'. Can you see a pattern here? Even though we're mentioning more than one minute or hour, the phrases are singular. a. It's just a twenty minute train ride into town. b. It's a three hour flight to the capital. 4. 'Bait' is the word for food that is put on a hook for fish, or that is put in a trap for hunting. a. The bait for fishing is usually worms. b. Fresh meat is good bait if you want to hunt cougars. 5. 'Dirt bikes' are motor bikes that can ride on hills, and rough roads. They usually get very dirty. a. I took the dirt bike on the mountain trail; it was so much fun! b. If you get the right license, you can use a dirt bike on a normal road. 6. 'A dirt road' is usually a primitive road that is not paved, or tarmacked. It can be a private road that is not maintained by the local council. 'Dirt' in the U.S means 'soil' or 'earth'. In England it means any substance that is 'dirty', not necessarily soil. a. We walked up the dirt road until we came to a sign that read 'Private Property'. b. The road up to the houses is a nice asphalt, smooth road. Beyond the houses it turns into just a dirt road. Join me on Facebook at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Questions, comments, or do you need conversation classes to improve your spoken English? Email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com Tweet //…

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A slimy surprise.

2013-06-03
Length: 9s

A poet called Robert Southey who lived in the late 1700's and early 1800's wrote: What are boys made of? Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. That's what boys are made of. What are girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice. That's what girls are made of. I think that there is some truth to this poem. I know we can't always generalize, but I have noticed some differences between my boys and my girl and her girlfriends. The boys take more risks as far as physical danger, whereas the girls seem to be careful. The girls are very interested in social situations and 'playing' like adults, but the boys are more interested in adventure, survival-type situations, and the wilderness. And finally, boys seem to bring the outside world into the house a lot more than girls do(1). My boys went to a large pond to fish with their father, and came back happy and tired. They had managed to catch creyfish. They talked about their trip, put their gear(2) away, and then didn't really say anything else. The next morning I woke up to a humming(3) sound coming from downstairs. I went down and found, on the desk next to the computer, a large, plastic box half full of brown water. The hum was coming from an air pump(4) that had been placed inside (this was one that we had used in the past for gold fish). I looked inside.To my horror, I saw about five shiny, black creyfish sitting on top of eachother on a rock. Their antenna were moving, their eyes were slimy, and when they saw me, they slid into the water. The smell that came up from the water was just like the stinky pond weed that they live in. I was not a happy camper(5). "Just how many days were you planning on keeping these creatures in the lounge?" I asked my boys with a frown. "I don't know," was their answer. Great! We've got two dogs, a cat, a mouse that sneezes all the time, and now some stinky, creepy wet things. As I put them outside under a tree, I asked myself, "What next? Frogs in the fridge? Slugs on the sofa? Beetles in the bathroom? Why don't I rename myself Noah, and open my front door to all the creatures of Wenatchee?" When I had calmed down, I told my boys that they had to look after the things in the box. I washed my hands, and sat down to watch television with my clean little girl. 1. The use of 'do' and 'does' at the end of a comparative sentence. a. He reads a lot more than you do. b. She eats a lot more than her husband does. 2. 'Gear' is a general word for all types of equipment, especially used for sports and hobbies. a. After skiing, it takes a while to put all of the gear away. b. The fishing gear had to be sprayed with water to wash off the stinky pond weed. 3. 'Humming' comes from the verb 'to hum'. It is a sound made by a human, animal, or device that is like a vibration. Someone 'hums' to music when they don't sing the words, but make the melody with their mouths closed. a. He hummed happily while he worked in the garden. b. I didn't know the lyrics, so I just hummed the tune. 4. An 'air pump' is a device which forces air to flow from one place to another, usually via a tube or pipe. a. We need to find a high pressure air pump because my tires are flat. b. We pumped air into the plastic mattress for a more comfortable camping experience. 5. 'Not a happy camper' is a jokey phrase often used in England to mean that a person was upset or angry. a. He borrowed the car without asking permission; his mother was not a happy camper! b. A stinky creyfish escaped and crawled across the carpet. I was not a happy camper! You're all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish. Questions? Comments? Do you need Skype lessons to improve your English? Let me know at acupofenglish@hotmail.com Tweet //…

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Scenes of Spokane.

2013-05-21
Length: 9s

Last week we had the opportunity to spend the weekend in Spokane. It's a city of about 210,000 people, making it the second largest city in Washington State. It's about a three hour drive for us, but it's only 90 miles from the Canadian border. It's name is taken from the Native American Indian tribe that used to live in that area; Spokane meaning 'Children of the sun'. The reason we went there was for a basketball tournament. My son Cass had four games to play, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. We set off early on Saturday morning, with everybody yawning and dozing(1) in the car. We checked into our hotel, and then made our way(2) to the High School where the basketball games were going to be played. When the second game was over, we decided to go downtown(3) and look around, as we are not familiar with the city. The center has a very large park with a river running through it that becomes Spokane Falls. This is a huge waterfall that tumbles(4) under a wide bridge. The river was high because of the recent melting of snow in the mountains, so the waterfall was extremely turbulent. In another part of the park we saw a monument that was built for the 1974 World's Fair. It was refreshing to be in a city again, especially one that is clean and interesting. We had dinner in the center of downtown Spokane, and then wandered through the shopping area. I happened to see the 'Mobius' center which is an interactive museum that I wrote about a few months ago. The streets, hotels, and restaurants were quite full, as it was the graduation weekend for both universities of Spokane: Whitworth, and Gonzaga University. So there were celebrations going on everywhere, and lots of students dressed up(5) looking very smart. Normally, our children's tournaments are only about sports, but I'm glad to say that(6) this trip turned into a cultural outing. 1. 'Dozing' comes from the verb 'to doze'; it's a sleepy verb. It means to half sleep. a. During the university lecture I dozed. b. We all doze during political speeches. 2. 'To make one's way..' means to find your way to a place; it can be figurative as well. a. We made our way through the crowd to the museum. b. She made her way through a difficult career. 3. 'Downtown' is the word we use to describe the center of a city or town. Note that it is not necessary to use 'the' with 'downtown' unless it is followed by another noun, such as area. a. Let's go downtown and see what we can find. b. They'll go downtown Spokane to visit the park. c. I would like to visit the downtown area, as I've never been there before. 4. 'To tumble' is a wonderful verb that means to fall in a turning motion. a. I opened the dryer and all the clothes tumbled onto the floor. b. The children's toys tumbled down the stairs. 5. 'To dress up' is when a person puts on special clothes or a special costume. This is different from 'getting dressed' which is the normal, daily act of putting your clothes on. a. You can't wear jeans to the wedding! You have to dress up! b. We dressed up as ghosts for Halloween. 6. 'I'm glad to say' is a wonderful set phrase that can be included in many sentences, at the beginning or at the end. a. He finally passed his exams, I'm glad to say. b. I'm glad to say that the council approved the plans for the park. Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Let me know your questions and comments, or if you need to practice English through Skype by sending me an email at acupofenglish@hotmail.com.  Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 17 + Interactive English.

2013-05-14
Length: 10s

Liz (on the phone): Hi Mum, are you all packed and ready for your visit? Mother: Yes darling; we're so excited to see you again. Liz: Me too. But there's been a change of plans. Mother: Oh, yes? Liz: I've booked you into a hotel that is opposite my appartment. Mother: Why? Don't you want us to stay with you? Liz: It's not that, Mum. It's just that the appartment is tiny. You and Dad would have to squeeze into my bed or the sofa. That's not going to work. Mother: Oh, I hadn't thought about that. Mmm, well, whatever you think is best is fine with us darling. Liz: Your room has a King size bed; it's non-smoking, and has internet access. Mother: Perfect. It sounds lovely dear. We'll see you in a couple of days! You're all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish; just send me a friend request. Comments, questions, need Skype lessons, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Tweet //…

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Get it built.

2013-05-07
Length: 11s

I volunteered this year to build my mother an arbor in her back garden. She has a small patio at the back of her house with three borders(1) for planting. Because it gets so hot from late spring to the middle of autumn, she decided that she'd like a cover of some kind. Parasols are not big enough to cover the whole area, and the housing rules(2) do not allow her to attach anything to the house itself for extra shade. So, the only option is to build a 'free standing' arbor, or one that stands alone. Now, I actually like building things, believe it or not. I have slowly accumulated some experience of cutting and shaping wood, using power tools, digging holes, measuring and leveling(3), and mixing and pouring concrete. It's hard work, but it's so satisfying to see the finished product. To make my mum's arbor safe, I have to use 10 ft poles(4) that go into 2ft holes, and sit in concrete(5). Then, the lateral beams(6) will be screwed across the length and width(7) of the patio on both sides of the poles. It'll be a very strong structure; well it has to be. I can't have anything falling on my mother's head! Then, when the basic frame has been made, I will attach a lattice in between the beams. A lattice is a criss-cross pattern of wood. This will create shade with a pretty pattern. I'm almost half way finished, and I need to hurry up and get it built(8), because the days are getting hotter. Shade is what we're after. 1. 'A border' is an area of land, usually in the shape of a strip. It is here that you can plant. This word is also used to represent the line of separation between two countries. a. The border is full of flowers all year long. b. We'll cross the border to Mexico next week. 2. 'Housing rules' are usually called 'covenants'. The limit what you can and cannot do with the outside of your house. Notice the word 'housing' sounds like it has a 'z' instead of an 's'. a. The housing covenants don't let us paint the doors anything but brown. b. I'll have to read the housing covenants to see if I can buid an attached arbor. 3. 'Measuring and leveling' could be one of the most important parts of building. You have to get the lengths correct. Making a pole or piece of structure level, means that it is either exactly 90 degrees, 0 degrees, or 180 degrees. A 'level' is the device which is has liquid and a bubble to show if something is level. a. Make sure the pole is level; that way it'll be strong and safe. b. The bubble in the level is not in the middle; it shows that the shelf is not level. 4. A 'pole' is a long, piece of wood used as a support. a. The pole that holds up the raspberries is rotten. b. We need lots of poles to build a tree house for the kids. 5. 'Concrete' is the white, pasty, rocky substance that we use to make side walks and floors. a. The concrete will take all day to dry; then we can walk on it. b. Mix the concrete with water, but don't breathe in the dust! 6. 'Lateral' is the same as saying 'side'. a. She'll hang baskets of flowers from the lateral beams. b. Side beams will make the structure even stronger. 7. The 'length and width' are the two most basic measurements. They measure how long something is and how wide it is. a. She can swim a width of the pool, but not a length. b. Check the length of the sofa before you buy it. 8. 'Get it built' is a command using the past participle. Most verbs can be used this way. a. Hurry up and get the bathroom painted; you're taking too long. b. Get the essay written and handed in as soon as possible. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Questions or comments, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 16 + Interactive English.

2013-05-02
Length: 9s

Peter: Hi Liz, I see your cast is off. Liz: Yes, finally! Life is so much easier without one. Peter: You had some bad luck breaking your arm. Liz: Yes I had two lots of bad luck: breaking my arm and losing my job. Peter: Wait a minute. You lost your job? Liz: Yes, well not exactly. I quit. Peter: Because of the lady you were working with. Liz: Yep. I told the boss that I was doing my work, and most of hers. Peter: And what did she say? Liz: She told me that the woman denied it. What could I do? I hate confrontation, and I don't like complaining, but I couldn't take it any more. Peter: That's too bad. Liz: Well, never mind. I'll take some time off before looking for another job. My parents are going to visit soon, so I'll job hunt after they leave. Join my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Need an app of the podcast? Find my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English. Questions or comments? Email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Tweet //…

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Table of Knowledge.

2013-05-01
Length: 15s

It's 8:45 at Tom, Dick, and Harry's. The coffee's hot, the door's unlocked, and that corner table - the one by the jukebox(1), is gathering a familiar crowd. They're retired farmers, contractors, businessmen, a few old law enforcement guys(2), a former postmaster(3) and more. There are about 17 in all, with ages ranging(4) from the early 70's to 90. They meet daily, but show up(5) in greatest numbers on Fridays, when they take turns(6) bringing doughnuts. They've been around the block once or twice(7), and they love talking about it. In fact, they love talking in general, about everything from football, to politics, to how best to plant tomato seeds. "Sometimes there are three or four stories going on at once and you can't hear anything," says Kenny. "Put it this way," adds Bill, "when I started coming here I didn't have hearing aids(8). Now I do." Another of them adds, "We enjoy each other's company. We don't always agree, but we don't get too annoyed at each other." There is a real diversity of opinions and life experiences in this group. "We have a vast table of knowledge," says Sackman, a retired state trooper. His comment provokes snickering(9) and eye rolling from his friends. The first members of this group started getting together 35 years ago. When asked if wisdom does really come with age, half of the members say "yes", and the other half, at the same time say "no". And then there's more laughter. 1. 'Jukebox' is a typically American word which describes something that is very important in American culture. It is a machine which plays different pieces of music when money is put in it. a. This jukebox takes quarters. You need to put a quarter in it before you can choose a song. b. The diner is very retro; it has 60's style decoration and even a jukebox. 2. 'Law enforcement'/ 'a law enforcement officer' basically means a policeman. a. He's taking his law enforcement class in order to become a policeman. 3. 'Postmaster' is the same as a postman or a mail man. 4. 'With ...ranging from ....to ....' when comparing ages, weights, sizes, colors, or other characteristics. a. The shop has antiques with prices ranging from $50 to $3000. b. The concert has performers from countries ranging from India to South America. 5. 'To show up' means the same as 'to turn up' which means to arrive, appear, or be present. Both imply that the opposite would be possible. a. I'm glad that you finally showed up! b. They didn't show up until the party was over. 6. 'To take turns' is fairly self explanatory. In a game or arranged activity of some sort, one person will have a turn, then another, and so forth. a. When we play cards, we have to take turns. b. If you don't take turns, it's not fair for everybody else. 7. 'To go around the block' or 'to have been around the block' means to have lived a long life. 'A block' refers to a block of houses, or a square formation of homes around 4 streets. a. He speaks from experience; he's been around the block a few times. b. He's too young, he hasn't been around the block yet. 8. 'A hearing aid' is a small device that you put in your ear to help you hear. a. My hearing test showed that I need a hearing aid. b. His hearing aid is so small that you can hardly see it. 9. 'To snicker' is a way of laughing. There are many verbs for different types of laughter, 'to chuckle', 'to chortle', 'to snigger', 'to giggle'. The most common ones are 'to giggle' and 'to chuckle'. 'To snicker' is more American, and implies that you're laughing at someone or disagreeing with what has been said.  a. The children giggled while they mixed the mud with water, and wiped it on the dog. b. He snickered at my comment. I knew that he disagreed with me. Thanks for listening! You're all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Comments, questions, suggestions? Let me know at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Need an app to learn English? Check out A Cup Of English in iTunes. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 15.

2013-04-30
Length: 9s

At the clinic: Doctor: So, how have you been getting along with this arm? Liz: Fine. I can get around alright, but it has definitely slowed me down. Doctor: Have you had any pain? Liz: At first I had some at night, but that only lasted a few days. Doctor: We'll take the cast off today, so you will be almost back to normal. I need to take an X-ray first, to make sure that the bone has healed completely. Liz: Will my arm be back to normal once the cast comes off? Doctor: Not immediately. If you have no pain, and a good range of motion, you can slowly start to use the arm, but you have to take it easy. You might have some swelling, or loss of muscle. Liz: Okay, I'll make sure I'm careful with the arm. Tweet //…

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Analysis Time - Social Activities Prolong Life.

2013-04-29
Length: 11s

In a study in The Harvard University Gazette called 'Social Activities Found to Prolong Life', scientists talk about the great importance of socializing as we get older. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the foundations of good health, but scientists now say that socializing is just as important. Thomas Glass, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health says, "Social and productive activities that involve(1) little or no physical fitness lower the risk of all causes of death as much as exercise does." So, how did the scientists reach this conclusion(2)? They studied 2,761 elderly(3) men and women for 13 years. Activites such as going to church, restaurants, and sports events, taking short trips, playing cards, gardening, cooking for others, community work, and paid employment can all impact a person very positively. Ideally, the elderly would also exercise, preferably(4) with friends or in small groups. That way they would get double the benefits(5). It is best to do both: to exercise and to socialize. Scientists admit they don't know exactly why socializing is so beneficial. Glass says he believes that keeping social and busy causes, "changes in the brain that protect against damage and keep the immune system healthy." Knowing this affects not only the individual, but also society(6) because in most societies people are living longer. Programs are developing in the U.S. to keep the elderly active in society, helping in schools, volunteering, and exercising. This way, society benefits from the wisdom and experience of the elderly, and the elderly benefit by staying healthy and happy. 1. 'To involve' is a concise verb that means 'to have something to do with' or 'to work with'.  a. Teaching involves preparing, communicating, and correcting. b. The community project involves hundreds of people, lots of money, and lots of time. 2. 'To reach a conclusion' can also be expressed as 'to come to a conclusion'. a. They came to the same conclusion/ they reached the same conclusion. b. We came to the conclusion that the house had to be pulled down. 3. 'Elderly' is a polite way of saying 'old' when we are talking about people. 'Old' can give a negative impression. a. The elderly are a great source of wisdom for the community. b. She is elderly now and needs extra help. 4. 'Preferably' is like saying 'ideally'. a. Arrive at the office for the interview prepared, and preferably 10 minutes early. b. I need an internet connection for my home, preferably a wireless one. 5. 'Double the + noun' is similar to saying 'twice as much .......' a. In his new job, he'll get double the pay that he gets now/ twice as much pay as he gets now. b. Compared to that computer, this one has double the speed/ is twice as fast. 6. 'Not only..., but also...' remember we had this the other day; it's worth practicing again. a. Encouraging the elderly not only affects their feelings, but also how active they are. b. Socializing not only improves the brain, but also the immune system. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. Download my app that's in iTunes for instant downloads, and send questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com.  Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 14.

2013-04-25
Length: 10s

Hi Liz, what happened to your arm? Oh, you won't believe it. I was coming out of the cellular phone store the other day, and I slipped on something and landed on my arm. It's broken in two places! You're kidding? No, I wouldn't joke about something like this. It's a pain! What did the doctor say about the break? Well, he said it's a bad one, and it'll take about two months to recover. Is that your writing hand? Yep!  So, what will you do for writing? The professors all said that I can dictate my essays, or type with my other hand. That'll be interesting! Hey, if you need help typing, I can do it for you. That's really sweet of you. I might just ask you for some help. Thanks. Tweet //…

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My Wonderful Snowball.

2013-04-23
Length: 10s

I listen to podcasts nearly every day. Not only do I love the fact that I am learning each time I hear one, but I also(1) love the fact that they are free and accessible. It's interesting to consider(2) the differences between one podcast and another. What makes one better than another? What are the elements of a good podcast? One that I've been thinking about for a while is sound quality. For years, I have used a cheap, skinny microphone that is really basic. It has done a reasonable(3) job, but you can't expect very much from a cheapo(4) product. At times I have been editing, and have realised that the microphone records not only my voice, but also the noise of my dog barking at the cat, my children arguing in the kitchen, or even the general creaking(5) of the house. So, I've upgraded. I went on-line and looked up(6) the company called 'Blue'. I had heard that they make quality microphones. And they do. I ordered a 'Snowball' which arrived just a few days later. I was so excited to receive it; I opened its box like a child opening a Christmas present. It works beautifully, and gives digital quality sound. I'm so glad. And it's so cute! It has a big, round head, and a tripod underneath, like a mini-robot. And it's retro(7) style, so it has personality. It's my prized possession(8), and nobody is allowed to go near it apart from me. It's like my new pet, but a useful one that doesn't bark or scratch the furniture. So I'm motivated to continue podcasting. Good job Blue! 1. 'Not only....but also' is a great sentence structure which enables you to show two ideas. a. Not only does he work all day, but he also cleans homes every evening. b. Not only can you speak commands to the new phone, but also it can lock and unlock your house when you are far away. 2. 'To consider' is a verb that means 'to think about'. a. Consider your options, and then make a decision. b. Consider the differences between the two candidates; one is more experienced, the other is more personable. 3. 'Reasonable' is like saying 'logical' or 'rational'. It also means 'just okay' when you are judging a performance. a. He made a reasonable argument; it really made sense. b. The car's performance was reasonable, but not great. 4. 'Cheapo' is slang for cheap. It also adds the idea of something being poor quality as well as cheap. a. This cheapo can opener broke the first day I got it. b. Don't buy those shoes; they're cheapos and will hurt your feet. 5. 'Creaking' comes from the verb 'to creak' which means to make a noise like an old door opening. a. I heard footsteps and then a door creaking open; who was there? b. I can't play football anymore; my bones are too creaky. 6. 'To look up' means to search either on-line, or in a directory or list. a. I looked up her name in the phone book, but it didn't show her address. b. I looked up the website and bought an item. 7. 'Retro' or 'retro style' means a fashion that is no longer in fashion, but that is considered good taste, or perhaps is coming back into fashion. 8. 'My prized possession' is self explanatory. It is an item you own which you really value. If something is prized, it is considered as important as a prize even if it isn't one. a. My grandmother's books are my prized possessions. b. The flowers she grew from seed are her prized possessions. Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. Do you need an instant download? Get my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English. If you have questions or comments, or need Skyped lessons to improve your English, let me know at acupofenglish@hotmail.com Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 13.

2013-04-20
Length: 9s

In the cellular phone store. Customer service assistant: Hello ma'am, how can I help you today? Would you be interested in one of our 4G phones with voice command? Liz: Oh, no thanks. Actually I came in because my phone isn't working. I dropped it in the sink, and I think the battery got wet. C.S.A: Could I have a look? Liz: Sure. C.S.A: I'll have to take it in the back and open it to see what I can do. Liz: Ok. A few minutes later. C.S.A: Here you are ma'am. It's working fine. We had to replace the battery, but I believe your insurance covers that.  Liz: Great! That's a relief! C.S.A: You know, you've had this phone for two years, so you are entitled to a free upgrade. Would a smart phone interest you? You can access email, the web, and do word processing on it. Liz: How much is it per month? C.S.A: It depends on the model. Between thirty and a hundred dollars. Liz: Well, I'll have to think about it. C.S.A: Of course. Here's my card. Just give me a call if you're interested.   Send your questions, suggestions, or your request for Skype lessons to acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Need an app for your smart phone or iPad? My app of A Cup Of English is in iTunes. Tweet //…

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The Blue Bees.

2013-04-18
Length: 12s

The Spring season brings all sorts of life and activity to this valley. You see people out on the streets, walking their dogs, in the parks with friends, and the school fields are full of sporting activities. For the first time, my daughter is in soccer. There was a big build up to this(1) as we had to register a long time ago, and she has been waiting, counting the days(2), for the sport to begin. It's also her first time playing a team sport. Previously, she has done swimming, gymnastics, and tennis. But her excitement for soccer is much greater than anything else. Being the youngest(3) in the family, she has watched her brothers play team sports for years, and has cheered for them. But now, finally, it's her turn. She made her debut(4) yesterday with her team, The Blue Bees. And gosh, are they cute! You can imagine a team of little eight year old girls, in a blue uniform, with their hair in ponytails(5), running around and trying to score goals. They played against a green team, and they won. It was a wonderful first experience for Domini; she even scored two out of(6) the winning four goals. I jumped up and down, and cheered and clapped so much that my husband moved about ten metres away from me. But I didn't care; it was so much fun to watch. One thing that I realized, is that all the girls were polite, and would kick the ball, then allow others to have a chance. Unfortunately, that gave the opposing team lots of chances to take the ball. The girls haven't learned to be aggressive yet, but they will. Judging by(7) the older girls who were playing soccer close by, they will learn to be aggressive quite soon. 1. 'A build up' is like saying 'anticipation', 'excitement', 'expectancy' when you are waiting for something to happen. a. There is always such a build up towards Christmas; you can feel it in the air. b. There was an orchestral build up to the main speaker. 2. 'Counting the days' also adds to the idea of a 'build up' of emotions. When you are impatient for something to happen, you count the days that are left before the event. We also use the expression 'to be on the count down.' A count down is said before a rocket takes off into space 5-4-3-2-1 blast off! a. It's his birthday in three weeks, and he's counting the days/ he's on the count down. b. They'll marry in May, so they're counting the days/ they're on the count down. 3. 'Being the youngest, ....' Using a gerund at the beginning of a sentence allows you to make a 2 part sentence and avoid an 'and'. Listen to the two sentences: She's the youngest, and for years has watched her brothers play sports. Being the youngest, for years she has watched her brothers play sports.  Both are perfect sentences, but it's worth noting the use of the gerund to create variety in your sentences. a. Being an honest man, he gave the lady the money that she had dropped. b. Seeing the bus in the distance, he ran fast to the bus stop. 4. 'Debut' is used in English, as are many other French words. It means 'the beginning' or 'the first show'. a. The magician made his debut performance last night in Las Vegas. b. The singer's debut album will come out in July. 5. 'Ponytail' is a hair style. All the hair is pulled up towards the back of the head, and held by an elastic band at the scalp, the hair hanging down freely. It looks like the tail of a pony or horse. Another common hair style is a braid or platt. The hair is divided into 3 parts which are woven together to make one rope-like patter. A 'bun' is also a common hair style. All the hair is placed near the top of the head in a secured, round shape, like a bread bun. 6. 'She scored two (out) of the winning four goals.' a. He ate seven (out) of the ten cookies that I had made. b. We saw three (out) of the six houses that were for sale. 7. 'Judging by' economises your sentences. It enables you to make one sentence out of two: I saw that the older girls were aggressive. I think the younger girls will learn to be aggressive soon. Judging by the older girls, the younger ones will learn to be aggressive soon.  This second sentence sounds more fluid and natural. a. Judging by the restaurants popularity, the food or prices must be good.  b. Judging by his behavior yesterday, we won't invite him to dinner. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. Check out the app A Cup Of English in iTunes for convenience. Questions? Comments? Do you want to have lessons via Skype with me? Let me know at acupofenglish@hotmail.com.  Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 12.

2013-04-15
Length: 10s

Liz:How are you feeling today? Maria:Oh, much better. Thanks so much for taking care of me. The soup you made, and the medicine you bought me really helped. Liz: I'm glad. Maria: Are you working today? Liz: Yes, unfortunately. Maria: What do you mean? Liz: Well, I'm having some problems with the lady I work with. Maria: Oh yeh? What's going on? Liz: Well, I have to do my work, and some of hers, and she's started to leave early. Maria: It sounds like you need to talk to the boss. Liz: Yes, I do. I'll do it today.   Tweet //…

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No podcasts this week.

2013-04-10

Sorry everyone, I have finally caught my daughter's horrible cold, so I won't do podcasts this week. My voice is very difficult to understand, so it would be a waste of time! Hopefully I'll be 'back in business' next week. Have a great weekend!…

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A Long Look At Wheels.

2013-04-07
Length: 8s

"Clunk, clunk. Clunk, clunk," it was time to have the wheels looked at(1) and the tires changed from winter tires to summer tires. For a few weeks I had felt something bump and rattle(2) under the car; it must be the wheels. So, I took the car down to 'Dick's tires' and left it there for an hour. I walked out of the office, and headed to the shops. As I left, something caught my eye. It was a huge pile of wheels, hundreds of them. They looked like they had already been used. I don't know if they were going to be reused, but they reminded me of dinosaur bones, big, dry, heavy things. I thought about wheels in general, how we take them for granted(3), and how old they are. They have been around for a long time, in their most basic form since the Paleolithic Era. Then came the clever Mesopotamians, or Iraqis. In around 3,500BC they made the first wheels for chariot transportation. Then the Egyptians and the Greeks improved upon the first models(4) for better and faster transportation with spokes, and the H-type wheel. The first iron rims(5) around the wheels were seen in 1000 BC on Celtic chariots. Then, for a long time no great changes were made until the 1800's when Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire. Since Karl Benz's 1885 Motorwagen, wheels have changed dramatically, using greater technology, and new materials. It's amazing what a "clunk, clunk" can lead you to, a trip back in time, and a look at distant history. 1. 'To have ... looked at' is like saying 'to have ...checked'. It is used for people's health as well as items. a. You need to have your tooth looked at; it might have a cavity. b. I need to have those pipes looked at; there might be a leak. 2. 'To rattle' is an intermittent sound; it sometimes indicates that something is loose that shouldn't be. a. That window is rattling again; I'll need to fix it. b. The snake rattled its tail; there was no mistake about its identity. 3. 'To take for granted' means to not value a person or thing when you should. a. He takes her for granted, eats her cooking without saying thank you, and borrows money without paying it back. b. It's easy to take our modern comforts for granted. When they're gone, then we realize how useful they improve our lives. 4. 'To improve upon something' means to take something and make it better. a. They took our idea and improved upon it. b. He improved upon his previous exam results. 5. 'A rim' is usually the top edge or lip of a circular item, like a cup, or a volcano. a. He ran his finger over the rim of the wine glass and it made a loud note. b. We walked around the rim of the volcano. Join me on FACEBOOK; you're all welcome to join me at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Need an app? A Cup OF English is in iTunes. Questions, comments, or suggestions? Email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I will email you back. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 11.

2013-04-04
Length: 10s

In the supermarket, Liz is on the phone: Liz: Maria, I'll get the stuff for the soup. I'm in the supermarket right now. Maria: Oh, thanks Liz. But you really don't have to bother yourself. Liz: Listen, you've got a really bad cold, so you need sleep, medicine, and some good soup. I'll be back at the appartment soon. Maria: Okay, see you then. And thanks again. Liz: Excuse me, can you tell me where the chicken stock is? Assistant: It's on aisle five with the spices. Liz(to herself): Okay, what's next on my list? Celery, garlic, chicken, and potatoes. There they are. This soup will be ready in no time. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. Questions? Comments? Do you want to have lessons on Skype? Email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I'll email you back. Tweet //…

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Sissy's diner.

2013-04-02
Length: 11s

I love to discover good places to eat. I know what it is to cook a lot, and clean up afterwards. So, if I stumble across(1) a place that can do all of that for me, and do it well, then I am happy. Sissy's diner(2) is just that kind of place. It is an American style diner, with decor from the '60's, and large, fresh portions. I discovered it a week ago after I left my car at the mechanic's(3); he was changing the tires, so I was without(4) a car for about an hour. I walked along the main street in Wenatchee and window shopped, until I became hungry. As I looked along the street, I could only see furniture, clothes, and appliance shops. But then, I noticed, right on the corner, a colorful building with 'Sissy's diner' written at an angle. When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was that it smelled really good, like fresh bread. At a glance(5), I could see that it was clean, and the people who were eating there were happily talking and eating at the same time.These were all good signs. I ordered a beef and vegetable sandwich, sat down, and checked my emails. A few minutes went by, and a friendly waitress put a plate in front of me. "Gosh!" I said. The plate was full. The sandwich was huge. "That's a good choice," said the waitress smiling. "There is no way that I can eat all of this," I said to myself. But I did. I ate every crumb, every last bit of it(6). After the first bite, I realised that the bread was fresh from the oven and light. The meat was lean(7), and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. And when I finished, I felt satisfied but not bloated(8).Oh Sissy! I should have discovered you years ago! 1. 'To stumble onto/across' means 'to discover', 'to come upon', 'to find by chance'. a. I stumbled across some good silver in a yard sale, and I bought it for just a few pennies. b. The detective stumbled across some new information. 2. 'Diner' is a word from American culture for a simple, often 50's or 60's style cafe. It is often long in shape, has a bar that you can eat at, and serves simple, American style food. 3. 'The mechanic's' is short for 'the mechanic's shop/workshop'. The apostrophe followed by an 's' shows that something belongs to the mechanic, but we don't have to say what. Why? Because from the context we know that we're talking about: the mechanic's workshop. a. Pick up the cake from the baker's, and I will get the meat from the butcher's. b. I love the vegetables from the grocer's; they're always fresh. 4. 'To be without ....' is another way of saying 'to not have something'. Instead of saying 'I didn't have my car for an hour', you can say 'I was without my car for an hour.' a. My husband went hunting yesterday, so I am without a husband for a week. b. I dropped my cell phone in the toilet, so I am without a phone until I get a new one! 5. 'At a glance' means 'with a quick look'. a. At a glance the policeman could see that the man had a gun in his pocket. b. At a glance she didn't like the shop. 6. 'Every last bit' means 'every final piece'. We often use this phrase when talking about food, but it can be used in other contexts. a. You need to eat every last bit of that meat, or you won't get any dessert. b. I picked up every last bit of the rubbish that the wind had blown on the lawn. 7. 'Lean' means 'with no fat'. It can be used with food or animals and people. a. They are opposites. He is fat, and she is lean. b. I can't eat fatty meat; it has to be lean. 8. 'To bloat' is to 'blow up' or 'inflate'. We describe feeling too full as 'bloated'. a. I ate too much cake and felt bloated afterwards. b. Stop eating before you get too bloated. Join me on my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. If you have questions or suggestions, or if you'd like to get information about Skyped le ssons, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com.  Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 10.

2013-04-01
Length: 11s

Hey Peter, fancy meeting you here! Hi Liz, I've come to book a holiday. Really? No, I'm only joking. I'm a poor student, remember? I can't afford a holiday yet. Carl told me that you work here, so I thought I'd pop in to see you. What a lovely surprise! So, how is the job so far? So far so good. The people here are really nice, and helpful. I'm learning a lot. It sounds like the perfect part-time job for a student. I think so. Tweet //…

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Science at home.

2013-03-29
Length: 15s

As a parent(1), I think a lot about my children's education(2). Is it good or bad? Is it varied, hands-on(3), relevant? The only way to really(4) find out, is to look at their text books, go to their schools, and talk to their teachers. And then, we have to remember that each person is unique; each has different preferences, ways of learning, and abilities. Some people are comfortable with academics, and others are not(5). Some students are good at taking exams, and others prefer to demonstrate their knowledge in other ways. Recently, my son Robert has been at home with a bad cough. He has been bugging me to buy him an electrical circuit. So, we shopped around until we found the perfect 'kit'(6). It has batteries, a light, a motor that spins, sound devices, and connecting wires. There is also a booklet(7) that gives instructions and warnings, pictures, and general advice. So Robert has spent hours connecting, fiddling(8), and creating, and every minute that goes by he learns something. Play and imagination are great teachers. And learning doesn't necessarily happen on paper, or on a computer screen. When I asked Robert what was so good about his kit, he said, "It's the energy hook-ups(9), and seeing what you can do with them." 1. 'As a parent' this kind of phrase is used with different nouns/titles.  a. As a teacher, I try to understand how my students learn best. b. As a policeman, he tries to be observant. 2. 'I think a lot about my children's education'. This is a good format for other sentences. a. We think a lot about our father's health. b. They think a lot about their safety because they live in Hurricane Valley. c. He thinks a lot about buying land in the future. 3. 'Hands-on' refers to activities that involve touch and manipulation. a. The new children's museum in Spokane is hands-on; the kids can really touch, feel, and play with the displays. b. Babies and toddlers learn most of their lessons in a hands-on way. 4. 'The only way to really +verb..., is to ...' another great format for a sentence. a. The only way to really make money, is to work hard for a long time. b. The only way to really make a point, is to speak intelligently. c. The only way to really understand a culture, is to live in that country. 5. 'Some people are comfortable with academics, and others are not.' In this sentence, the adjective doesnot have to be repeated at the end. a. Some people love chocolate, and others don't. b. Some laws are fair, and others aren't. c. Some people work eight hours a day, and others don't. 6. A 'kit' is usually a set of objects that all fit together or work together for a common purpose. Like Robert's kit, all the parts in the box can be used to build different electrical circuits. a. I bought a kit to build a bird house for the garden. It had wood, nails, glue, and paint. b. My husband always has a tire repair kit with him when he goes biking. 7. A 'booklet' is a small, soft book, similar to a pamphlet but bigger. We usually receive booklets with new appliances for instruction. a. The booklet that came with my new vacuum cleaner is not clear.  b. You need to read the instructions that came in the booklet so you know how to put the drawers together. 8. 'Fiddling' comes from the verb 'to fiddle' which means 'to manipulate with your hands', 'to mess about', and 'to experiment physically with something'. Kids are good 'fiddlers'.  a. Someone has been fiddling with my alarm clock, and now it doesn't work. b. I wish you wouldn't fiddle with my make-up; it's all untidy now. 9. A 'hook-up' is often used generally for a connection of some kind, especially electrical or metallic. a. Where is the hook-up to the power supply? b. We need the correct hook-up to connect the boat to the truck. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Questions and comments? Would you like Skype lessons? Contact me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 9.

2013-03-26
Length: 10s

Hello Mrs Fontaine. Oh, hello Liz. Welcome back to Fontaine's Travel Agency, and this time as an employee. Thanks, I'm excited to start. Well, we're glad to have you. What would you like me to do first? I think if you sit at Angie's desk, she'll tell you what to do. Just watch her use the computer system, and maybe you can help her with paper work.  That sounds like a good plan. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Feel free to email me questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com. And if you're interested in Skyped lessons with me, let me know, and I'll send you the details. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 8.

2013-03-21
Length: 11s

So, tell me about your job hunting. Well, I needed something part-time. So, I tried several places. And what did you end up with? Believe it or not, I'm going to work on Saturdays in a travel agency. Wow, that's interesting. You'll probably learn a lot. Yes. I've done waitressing before, so I think this should make a nice change. Plus it leaves my week days free for studying. Congratulations! Thanks. Tweet //…

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Housing Market Up.

2013-03-21
Length: 11s

 Sales of low-priced(1) homes here continue to feed(2) a housing market that has buyers eager(3), sellers satisfied and some real estate agents scrambling(4) to keep up the pace."Put an entry-level home on the market and - wham! It’s gone in no time," said a broker in Wenatchee. "They go almost as fast as we can list them. Sure, we’d like to see prices rising and more sales of higher-end(5) homes, but these low-end sales can be a good thing— sell a lot of entry-level homes now and, down the road, you’ll likely have a lot of second-home buyers." Looser credit and some of the lowest interest rates in recent history(6), this week at 3.875 percent, have juiced(7) sales and spurred activity across the market, regardless(8) of price. "We’re seeing more interest, more showings in the $400,000 range than we’ve seen in years.“ It’s welcome activity. "Buyers are also wiser in their preparations to buy a home," said Paine, another  broker. "They come to the table with cleaner credit, higher incomes and better documentation —They’ve got their ducks in a row and are ready to purchase." 1. 'Low-priced homes' is the opposite of 'high-priced homes'. 'Low' and 'High' can be added to other nouns as well. a. Low-priced land is selling quickly in our area. b. High-priced furniture is finally on sale. 2. 'To feed a housing market'. When it comes to markets, we say that they are 'fed' by sales or demand. 'To feed' is used figuratively in many situations. a. What you say will only feed the fire of his anger. b. Play feeds the imagination of children and adults. 3. 'Eager' is the same as 'keen' or 'very willing to'. a. They're eager to find jobs and a home in their new town. b. I'm eager to meet my new boss. 4. 'To scramble' means several things. We scramble eggs (beat them and add milk). It can also mean to hurry, or to run with both hands and feet on the ground, usually up hill, in an uncontrolled fashion. a. The cat scrambled up the tree to get away from the dog. b. I was late! I scrambled to get all of my things, and then I ran to catch the bus. 5. 'Higher-end' is similar to 'high-cost'. It is usually to describe property. a. The higher-end houses are around the golf course. b. The company party is always at a higher-end restaurant (high-end). 6. 'In recent history' the word 'recent' can be put in front of other nouns, such as 'years', 'months', 'governments' etc. a.  In recent weeks, demonstrations have increased. b. In recent years, there has been less rainfall. 7. 'Interest rates have juiced sales' the word 'juiced' here is American terminology. It is the same as saying 'encouraged' or 'fed'.  Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Comments or questions? Send them  to acupofenglish@hotmail.com.  Do you need English lessons via Skype? Email me to find times and prices for lessons. Tweet //…

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Skype With Me.

2013-03-19
Length: 10s

"I really need to speak English with a native." "Could I practice with you?" "Do you ever Skype?" These are comments and questions that I have received over the years. I've been thinking about Skyping English lessons. I even have a Skype address ready. I must admit(1), even though I love to teach, I am a bit nervous. So far, I have been a teacher without a face, invisible, anonymous. I'll have to look my best(2) if my students are going to see me. And then there is the question of when(3). We are 8 hours behind London time, so arranging when to Skype with my international listeners will be work. For example, if a person in Beijing wanted to Skype at 1pm, it would be 10 o'clock at night for me. If I wanted to Skype at 10am, it would be 1am the next day in Beijing. Careful arrangements(4) would have to be made. But it would be worth it. I'm excited to meet some of my listeners face to face, and watch them on their journey to fluency. My only question is: should I remain a woman of mystery, and wear a paper bag over my head? That way if I get too famous, the paparazzi won't bother(5) me..... 1. 'I must admit' is the same as 'I must confess' but it sounds more 'every day'. a. I know he worked really hard on the play, but I must admit, I didn't like it. b. I've played chess for years, and I must admit that I still get very competitive. 2. 'To look one's best' is to put on your best appearance. a. At the wedding he looked his  best. b. You must make an effort when your grandmother visits us and look your best. 3. 'And then there is the question of + interrogative/noun' is a shorter and less repetitive way of saying 'And then there is the question of when we should Skype.' This kind of sentence is usually used during planning. a. And then there is the question of a car. When and where will we hire it? b. Everyone will arrive at the house in the evening. But then there's the question of beds. Where will they all sleep? c. We'll ask someone to do the speech. But then there's the question of who? 4. Arrangements   Arr-ange-ments    arr-ange-ments   arr-ange-ments   arr-ange-ments. 5. 'The paparazzi won't bother me' could be expressed as 'the paparazzi won't disturb me/won't intrude in my life'. a. He really bothered me when he asked me all of those questions. b. Does this music bother you? c. You kids are bothering your grandpa; let him nap in peace.   You're all invited to join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Remember my app is available in iTunes called A Cup Of English. If you're interested in some Skyped lessons with me, I will be posting the hours and days that I'm available on my Facebook page. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 7.

2013-03-17
Length: 10s

How was your night out? Great, thanks. We went to dinner and then went to a club called 'Shapiro's'. We danced for hours. You look tired. I am. It was really loud, but we had a great time. What have you been up to? I've been looking for a part-time job. Really? Had any luck? Yes, I'll tell you about it after class. Tweet //…

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New growth.

2013-03-13
Length: 10s

Those of you who have followed my podcast for a few years will know that I'm obsessed with gardening. Trees, bushes, flowers, vegetables, seeds, and even soil get me all excited. After a long, dull winter, it's time to spring into(1) life. People have been telling me, "Anna, it's too early to dig; the ground is still too cold," "you can't transplant anything now," "you have to wait to put (2)seeds in the ground." But, I've been doing all of that. I don't always 'go by the book'(3), sometimes feelings and instinct can be more accurate. Anyway, about one month ago, I got out the chainsaw. You know, a woman can have a wonderful time with a chainsaw. Using a chainsaw is usually the domain of men, like war, and boxing. However, as I told my husband, "It's not rocket science(4), you know." It really is quite simple, if you're careful. I cut down a large area of 30 year old bushes, then dug up(5) the huge roots. I've transplanted blueberry bushes there, and planted a lot of bulbs. My plan is to have a mass of flowers. Also, I've started flower seeds in containers on my kitchen window. They have all sprouted(6), and look like happy, little faces, all in a row. When they are bigger, I'll put them in this newly planted area and show you photos of all the pretty and colorful growth. 1. 'To spring into life' means to jump or leap into life. The verb can be used by itself to imply enthusiasm. a. I had a good night's sleep, so when I woke up, I sprang out of bed. b. The basketball players will spring into action when the game starts. 2. 'You have to wait to put...' this is a string of three verbs, as you can see. The sentence could have been written as 'You have to wait before putting...'. We often use the phrase 'to wait to + verb'. a. You need to wait to go outside; it's still raining. b. They'll have to wait to order their meal; the restaurant is very busy. 3. 'To go by the book' is a set phrase that means to follow the normal pattern of behavior, or what is generally recommended or taught. a. The strategies for taking exams that we learn are helpful. It's best to go by the book to get a good result. b. The artist doesn't go by the book when he uses color. 4. 'It's not rocket science' is also a set phrase that means 'It's not very difficult'. a.  I can build a shed; it's not rocket science. b. Of course you can make dinner; it's not rocket science. 5. 'To dig up' the preposition 'up' implies that you're not just digging a hole, but you are removing, 'pulling up', 'lifting up' something from the ground. If you were digging a hole without removing anything, we would just use 'to dig'. a. We must dig up the rocks before we can plant the trees. b. I accidentally dug up a water pipe! 6. 'To sprout' is similar to 'to spring' but it refers to a plant emerging from a seed. It can be used figuratively. a. The onions have sprouted. b. Those children have really sprouted; they're getting big! Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. You're all welcome! If you have questions or comments, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 6.

2013-03-12
Length: 8s

 What did you find out about retakes?Oh, we can retake small tests, but not end of term finals.That makes sense.Thankfully, I did ok on the last test, so I won't need to.Yes, my result wasn't too bad; I got 85%.Good job! I got 80%.Are you going to the library later?No, I'm going to a club with friends; I need a break!   Thanks for joining me. You're all welcome to my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. Also my app is available in iTunes called A Cup Of English. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 5.

2013-03-11
Length: 11s

That test was really hard. How do you think you did?Alright, I suppose. I'm glad I studied all of the notes that the teacher gave us.Yes, me too.When do we get the results?Next Monday, I think.Can we retake it? I'm not sure. You'll have to ask the teacher. I know she let's us retake some of them. Let me know what she says.Sure, I will. Tweet //…

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Time To Kill.

2013-03-11
Length: 12s

What do you do when you have time to kill? It's a bit of a violent phrase, isn't it? It really means to use up spare time, or extra time. That is just(1) what I was doing this weekend, while I was waiting for my son's basketball game to start. We had a break of three and a half hours in between(2) games which is a long time. My thoughts were(3): lunch, a walk, Facebook, and maybe a podcast. And surprisingly enough(4), I got all of those things done. Robert and I went down to the lake for a walk, and watched the ducks and geese land on and take off from the water. It was there that I found the fox statue. Later in the gym I searched the web for info(5) on the statue. Well, that wasn't so easy. You know how web searches go(6); often they take you all around the world, and you end up with unimaginable(7) results. I ended up reading about a famous German sculptor called Julian Voss-Andreae who does sculptures about physics. One of his sculptures called 'Quantum Man' is here in Moses Lake, of all places(8). I looked through the list of his works and was amazed at his uniqueness(9). So, I'm glad I had time to kill because it led me to a lake, which led me to a fox, which led me to a very unusual German sculptor. 1. 'That is just what I was doing'. 'Just' here means 'exactly'. It can also mean 'only' or 'almost'. Let's see examples of it used as 'exactly'. a. It's funny what you said. It's just what I was thinking! b. They look just the same. 2. 'In between' can often be replaced with just 'between'. Both are correct. a. You've got food in between your teeth. You've got food between your teeth. b. I parked in between the bus and the truck. I parked between the bus and the truck. 3. 'My thoughts were...' is a short way of saying 'what I was thinking was....'/'what I was planning was'/ 'my thoughts about the matter were../. The use of 'thoughts' to express plans and ideas can be used with any person and in any tense. a. The company needs to invest. What are your thoughts? b. They were thinking: eat, play basketball, sleep. Those were their plans. 4. 'Surprisingly enough' in this phrase you can miss out 'enough'. The meaning of 'enough' is quite vague, and not always necessary. It's meaning when following an adverb is 'quite' or 'somewhat'. a. Interestingly enough, he works nights and studies during the day. c. Oddly enough, she works and he stays at home. 5. 'Info' is often substituted for 'information'. 6. Adding 'you know' at the beginning of a sentence is good practice, and there are many examples of this usage. a. You know how much work it is. b. You know when they're coming, don't you? c. You know the teacher won't allow that. d. You know what he's like. 7.  Un-imagin-able    un-imagin-able    un-imagin-able   un-imagin-able 8. 'Of all places' means 'it is really unlikely to be here'/'this place even though it is unexpected'. 'Of all' can be put in front of other nouns to show a similar 'surprise'/'disappointment'/'sense of irony'. a. Of all people, I bump into my ex-husband in the middle of Tokiyo! b. Of all places, we had to have a flat tire here (e.g  in the middle of the desert). c. Of all things, you had to lose your passport! 9. 'Uniqueness' is the state of being unique. Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Remember, basic pronunciation practices are on Monday's and Wednesday's. Tweet //…

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Analysis Time - Detecting Explosives.

2013-03-07
Length: 16s

Technology being(1) developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could put(2) explosive-sniffing(3) dogs out of business. Just like dogs, the technology can 'sniff' the air to detect vapors from explosives. Unlike dogs, it doesn't need to be fed, exercised, rested, and given breaks(4). It also shows promise(5) to accurately detect minute(6) amounts of explosives. It takes in a sample of air from around an object and examines that air. An explosive called RDX does not easily vaporize, and so it is difficult for dogs to detect it. However, this new technology can detect vapors of RDX from a fingerprint when there are less than 25 parts per quadrillion. "This technology is more sensitive than anything out there(7) now," said a senior research scientist. The technology could be used to screen(8) passengers or luggage at airports or large containers at ports. 1. 'Technology being developed' is a shorter than 'technology that is being developed'. Both are accurate and work in the sentence. There are many other occasions when you can miss out the pronoun 'that' and the verb in the first half of the sentence, and simply use the second verb in the gerund form. a. The teacher helping students every day can make a difference. b. Clouds gathering show the promise of rain. c. Flowers appearing show us that Spring is around the corner. 2. 'To put someone out of business'. We use the verb 'put' here when referring to a business or a person who is being forced to stop work, usually because of competition. a. The bigger shops have put the smaller shops out of business. b. High prices put the shop out of business. 3. 'Sniffing' comes from the verb 'to sniff'. I love this verb; it is onomatopeoic, which is a fancy way of saying that it sounds like its meaning. a. "I have lost my last penny," sniffed the sad old lady. b. The dog sniffed the air; someone was cooking bacon. 4. 'It doesn't need to be fed, exercised, rested, and given breaks.' This sentence shows how adjectives, or past participle verbs can be used in a list. a. The car was washed, dried, waxed, and driven to my house. b. The document was signed and delivered to the office. 5. 'To show promise' means that the subject gives signs of usefulness, hope, health, or some kind of positive capability. a. He shows promise of becoming a great chef. b. She always showed promise of singing success. 6. 'Minute' is spelled the same as 'minute'. The first means 'tiny'. a. The shells are minute; you can hardly see them. b. There was just a minute amount of bacteria left. 7. 'Anything out there' means 'anything available/ that can be found/on the market'. a. This is the most powerful motorbike out there. b. I don't think you'll find a cheaper computer out there. 8. 'To screen' is 'to examine for substances'. a. All the passengers in the airport were screened before boarding the plane. b. Screening luggage keeps us all safe. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 4.

2013-03-06
Length: 10s

That was a really good lecture. Yes, it was. That professor keeps it interesting. Well, I have a lot to study for the next test. Me too. Do you need a study partner? That would be nice. Okay, let's go to the library.   Join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. If you have questions or comments, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com. And remember that my app is available in iTunes called A Cup Of English. Tweet //…

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Xyla

2013-03-04
Length: 13s

Xylitol is a wood sugar that I've been using for a few years. It has many benefits. A dentist friend(1) told me that because its molecular structure(2) is different to normal sugar, plaque bacteria cannot absorb it; they try to, but they can't. Because of this, the plaque dies, and our teeth stay healthier. It might sound strange if you're unfamiliar with it. I'm impressed with it, and so I thought I would share(3) it's description as it is written on the packet that I buy. Xyla has 40% fewer calories than processed sugar, and 75% less carbohydrate(4). Xyla is a natural sweetener derived(5) from 100% North American hardwood. With many benefits, it is a popular sweetener widely(6) used in Europe, Scandinavia, and many other countries for its similarity to sugar in taste and texture. It is a low-glycemic sugar, and is safe for diabetics or anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle. It is perfect for coffee, tea, and cereal. It doesn't promote(7) cavities, and it leaves no after taste, and dissolves quickly.  1. 'A dentist friend' this is a quick way of mentioning the occupation of a friend; you simply put the job title next to the word 'friend'. a. An electrician friend of mine told me that our garage is electrically unsafe. b. A plastic surgeon friend of mine told me that he can change my nose. 2. 'Molecular structure' is a great thing to say to impress people, so let's practice the pronunciation: mol-ec-ular  struc-ture   mol-ec-ular  struc-ture   mol-ec-ular   struc-ture 3. 'To share' here has a second, less common meaning. Normally it means 'to give what you have', 'to pass out to people'. It can also mean 'to tell' or 'to open up(in conversation)'. a. He shared with me that he's having a lot of trouble at work. b. She shared some difficult secrets with me. 4. 'Carbohydrates' is often shortened to 'carbs'. a. They're eating a low-carb diet. b. These growing kids need more carbs. 5. 'Derived' means 'to come from', 'taken from', 'produced from'. 6. 'Widely used', are two words that go together. When talking about a large usage, such as state-wide, nationally, or globally, we use the word 'widely' with 'used'. a. Safety belts are widely used in Washington, but less so in Idaho. b. Organic produce is widely used in Europe. 7. 'Promote' means to 'spread', 'accelerate', 'encourage'. In this podcast it means 'to cause'. a. Schools are promoting the consumption of vegetables. b. His words will promote a disturbance. Please send me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com , check out my app in Tunes called A Cup Of English, and join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice 3.

2013-03-04
Length: 6s

After you (holding the door) Thank you, that's very kind. Are you new to the class? Yes, I'm starting late because I've just moved here. Well, I'm sure you'll fit right in. It's a great class. I hope so. So far, so good. Thanks for joining me. Please send me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com. You're all welcome to join me on my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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Analysis Time - Science For The Young.

2013-02-28
Length: 13s

Science education has taken new life(1) with the opening, six months ago, of the Mobius Science Center in Spokane, Washington. A $14 million fund put the new Science Center into operation. It is operating along with(2) the Mobius Children's Museum which has been open for seven years. The museum, aimed at children up to 8 years old(3), has been a very successful part of downtown Spokane. The demands for better-informed(4) and trained people in science have led to support for both centers. The Mobius Science Center has 26,000 square feet of exhibition space. There are 65 hands-on(5), interactive science and technology exhibits, plus educational programs. Here, young people can experience the worlds of Robotics, Flight, Space, Optics, Earth Science, Math and many more. It's a lively place that curious minds of all ages(6) will love. 1. 'Science education has taken new life....' this is an unusual sentence, though we can understand the meaning. Another phrase that talks about new life is the following: 'New life has been breathed into...(science, business, the district, education etc). We talk of new life being 'breathed into' something. a. The project has breathed new life into the city. b. The updated curriculum has breathed new life into my class. 2. 'Along with..' is like saying 'as well as' or 'side by side'. The meaning here is that the Children's Museum and the Science Center are two parts of the same project. a. The water park, along with the golf course, are open to the public 6 days a week. b. School children, along with other people from the neighborhood, planted trees in the park.  3. 'Up to 8 years old' here 'up to' is showing the limit, or maximum age of those served in the museum.  We also use 'over' to show the minimum and above. a. This film is for eighteen year olds and over.  b. The class is for children up to the age of 12. 4. 'Better' can be attached to many adjectives with a hyphon. a. We need better-equipped police on the streets. b. We need better-educated teachers in the schools. c. I wish the teenagers were better-behaved. 5. 'Hands-on' is a very popular expression. It means that a person can physically touch, play with, and experiment with something. a.  It will be a hands-on experience for the kids. b.  It will be a hands-on job, action, not just talk. 6. '....of all ages' is also a common expression when mentioning people of many ages who have a certain hobby or preference. a. Sweet lovers of all ages will adore this new chocolate shop. b. Children of all ages will appreciate this book. c. Dance fanatics of all ages can use this new dance video. Thanks for joining me. Send your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com Also, you are invited to join my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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Basic Pronunciation Practice.

2013-02-27
Length: 7s

Excuse me, am I close to the college? Yes, it's just around the corner. Which department do you need? I need to go to the Science department. Ok, that's on the fourth floor. Go through the main entrance, and on your left you'll find the stairs. Thank you so much! You're welcome. Questions or comments? Email them to me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I promise to email you back. You are welcome to join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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A Human Sandwich.

2013-02-25
Length: 17s

It's not often that(1) I find myself trapped, stuck in the middle of two things. However, I put myself in the middle of two things the other day deliberately(2). The two things were my dog and cat. The dog wanted to get the cat, and the cat wanted to test her young claws on the dog's nose. I have been training my little kitten. She is getting used to(3) the front garden, so when she's older, I can let her out by herself. I have a little harness(4) for her, (I call it her bra), which attaches around her chest. Then the leash(5) clips into it, so I can gently hold the leash and follow her while she explores. Perfect. Well, not really. My dog Foxy can jump over the gate and come to the front garden whenever she wants to(6). That's the problem. She is very, very smart. She approaches us, focusing on the cat. I tell her "no" and act like a confident boss. She responds by lying down and acting sweet. However, I can see in her eyes that she is just pretending for her stupid human owner. Really, she's ready for war, and her enemy is the cat. She looks at me with sad, sweet eyes, and then back at the cat with an unbreakable(7) stare. She licks her lips. I feel quite proud of myself for staying(8) right in the middle, the great protector. Suddenly a car scares the cat and she runs for the door. Foxy, the dog, jumps to attack, but the cat is too quick. She gets out her weapon, her claws, and goes for the nose. This is a new experience for Foxy; her precious nose must be protected, so she backs away(9). When the cat and I are back inside the house, I realize how ridiculous that scene was. And was I even necessary? I'm sure the natural dog and natural cat don't need a civilized woman to keep the peace. Why? Because naturally speaking, there is no peace between a cat and a dog. 1. 'It's not often that I...' this sentence and the use of 'often' could be written a different way, and with 'often' at the end. a. I don't find myself trapped (very) often.  OR   It's not often that I find myself trapped. b. It's not often that he reads all night.       OR  He doesn't read all night (very) often. c. It's not often they visit us.                    OR  They don't visit us (very) often. 2. 'Deliberately' means 'on purpose'. Let's practice the pronunciation.     Del-i-ber-ate-ly         Del-i-ber-ate-ly      Del-i-ber-ate-ly      Del-i-ber-ate-ly 3. 'To get used to' is a phrase that we have covered before. It is the same as 'to familiarize yourself with' or 'to become accustomed to'. It is much easier to use 'to get used to', a. It might take a long time, but you will get used to the weather here. b. I just can't get used to my new work schedule. c. Get used to it! You have no choice. 4. 'A harness' is like a piece of clothing made of straps that fits around the body. In rock climbing, a rope is attached to it to keep the climber safe. a. The rock climber checked his harness before he started climbing. 5. 'A leash' is the cord or rope that is attached to a dog or cat collar when you take them for a walk. a. I bought a new leash for my dog because she had chewed the other one. b. You need a stronger leash for that big dog. 6. 'Whenever she wants to' in the U.S the preposition 'to' is often missed out. In England, however, we normally include it. a. They'll do it whenever they want to.     OR    They'll do it whenever they want. b. I'll say whatever I want to.                  OR    I'll say whatever I want. c. They always went wherever they wanted to.     OR They always went wherever they wanted. 7. 'Unbreakable' means that it is impossible to break.   Un-break-able       un-break-able      un-break-able     un-break-able 8. 'I feel quite proud of myself for staying.....' it is the structure of this sentence that is useful:       Subject + emotion + preposition + (oneself) + for + gerund a.  He's happy with himself for getting the promotion. b. I'm disappointed in myself for getting angry. c. She's ashamed of herself for being lazy. d. They're proud of themselves for building the house. 9. 'To back away' can also be expressed as 'to back off'. 'To back down' is similar, but it also means to give up in a fight, or to stop offering a threat. a. The protesters backed off when the police arrived. b. The younger lion backed down when the alpha male confronted him. Thanks for joining me! Let me know your questions and comments at acupofenglish@hotmail.com, and I will send you an email in return. You're all invited to join my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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Basic pronunciation practice.

2013-02-24
Length: 7s

Can I help you? Yes please. Which way is it to the college? You are on the right road. Keep going straight, and then take a right. Is it far? No, you're quite close. It'll take you about five minutes.   Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.   Join me on Monday's and Wednesday's for more basic pronunciation practice. My regular intermediate level podcasts are Tuesday's and Thursday's. I hope it helps! You are all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish; just send me a friend request.…

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A Rubbish Poem.

2013-02-20
Length: 14s

Throw it, chuck it(1), give it away! All of this furniture can't possibly stay! Every room, cupboard, and closet is filled to the brim(2), But most of this stuff should be thrown in the bin!(3) So off to(4) the dump with these old, broken possessions, Chairs, tables, and computers that long ago were in fashion.  Just look at this old sofa; it's seen better days,(5) Why do you think that keeping it pays?(6) The mattress, pillows, and table are on their last legs,(7) They're covered in stains, holes, scribbles, and bacon and eggs!(8) The kids have used them as a castle, a playground, and even a hobbit's hole, But to throw them all away is definitely my goal. So, give away want you want, and don't forget to recycle, Take our ornaments, broken kitchen appliances, records, toys, and bicycle. The dump is a glorious place, with an unforgettable smell, It's there we get rid of our trash, and feel free, and clean, and well. At first sight it's quite scary, deep, and dark, with mold, dust, sticky stuff, and fungus,(9) But be brave, chuck that ancient computer in there, and come and join us. We'll celebrate our clean houses and new lives with martinis one, two and three, And promise to never again spend too much on junk, now that's the key!(10) 1. 'To chuck' is the same as 'to throw away' or 'to get rid of'. It's mainly used in England. a. Chuck those old papers in the fire, would you please? 2. 'Filled to the brim' we have seen before. It means to be completely full, up to the very top. a. He filled my wine glass to the brim. 3. 'Bin' is another word for 'the garbage can' or 'the trash can'. a. Oh dear, I think I threw ten dollars in the bin! 4. 'Off to' is like saying 'go to' or 'let's go to'. a. Off to the swimming pool! Let's go! 5. 'To have seen better days' means that something or someone is very old and in bad shape. a. My television has seen better days; it huge, black and white, and only three channels work. 6. 'Something pays' means that something is worth it or worthwhile. a. It pays to study a little everyday instead of once a week. 7. 'To be on your last legs' can apply to people, animals, or objects. It is just like 'to have seen better days' in meaning. a. That car is on it's last legs; it will break down any day! 8. 'Scribble' is a messy piece of writing or drawing that children do on paper, and sometimes where they shouldn't do it, like furniture, or on the walls. a. My son scribbled all over our new table with a permanent pen. 9. 'Fungus' is a growth similar to a mushroom. We generally think of fungus growing on old food, or damp materials. a. I opened the closet and found fungus growing on the wall. 10. 'That's the key!' is a set phrase that means, 'that is the solution', 'that is the answer'. a. Prepare yourself for your classes if you want to be successful; that's the key! Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish and I will friend you. Please send me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I will email you back. Remember my app is available in iTunes called A Cup Of English. Tweet //…

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Great Value.

2013-02-18
Length: 16s

These days(1) everybody seems to be trying to(2) save money. On the television, we hear about sales, discounts, and 'cash back'(3) on things that we buy. Most receipts now give opportunities to win money, or products. And the shops do the same. Have you noticed generic brands in your local shops? A generic brand is a line of products made for that shop, not a famous brand name. They are always cheaper than other brands. The question is, "Are they good quality, or of the same quality as(4) the brand name products?" Over the past few years, I have shopped almost exclusively(5) at Walmart, and I have got to know(6) some things about generic brands. Great Value is a brand name made for Walmart. The boxes, packets, and bottles(7) of products are simple to look at, and stand out from the rest. In my opinion, the basic products like detergents(8), paper products, and simple house items are worth buying. However, when it comes to eating, the cheaper product often doesn't taste as good. Pastas, bread, dairy products, and canned goods are not quite as good as(9) the brand name ones. I'm fussy about what I eat, and so cheaper ingredients are not always the best option(10). It might be better to spend a few more pennies, to taste good quality food. However, you can always save your money on the non-edible(12) items. 1. 'These days' can be replaced with 'now-a-days'. They are interchangeable. a. These days, we spend a lot of time in the car. b. Now-a-days, people drive a lot. 2. 'Everybody seems to be trying to save money'. Notice there are 3 verbs in a row. This isn't complicated, you just have to decide how you wish to follow 'seems to be'. a. The cat seems to be trying to climb the tree. b. They seems to be walking very fast. c. The clouds seem to be getting dark over the mountains. 3. 'Cash back' is a very common thing over here. When you buy something with a credit card, sometimes, if it is a big purchase, like a car or a computer, you might get 'cash back', meaning a check from your credit card company in a few months or at the end of the year. a. I will get my cash back at the end of the year; I have bought a lot of things, so I should get a big check. b. With the cash back from buying my car, I bought an iPad. 4. '...of the same quality as..' a. That material is of the same quality as the more expensive one. b. That sofa is made of the same leather as the chair. 5. 'Exclusively' means 'only' when excluding other options. It is a great word to practice as, when used correctly, gives the impression of fluency. Ex-clu-sive-ly    ex-clu-sive-ly   ex-clu-sive-ly   ex-clu-sive-ly 6. 'To get to know' is the same as 'to come to know', and 'to become familiar with'. a. When I stayed with my grandmother in the summer, I really got to know her. b. Let's get to know eachother before we go on a date. 7. 'Boxes, packets and bottles' are some of the containers of products. Others are 'cans, jars, tubes, bags, containers and tubs'. a. We need a packet of cookies and a large container of icecream, like a tub. b. I have jars of spaghetti sauce and cans of soup on the shelf. 8. 'Detergent' is the name of a soap that is not used for the body. a. I like the new laundry detergent; all the clothes smell really nice. b. That detergent makes me itchy. 9. '....are not quite as good as..' is an effective use of comparison, but in the negative. a. The second and third films were not quite as good as the first. b. The painting is not quite as colorful as the photo. c. My new gloves are not quite as comfortable as my old ones. 10. 'The best option' could be replaced by 'the best choice', 'the best idea', 'the best decision'. a. I think that the cheaper hotel is the best option. b. He recently broke his leg so I don't think that night skiing is the best option. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish and practice posting and chatting in English. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com, and I promise to email you back. Tweet //…

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Which language to choose?

2013-02-13
Length: 14s

Over the years I have collected books and cassettes to learn different languages. I have them lined up(1) on my desk, all in a row: Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. Unfortunately I don't speak all of them, only Spanish and French. I learned a little Russian as well, but only a few sentences. I would love to know all of these languages, but I know that it would take me years and years to both study and practice(2) them. I pick up the books sometimes and look at the Chinese and Arabic characters. "Wow!" is usually what I say to myself as I look at these beautiful but unrecognizable(3) shapes. So, what are the steps to learning a language? First, decided which one you need to learn. That sounds obvious, but, if you're like me, you will want to learn several. Limit yourself because you need lots of time to learn a language. Perhaps you can plan to(4) listen to 2 podcasts a day, read a paragraph, and practice singing a song. If you did this five days a week, you would progress quickly(5). Memorize some basic conversation sentences. Make a list of the twenty most important verbs and expressions. Read a joke book in that language, perhaps a children's joke book. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions? Is there a better way to learn a language? Personally, I think that the ear is the key. If you hear a language a lot, it will become part of you. And then, you must repeat what you hear, to hear yourself speak the language. And, finally you must have fun! Humor, laughter, and silliness can make you relax and remember. 1. 'To line up' is to put in a line or a row. It can be used for things or people. It is similar in meaning to 'to queue up';however, we would not use 'to queue up' with objects. a. The child lined up all of his cars in a straight line. b. We queued up outside the cinema, and the taxis were lined up on the street. 2. 'To both study and practice'. The use of 'both' here gives a nice sound of fluency in English. It can be used in front of two verbs, or two adjectives, and two nouns in many different occasions. a. He will both run and swim in the race. b. She has both intelligence and generosity. c. The bank employees are both unprofessional and slow. 3. 'Unrecognizable' means something that you don't recognize, that is not familiar at all. Un-re-cog-niz-able     un-re-cog-niz-able    un-re-cog-niz-able     un-re-cog-niz-able 4. 'To plan to ..' is useful when talking about the future. a. I plan to travel this Summer if I can get plane tickets. b. He plans to finish his exams and then look for an apprenticeship. 5. 'If you did this...., you would progress quickly'. This is an example of subjunctive with conditional. The simple past is used in the first half of the sentence, then 'would' plus the infinitive with no 'to'. a. If you drank this, you would feel better. b. If he read the letter, he would understand. c. If they came early, they would have time to talk. d. If they invested now, they would make an early profit. Thanks for joining me today. Please send your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com, and feel free to join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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If You Have The Flu.

2013-02-11
Length: 17s

The subject of many people's conversations is the flu. Everybody is talking about it. The clinics and hospitals are full of people who have flu symptoms, and supermarkets have shelves full of medicines, tissues(1), and vitamin powders. I've been lucky so far(2); my children and my husband have had it, but not me(3). And I'm not going to, I keep telling myself. I'm using mind over matter(4). When I do go to the supermarket, I'll often hear a horrible cough in one direction, and a sneeze in another(5). So what do I do then? I get as far away as possible(6). I push my shopping cart to the opposite part of the store as quickly as possible. I bumped into a man I know the other day, and he said, "Anna, you are the fastest moving thing(7) in the store!" At home I've been moving fast as well. There is extra washing to do. I wipe the countertops with disinfecting wipes(8). I remind the kids to wash their hands with soap and water, and to drink lots of water and juice. And I open windows as much as possible. And after all of that, really the only thing you should do is rest, stay warm, and sleep.  1. 'Tissues' here mean paper handkerchiefs. The word 'tissue' is the general word used, as 'handkerchief' is out dated. It is also the general word for organic material. a. Do you need a tissue? It sounds like you have a bad cold. b. He lost tissue from his hand in the accident. 2. 'So far' could be replaced by 'up until now'. a. So far he has been very successful in his career. b. We haven't been able to get a loan so far. 3. 'My children and husband have had it, but not me.' The last part of this sentence is a simplified way of speaking. It is equally normal to say 'but I haven't' at the end of the sentence, as I have already used the verb 'to have'. However, I think an easier way of completing the sentence is by saying 'but not me'. It is correct and also common use. Even if I had used the verb 'to do', I could have finished the sentence the same way. a. They did it, but not me (but I didn't). b. The class read the book, but not her (name). 4. 'Mind over matter' is a set phrase which means that you are trying to convince yourself, and control your own physical symptoms. a. I was terrified of bungie jumping, but I used mind over matter, and I did it! b. He doesn't like giving speeches, but with mind over matter he manages. 5. As with most languages, the word 'another' or other implies the repetition of a noun, so you don't have to mention it twice. a. In my kitchen I found a mouse on one chair, and a spider on another! b. He cut his finger on one knife, and his thumb on another. 6. 'As far away as possible' is an example of the phrase 'as ....as possible'. The words 'far away' might make it seem more complicated, but it's actually not. 'Far away' is simply put in between 'as' and 'as possible', like many, many other things. a. He ran as fast as possible to catch the bus. b. He always stands as close as possible to people, but his breath stinks! c. She writes her essays as carefully as possible. 7. "Anna, you're the fastest moving thing in the store" this sentence uses 'moving thing' to add humor because it shows me as a thing and not a person. In fact, the speaker could have said just 'the fastest thing in the store' and missed out 'moving'. We use a superlative adjective with 'thing' in these sentences. a. That child is the loudest thing in the whole shopping center. b. That dog is the ugliest thing I've ever seen! c. That article is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read! 8. 'Disinfecting wipes' are disposable cloths that have disinfecting liquid in them. The word 'wipe' is a verb, and a noun with two meanings: the action of wiping, and the cloth, a. I need a 'baby wipe' to clean the baby. b. Wipe your mouth, you have spaghetti sauce on it. c. He cleaned the glass with one wipe. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. My app is available in iTunes called A Cup Of English, and my email address is acupofenglish@hotmail.com if you wish to give me any suggestions or if you have any questions.  Tweet //…

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Teddy For You, Teddy For Me

2013-02-06
Length: 11s

It's been a rough couple of weeks(1). My three boys have had the flu, and one of them has had two different kinds. As a mother, I try to do all that I can to make them comfortable: medicine, liquids, blankets, and peace and quiet(2). I try to give them some extra attention, if they want it. At times(3) I have taken their temperatures, asked them how they feel, felt their foreheads, and given them popsicles(4) for their sore throats. Sometimes, however, they have wanted to be left alone(5). I can understand that. As a mother, you have to become a judge of who will want what and when(6). My daughter gave me a good suggestion today, to help Robert feel better: buy him a teddy. He is ten years old, almost too 'cool' to have teddies, but not quite. And, of course, there are teddies and teddies(7). The one she chose for him is a gorilla with a tie and a big smile. That's perfect for an 'almost too cool boy'. It's soft, cuddly(8), and funny, but it's also masculine looking, and it goes well with his giant soft lion that he uses as a pillow. It was a good idea, I told Domini. It's a little, soft creature that wishes him well, with a huge smile to make him feel better. 1. 'A rough couple of weeks'. 'Rough' is a common word to describe a length of time that has been difficult. a. This week has been rough at work. b. The two years after the divorce were very rough. 2. 'Peace and quiet' is a set phrase that is used in both England and the U.S. The meaning is self-explanatory, but it should be noted that they often, automatically go together. a. After a noisy week, I really need peace and quiet at the weekend. b. When you have the flu, you need medicine, liquids, rest, and peace and quiet. 3. 'At times' is the same as saying 'sometimes', though it can indicate less occasions than 'sometimes'. a. At times he looks happy, but then at other times he looks sad. b. At times I really don't know if he is joking or not. 4. 'Popsicle' is like a cross between 'pop' and 'icicle'. It is a frozen lollipop, and comes in many different flavors and shapes. a. In the Summer we always fill the freezer with popsicles. b. Popsicles can help a sore throat feel better. 5. To be 'left alone' often goes with the word 'want', or it is phrased to show that the person desires to be alone. 'Left' indicates other people letting go, or permitting. a. I just want to be left alone. b. I'm sure he'll calm down if you leave him alone/ if he's left alone. 6. 'Who will want what and when' is an example of a string of interrogatives. Because I have already mentioned the medicines, blankets, liquids etc and the boys, I don't need to repeat these nouns. The sentence that is full of interrogatives is simply referring back to those nouns. a. We have ham, cheese, salad, soup, and cake for everyone. Anyone can help themselves to what they want, when they want it. b. I don't know why, when, or how this mess was made; I just want it cleaned up! 7. 'There are teddies and teddies' echoes a similar sentence that I discussed in a previous podcast. This sentence format is comparing equal things, but it implies that they are not equal. Some teddies are better than others. a. We saw the musical Les Miserable. Of course there are musicals and there are musicals, but that's one of the best. b. I wish you didn't buy that cheap ham. It's not all the same you know. There's ham and then there's ham. 8. 'Cuddly' is one of my favorite words. It means something that is easy to hug, perhaps even built to hug. a. That homemade pillow is so cuddly; I could just hug it all day. b. When our cat is sleepy, she is so cuddly. You're all welcome to join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. I will email you a reply if you write to me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com to send me your questions or comments. Tweet //…

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Analysis Time - A Chemical Ban.

2013-02-05
Length: 14s

Some state lawmakers are pushing to ban(1) potentially(2) cancer-causing(3) chemicals from children's products and sofas. The two flame retardant(4) chemicals are known as TCEP and TDCCP and are found in car seats, strollers(5), changing pads(6), other children's products, and furniture. Manufacturers often add the chemicals to foam(7), plastics and fabrics to prevent fires and to slow down fires if they have already started. The chemical industry says that flame retardants have been useful in reducing fires and saving lives. However, supporters(8) of the bill say there are better ways to protect against fires without the chemicals. 1. 'To ban' is the similar in meaning to 'to forbid', 'to stop', or 'to not allow'. a. Certain weapons are banned for civilian use. b. Chewing gum is banned from the schools. 2. 'Potentially' means 'having the power to' or 'possibly'. It is a powerful word to use in the right context. a. The new flu virus could potentially affect all of us. b. The recession could potentially cause the cost of flights to double. 3. '-causing' can be added to many nouns, especially names of diseases. a. The street party had lots of conflict-causing elements; I'm not surprised there was a riot. b. Cholera-causing bacteria were found in the drinking water. 4. 'Flame retardant' is a set phrase used for particular chemicals that reduce the risk of fire. 'Retardant' means 'stopping' or 'slowing'. a. Often, kids' pajamas are flame retardant. b. Sofas also have a flame retardant chemical added to them. 5. 'Stroller' is the American word for a 'push chair' used to transport a baby or youngster while the parent is walking. It's basically a seat with wheels and handlebars at the top. The word is taken from the verb 'to stroll' which means to walk slowly. a. It was such a lovely day that I put the baby in the stroller and walked in the park. b. We need some equipment for the new baby, including a stroller. 6. 'A changing pad' is another piece of equipment or furniture used when a person has a baby. It is like a long, flat, waterproof pillow that you lay the baby on in order to change its diaper. The word 'pad' is used for many things, such as: a seat pad, a panty pad, a pad of paper. Also 'padding' is similar to a material filling, such as in a cushion. It can be used figuratively. a. The changing pad needs to be disinfected after each use. b. He's on a diet. He said that he has five pounds of padding on his stomach that he wants to lose. 7. 'Foam' is an aerated, bubbly substance that is either made out of rubber or plastic material, or an organic substance such as egg, toothpaste, or sea water. The padding in furniture is often made out of 'foam'. a. The foam padding in the sofa has gone flat; it needs to be replaced. b. There is a lot of foam on the waves today. 8. 'Supporters' are people who agree with a person, a group, or a cause. A supporter is also someone who helps financially. a. The supporters of the presidential candidate filled the stadium. b. It was the supporters of the Committee of Arts and Culture who paid for the statue. You are all invited to join me on my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. Send me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I will get back Tweet // to you.…

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Analysis Time - Wolf Debate.

2013-01-30
Length: 13s

Farmers, ranchers(1) and county officials(2) from Eastern Washington said a plan to manage(3) wolves as they are re-established in the state has good ideas but doesn't go far enough to cover their potential losses(4) or protect their property. Wolves are making a remarkable comeback(5) in Washington. A year ago there were five confirmed wolf packs in the state: now there are eight confirmed packs and three more suspected (6)packs. But wolves will remain protected under Washington's endangered species(7) law until there are at least 15 packs for three years. In the meantime(8), the department has developed a management plan with farmers, ranchers, wildlife experts and conservationists to minimize damage caused by wolves to livestock(9) and domestic animals. It's a combination of nonlethal techniques to keep wolves away and capture and relocate them, and includes killing them under certain circumstances. Senator John Smith said the state should be ready to list wolves as a big game(10) species, which would allow for hunting when they reach a certain level. 1. A 'rancher' is usually a farmer who has cattle, sheep, or pigs. a. The rancher takes his cows up to the mountains for the good grass. b. The rancher uses sheep dogs to help him control and direct his sheep. 2. 'Official' refers to a person with a recognised position in government, and has sometimes been elected. a. Local officials said that they will make safety their priority. b.State officials met today to discuss the new tax laws. 3. 'To manage' in this context means to control. Managing the wolves would mean allowing them freedom to populate an area, but only up to a certain number. a. The deer population in this area is managed by the department of fish and game. b. Predatory animals need to be managed for our safety and to maintain healthy numbers of their prey. 4. 'To cover a loss' relates to insurance paying to replace valuable property or possessions, including livestock. a. What we got from the insurance company will cover our loss of sheep. b. We must cover our losses before we look for any profits. 5. 'A comeback', the meaning of which is self-explanatory, is often paired with the word 'remarkable', which means 'to be noted', 'astonishing', or 'surprising'. a. The old singer has made a remarkable comeback, and still sings very well. b. Tight jeans have made a comeback; I remember wearing them twenty years ago. 6. 'Confirmed and suspected'. Studies have been carried out to count the number of packs of wolves. The 'confirmed' packs are definitely there; the 'suspected' packs have not been proven to exist. a. The suspected engagement of the Royal Prince and his girlfriend has been confirmed; they will marry in May. b. Cadbury has confirmed international contracts for the next year of up to two billion dollars. 7. 'Endangered species' are the groups of animals that are in danger of extinction.      En - dangered  spe - cies     En - dangered  spe - cies   En - dangered  spe - cies 8. 'In the meantime' is a handy phrase to add to a conversation. It means 'until then' or  'while we are waiting for that to happen'.   a. They'll get here in two hours; in the meantime, let's get the food ready. b. We're still waiting for rain; in the meantime, the grass is getting dryer and dryer.  9. 'Livestock' means farmed animals of all kinds: cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, geese, chickens etc. 10. 'Game' is used in hunting terms to describe the animal as being available to be hunted. 'Big game' are the larger animals, of which the wolf would be one. a. Does the hunter prefer small or big game? b. He's a big game hunter; there are big heads all over his walls. Remember you are all welcome to join my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. I can answer your questions and comments at acupofenglish@hotmail.com, and if you email me, I promise to email you back. Tweet //…

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An Elizabethan Collar.

2013-01-29
Length: 12s

Do you ever check your bills? It's a good practice(1), but sometimes seems unnecessary. If you do, however, you might find the occasional odd charge, or you might have a question about something on the bill that you don't recognize. That is exactly what happened to me last week when I took my dog, Rosie, to the vet. The poor thing had a skin infection of some kind. Apparently it was the result of an allergy. She obviously felt itchy because she would scratch herself all over. Well, the vet got to the bottom of (2)the problem, gave her a medicinal (3)bath and prescribed antibiotics and steroids. As I sat in the waiting room, I looked over(4) the bill and spotted(5) an item that immediately made me curious: an Elizabethan collar. I blinked because I thought I had misread(6) the words. An Elizabethan collar, no I wasn't mistaken; those were the words written, along with the pills, the bath, and the ear cleaning. A mental picture of Queen Elizabeth I came to my mind, with her wide, ruffled collar. What was she doing back there with the animals? Pet owners can never really know what is going on beyond(7) the waiting room. Perhaps the vet likes historical costumes....Maybe her assistants dress up all the animals to put on a Tudor play, “Ok people we need an Elizabeth, a Henry VIII, and a Mary Queen of Scots, … and a few servants and advisers of course. Rosie, if you want to play Elizabeth, make sure you put on her collar..., and get ready for that Armada scene, ok?” “Woof!” replies Rosie. Oh my! My imagination can certainly run wild(8) when I'm bored! So, I asked the lady behind the counter about the Elizabethan collar, and she told me that it's just a plastic cone that is put around the dog's head so it doesn't scratch it's ears. Oh, well that's disappointing. It's not even frilly(9). My idea was far more interesting. 'A good practice' is something that you do that is beneficial, practical, or helpful. a. It's good practice to double check that your doors are locked. b. Helping your neighbors is a good practice. 'To get to the bottom of...' is to find the solution or the answer. a. The detective got to the bottom of the crime. b. We need to get to the bottom of what happened. 'Medicinal' means 'of medicine'. It is used when we refer to a treatment. a. He put a medicinal wrap on his wound. b. That tea is medicinal; it has many health benefits. 'To look over..' is often used when we talk about examining a document of some kind, a collection of information, or a list. a. We looked over the plans for the house and found three things that we didn't like. b. I looked over the phone bill; it was higher than last month. 'To spot' something is 'to notice'. a. I spotted her orange coat in the crowd. b. I've spotted a family of doves in my back garden. 'To misread' means to read incorrectly. The prefix 'mis' shows an error or negative slant given to the verb. Similar words are: mistake, mismanage, misinform. Notice, the past of 'to misread' is spelt exactly the same but pronounced 'misread'. a. I misread the highway directions, and ended up in Canada instead of Idaho! b. Read slowly so you don't misread the words. The use of 'beyond' here shows three things: distance, separation, and mystery. It is the context that gives 'beyond' those meanings. Normally, 'beyond' means 'further on from/ than', especially when you are giving directions. However, because 'beyond' often refers to a place that is not yet seen, there can be an element of mystery attached to it. a. I love the series 'Stories from beyond the grave'; it's really scary. b. God exists probably beyond space and time, beyond what we see. To have your 'imagination run wild' is an expression that is self explanatory. a. When you write this descriptive essay, let your imagination run wild. b. When the kids are playing, their imaginations run wild. 'Frilly' refers to the 'ruffled' collar in the paragraph. It describes material that is folded, wavy, or doubled, often with delicate edges. a. The edge of the skirt is frilly; it looks like a country dress. b. Queen Elizabeth's collar was very wide and very frilly. Remember to join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all invited. If you have questions or comments feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I will get back to you. There is an app available for your smart phone called A Cup Of English in iTunes. Tweet //…

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The Price Of Copper Theft.

2013-01-24
Length: 12s

  Nationwide(1), metal theft has become a serious problem since about 2005, according to(2) a 2010 report on metal theft by the U.S. Department of Justice. That's when metal prices rose substantially(3). In 2002, for example, copper prices hit a record low(4), falling to 65 cents a pound. By 2006, it was worth $4 a pound, prompted mainly by the industrialization(5) of Asian countries. One figure(6) was available for copper losses. According to a survey, about $20 million worth of copper was stolen in(7) more than 50,000 incidents at U.S electric utilities in 2008. Another indicator comes from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which reports that claims(8) for metal theft are up significantly. 'Nationwide' is similar to 'nationally' or 'national'. a. The program is being broadcast nationwide. b. There will be educational improvements nationwide. 2. 'According to' is used in front of persons, organizations, or bodies of information, such as surveys or polls. a. According to a recent survey, women prefer the color green to blue. b. According to the boss, we can't have another raise. c. According to the weather update, we will get snow tomorrow. 3. 'Substantially' is a difficult word to pronounce, so let's practice it in sections Sub – stan – tially sub – stan – tially sub – stan – tially 4. 'Record low' similarly to 'record high', is used for financial decreases or losses, and also temperature changes. Occasionally, it is used for emotion. a. Record low temperatures have been reported nationally. b. The value of gold is at a record high. c. He told me that his confidence is at a record low these days. ' 5. 'Industrialization' is a long word and needs to be practiced In-dus-triali-zation In-dus-triali-zation In-dus-triali-zation 6. 'A figure' can be a shape, the shape of a person, or a number. a. That dress suits her figure. b. Write the correct name under each figure on the math sheet. c. The latest figures show that the stock market has improved. 7. 'Copper was stolen in more than 50,000 incidents'. I'm going over this phrase to talk about the use of 'in'. 'In' is referring to the incidents of theft, the occurrences 'in' which the thefts took place. You will more usually hear the word 'from' with the verb stolen, because often we will mention the person or place 'from' which something was stolen. a. The diamond was stolen from the museum. b. Three cars crashed in the incident. c. Five homes were lost in ten flooding incidents in the state. 8. 'A claim' is a noun, as opposed to the verb 'to claim', though both are obviously related. If you have suffered a loss due to fire, flooding, theft, or some kind of accident, you make or report a claim to your insurance company. a. We will have to make a claim to the insurance company because of the fire. b. They made claims that were false; they just wanted the insurance money. Tweet //…

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Playing with whales.

2013-01-22
Length: 13s

"Mum, can you put in your password?" is a question that I hear almost on a daily basis. My kids are into apps in a big way(1). We are slowly getting sucked(2) into the app market. I allow my daughter to play on my iPhone every now and then(3). That's fine. There are lots of fun, creative apps that you can download for free, so we do(4). After a few days, however, the credits, or ammunition, or points, or whatever currency it is that you need to play the game, run out. Then my children look around to find their saviour, me. They suddenly remember how much they love me. They become very polite and very sweet, as they ask me to solve their problem of a lack of (5)credits. They do this with one eye on me, and one eye on my purse. Ha, ha! I have their full attention, the power of an emperor. Will it be thumbs up or thumbs down(6)? Exactly how nice(7) can they be to me if they really need those credits? May be they can vacuum the lounge, or clean out the cat's litter box(8). Or maybe I'll just have them kiss the ring on my right hand. Oh the power has gone to my head(9). I do realise that the older I get, the less power I will have. So, for now, I'll make the most of it(10). A few dollars here and there for app credits is fine; I let them buy them most of the time. It would only be a problem if I had an iron will. However, it is satisfying to know that my hand holds the purse strings(11). 1. 'To be into something in a big way' is an American expression for really liking something, or really practicing something. a. My brother is into photography in a big way; he does it as often as he can, and he's very good at it. b. They're into Minecraft in a big way; they play it everyday. 2. 'To get sucked into something' is an expression that means that you are slowly being forced to do something. You can get a mental image perhaps of stepping into mud and getting sucked into it. It is used figuratively, and implies that you are not happy about it. a. I have been asked to be the president of the committee; I don't really want to, but I'm getting sucked into it. b. He got sucked right into buying that car, but it was a bad one and broke down in two days. 3. 'Every now and then' is similar to saying 'sometimes' or 'occasionally'. 4. The verb 'to do' has many uses; one is emphasis.  a. They told us not to, so we didn't. b. He won't let us eat in the lounge, so we don't. 5. 'A lack of' is not having enough of something. a. The project cannot continue due to lack of money. b. This talent show has a real lack of talent. c. She has so many shoes that you won't believe it; she really does. 6. 'Thumbs up' is a phrase that is used sometimes to give approval of something. However, the 'thumbs up or thumbs down' is a reference to Roman Emperors and their 'life or death' use of this signal. 7. 'Exactly how + adjective / noun' is used a lot in both questions and statements to show doubt about someone's attributes, actions, abilities, or about something that has or will happen? It can show attitude, impatience, or sarcasm. a. Exactly how clever is he supposed to be? b. Exactly how late are they going to be? c. Exactly where are we supposed to be? d. Exactly how tall is he? 8. 'A litter box' is the box filled with a sandy substance that cats use as a toilet. I'm not sure why it's called a 'litter box'. 9. 'To have something go to your head' means that you become proud or fixated on an accomplishment?desire, and because of that, your behavior is affected. a. He won the race, but his win went to his head and he spent the whole week bragging. b. Don't let your new wealth go to your head; you might do something stupid. c. She let his words go to her head; she was easily influenced. 10. 'To make the most of ....' means to either thoroughly enjoy something, or to take advantage of an opportunity. a. I have nothing to do tonight; I'm going to make the most of it and relax. b. We made the most of our free cruise; we tried all the food, and went to every activity. 11. 'My (someone else's) hands hold the purse strings' is a saying which means the person has control of the money. Purses used to have string tops instead of zips or buttons, so if your hand is holding the strings, you control when the purse is opened. Tweet //…

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Analysis Time - New Gun Laws.

2013-01-17
Length: 15s

Facing powerful opposition to new gun laws, President Barack Obama is considering(1) 19 steps that he could take through executive action(2). The steps could include punishing(3) people who lie on gun sale background checks(4), getting more complete records in the federal background check database(5), more federal research into gun use, ordering tougher(6) penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to improve safety. "My starting point is not to worry(7) about the politics," said the President. "My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, on what works." At the same time Obama said that he will not back off(8) of his support for sweeping(9) gun legislation that requires  congressional support. There is, however, great opposition from the very influential gun lobby(10). "Will all of these (changes) get through Congress? I don't know," Obama said at a news conference on Monday. 1. 'To consider' is to think about before making a decision. The word 'considering' is used a lot in English in the same way as 'understanding that' or 'taking into account'. a. We're considering buying the house; we'll make a decision in a few weeks. b. Considering the bank's past mistakes, I wouldn't invest in them. 2. 'Executive action' is the ability of the President to pass laws, or make changes to laws without Congress. This power is limited. The word 'executive' comes from the word 'to execute' meaning to put into action, and also to kill. It is, therefore, used as the title of the head of a company. The person who makes the decisions. 3. 'The steps could include punishing...' this sentence has a list of verbs, all in the gerund form. You wouldn't actually use the infinitive form of the verbs instead; the gerund sounds more normal. a. To make a cabinet, the steps include buying and cutting the wood, finishing it, drilling holes, measuring, and putting it all together. b. The steps to make a good cake should include buying good quality ingredients, and having the right setting on the oven. 4. 'A background check' is an investigation into someone's background or personal, past life. 'Background' is like the back scene of something, a picture, or a person.  a. You have to have a background check before you can become a teacher. b. His background check revealed that he had been in prison for stealing. 5. 'Database' is a collection of information or 'data'. It is like a big file. a. Your computer's database is full; you need to get more memory. b. They lost information from their database. 6. 'Tough' or 'tougher' can be used when talking about penalties, punishments, laws, or luck. a. He lost his job and then crashed his car; what tough luck! b. We must have tougher punishments for violent crimes. 7. "My starting point is not to worry.." here you could say 'to not worry'. There is only a slight difference. If you want to emphasize that you are deliberately avoiding worrying, then it is more effective to have 'not' first. The other way around emphasizes the whole meaning rather than the negative of the verb. a. I will control my classroom by not paying attention to noisy, distracting students. b. They were advised not to go on the lake while it was frozen. 8. 'To back off' means to walk away from, to back away, to leave alone, or to forget. I have mentioned it before in a previous podcast. In this instant, it describes how President Obama doesnot want to walk away from proposed changes. 9. 'Sweeping ' is often used when talking about the making or changing of laws. When a big change is made it is described in this way. a. Sweeping changes have been made to the way the office is run. b. Sweeping legislation about school safety will be proposed. 10. 'Lobby' is a noun and a verb. The verb means to try and influence, and the noun is a group of people who do just that. It is also the entry into a hotel, where you book your room, or like an ante room or a gallery. a. The environmentalists are lobbying for forest preservation. b. The turkey protection lobby is asking for more rights for turkeys. You are all invited to join my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish. Also, if you need instant downloads, you can purchase my app from iTunes called A Cup Of English. Send me any questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com and I promise to get back to you. Tweet //…

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Lilly.

2013-01-15
Length: 11s

We have a new addition to our house. It's a furry, playful little thing that, at the moment, is fast asleep(1). Lilly is her name, but I'm not sure if it suits(2) her. Most of the time 'mini monster' would suit her, as she hides around the corners, waiting for us, and then jumps out and attacks our ankles. Thankfully, she doesn't use her claws very much, and she's not big enough to do any damage, though she seems to think that(3) she's as big as the local mountain lions. We bought her a few weeks ago from the humane society, or the pound(4). She was, what they call, a throw-away(5)cat. They have so many of them in the pound; they're often not wanted, and so they are very cheap. When Lilly's not dashing(6) around, or attacking us, she naps. Well, of course she naps, she's a kitten. And then, everybody fights over her. We all want her to be on our laps(7) because she is so cute and warm and cozy. It's surprising what a comforting influence a cat can be. Mind you, our dogs would disagree. They are outside dogs, and only rarely(8) come in the house. Lilly has learned that a window can be the ultimate weapon. She stands at our glass door and stares, while on the other side, both dogs are going bananas, barking and jumping up and down, trying to get her. "Oh, what a fuss," she seems to think, as she licks her paw, gives them one last look, and climbs onto my lap. 1. 'Fast asleep' means to be deeply asleep. 'Fast' is an old English word meaning 'thoroughly', 'quickly', or 'deeply'. We often use 'fast' in this way when talking about something being thoroughly stuck (with glue). a. The two pieces of wood are stuck fast and can't be separated. b. When he is fast asleep, it's very difficult to wake him up. 2. 'To suit' means to go well with, to look good on, to complement, to seem natural with. a. The landscaping really suits the house. b. Red suits you; you look good in it. 3. '...seems to think that...' is a normal part of English speech, and is good to practice. It can be said as an observation, or it can be used humorously or ironically. a. He seems to think that women don't have opinions of their own. b. The Chancellor seems to think that the public loves to pay taxes. 4. 'The pound' is a nickname for the humane society, where unwanted animals are cared for and held up for adoption. It is obviously written and pronounced the same way as the currency and weight 'pound'. a. Our pets came from the pound; they had been found on the road, and taken there for safety. b. Some teenagers volunteer at the pound. They walk the dogs and play with the cats. 5. 'Throw-away' is a made up compound. It is self-explanatory, and used infront of items that are for sale. a. I bought a throw-away camera for our vacation. When the film was used and developed, I threw it away. b. Those are throw-away knives and forks; you can only wash and reuse them a few times, they they need to be thrown away. 6. 'To dash' is similar to 'to dart' which means to move very quickly and suddenly. 'Dashing' is also used as 'handsome'. a. The cat dashes here and there around the house; you never know when she will do it. b. He looks very dashing in that long, black coat. 7. 'Lap' is the top of your leg, between your knee and your hip. It is where a child or animal will sit, if they sit on you. In fact, we never say, "Come and sit on my leg"; we use the word 'lap'. The same word is also used in sports: a lap of a swimming pool (is one length), and a lap when running (is one circuit). a. The cat sat on my lap and fell fast asleep. b. We swam ten laps and then had a break. 8. 'Rarely' means not often. It is mainly used just before the verb. a. We rarely go to the theatre, but I do love to go there. b. There are coyotes in town, but you rarely see them because they are so well disguised. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish, and send me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com. If you do, I promise to get back to you. Remember, also my app is available in iTunes under A Cup Of English. Tweet //…

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Analysis time, - Quiet Books.

2013-01-09
Length: 10s

This following paragraph was taken from a home magazine that focuses on storage and using spaces well in the home. It might seem, in this age of electronic books and computer tablets, that a library is an outdated (1)room to include in a home. But, it could be argued(2), that it is because we have so much noise and technology in our lives that we need a quiet room of books. Libraries are places of peace. When we are in them we need to whisper (3)and walk quietly. Sometimes they are the perfect place to go to when we want to be alone, or perhaps when we need time to think. In such moments(4), books are the perfect companions - not a TV and certainly not a computer. Books are silent and respectful(5) and their weight and even their smell can be comforting. Even though we are all attached to(6) e-books, most of us still have many real books in different parts of the house. Why not put them all in one place, and make that place special, cozy, and quiet. It would be a place to enjoy a new book, or an old favorite.  1. 'Outdated' is a funny combination of two words which together mean 'old fashioned' or 'no longer fashionable'. a. Our house is so outdated; it's not historic, nor is it modern. It's just out of fashion. b. Some people thinkt that curtains are outdated, but I think they are an important part of decor. 2. 'It could be argued' is like saying 'you could say' or 'the point could be made that...' a. He is the laziest music student, but one could argue that he's the most talented. b. The building is impressive, you could say that it is over-the-top. 3. 'To whisper' is one of my favorite verbs; it just means to talk very, very quietly. I like it because it sounds like its meaning. a. Grandma is asleep; you should whisper. b. The library rule is that everyone whispers. 4. 'In such moments' is like saying 'at times like these', or 'on these occasions'. a. National holidays can bring us together. On these occasions we can enjoy being with family and friends. b. Being stuck in an airport is no fun. At times like these it's really handy to have an iPhone. 5. 'Respectful' has a meaning that is easy to imagine: full of respect. It only has one meaning. a. He is very respectful; he always listens carefully to whatever anyone says. b. I wish they would be more respectful in this public area. 6. 'To be attached to' is an interesting expression which means that a person likes something very much. You can visualize the meaning of being connected to the thing you like. a. I know my car is really old, but I'm very attached to it. b. My neighbor is so attached to her five cats that she takes them everywhere, even to her doctor's apppointments! Join me on my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish; you are all welcome. Feel free to email me your questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com and I promise to send you an email. Tweet //…

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Start the year with light.

2013-01-06
Length: 11s

One of the great  consolations(1) of the end of the year is a New Year's Eve party. We don't always go to a party on New Year's Eve. Sometimes we prefer to stay at home, by the fire, with good food and drink, family and maybe a few friends, and welcome the new year quietly. This December 31st, however, was different. We were invited to two parties, and we decided to go to both of them. The first was  quiet and relaxed. A friend of mine, Barbara, was hosting(2) it, and she had decided that it should only be two hours long. It went from five o'clock until seven(3). She has two small children and wanted to be able to put them in bed by eight o'clock, which I understand. So, it was an unusual party, short and sweet(4). "The party will finish when it's New Year's in Sao Paolo" she joked. The next party was quite different. There were lots of people, lots of noise, food, music, drink, and games. This felt like a celebration. I bumped(5) into a few people I knew, and we caught up with eachother. Then the hostess of the party announced that we all had to go outside. There was a large wooden fire burning in a round fire pit; people were standing around it keeping warm. Large, colored paper rectangles were handed out to groups of three or four people. They gently opened them, and I could see that they were tissue paper (6)bags. But they weren't just bags. These groups of people then held them upside down and lit a pad(7) of paper that was attached to a small wire frame. The paper had some kind of flamable fluid in it that burned well, and filled the paper bags, or lanterns with hot air. After a few minutes each lantern lifted slowly into the air and we all cheered and clapped. It was a beautiful sight. About seventeen of them, of different colors, floated up into the night's sky. We were all moved by the scene; it seemed to symbolize part of us leaving, and new hopes rising, a silent prayer for the New Year. 1. 'Consolation' is a noun that means a 'benefit' or 'positive element that makes up for negative ones'. a. He didn't win; he was second in the race. However, he got $2000 which was a great consolation. b. We missed our plane, and got home late. Our only consolation was that there was no traffic. 2. 'To host' means to organise an event, and to be in charge of the location. a. Toyota will be hosting an international party celebrating clean energy cars. b. I'm going to host a surprise party for my best friend. 3. Often with expressions of time, we miss out the word 'o'clock'. a. The movie starts at five thirty and finishes at seven. b. We'll leave at six o'clock, so we should arrive at their place by eight. 4. 'Short and sweet' could be a literal description, but it is often used figuratively as 'conveniently brief and to the point'. a. My doctor's appointment was short and sweet. She answered all my questions and explained everything without going on and on. b. "Did you get your wall painted?"          "Yes, thanks. The project was short and sweet." 5. 'To bump into someone' can mean the literal act of knocking into someone, but it often means to meet someone by chance. a.  I was coming out of Safeway, and I bumped into my neighbor. b. You'll never guess who I bumped into...my ex-husband. 6. 'Tissue paper' is a very fine, very breakable paper that is often used to fill up a gift bag. a. Fill the bag with tissue paper so the present inside doesn't move around. b. You can use tissue paper for many craft projects. 7. The word 'pad' has several meanings. 'A pad of paper' is like a small book of paper, pad being like a block. 'Pad' is also slang for a house/home. And 'cotton pads' are often used to cover injuries that have bled. a. I need to buy each of my children 6 pads of writing paper for school. b. Hey, this is a nice pad. How long have you lived here? c. In the hospital they put cotton pads on his injuries and held them in place with bandages. Remember to join me on Facebook at Anna fromacupofenglish; you are all welcome! Also you can email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com if you have questions or comments. Tweet //…

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Spin the wheel.

2012-12-13
Length: 13s

Now that the Christmas vacation is coming up, we will probably play some board(1) games in the evenings. We have so many of them! There is a big collection of them, stuffed(2) into a closet in the lounge. Monopoly, Axis and Allies, and Scrabble are three of the more well known ones. My favorite is probably Monopoly; I love games that lead you along a path to a destination, with question cards, and unexpected(3) opportunities or problems along the way. I was actually playing a similar game this morning on the computer, except it wasn't(4) about buying streets or buildings. It was an information game created by a company that deals with retirement. I'm not close to retiring, in fact, I'm probably still about twenty years away from it(5). But the reason I was playing the game, was to try a win the 1st place prize of $50,000. I probably don't stand a chance of(6) winning, but you know, the game turned out to be very interesting. You had to spin a wheel, walk up to 5 steps along the path, and then answer questions, or read and watch informational video clips. The whole point is to get educated about retirement, health, finances, and volunteering. It was an interesting, casual(7) way to learn a lot about retiring. What I realized is that I don't know very much about retiring. One of the aims of this organization is to get retired people involved in the community, to keep them socially healthy. The game, with its spinner and pathway, is a great teaching tool for any subject. 1. A 'board game' is a game played on a board (ha! ha!). And by a 'board' I mean either a piece of strong cardboard with a picture on it which can be square or rectangular, or it can be wooden. The board serves as a table on which the other pieces are put. A board can also be a useful table-like structure, like an ironing board or a bread board. The word sounds exactly like 'bored' which has different meanings. It can mean that you are not entertained at all, or that you have drilled a hole. Let's look at some examples: a. Where is the game board for Monopoly? I have the pieces and the houses but not the board. b. I need to buy a new ironing board, because mine is broken. c. I'm so bored; I don't know what to do. d. The insects bored holes in the wooden door, so it had to be replaced. 2. 'To stuff' is a verb that I've covered before in a previous podcast, but it is very common, especially in England. It basically means to fill until very full. It can be used figuratively, and is also a noun. It also can be used in an insult, or a way of dismissing something. a. He built the chair, and then stuffed the seat cushion so it was very soft and comfortable. b. We ate too much and felt completely stuffed. c. My attic is full of stuff! d. I was so angry that I told him to get stuffed! e. We can't go into work because the office is flooded. Stuff it! (forget it!) 3. 'Unexpected opportunities' is quite a mouthful; however, it's a great phrase, and will impress people if you use it correctly, so let's practice the pronunciation. Un-ex-pected  opp-or-tun-ities       un-ex-pected  opp-or-tun-ities    un-ex-pected  opp-or-tun-ities 4. The use of 'except' is a tool that is similar to saying 'similar but different'. A sentence is written or said, but then 'except' is put in half way, and then a contradiction is added. a. I bought a coat just like yours, except it was red. b. We also went to Mexico for a vacation, except we went in the winter not in the summer. c. They'll come to visit again, except next time, they'll stay longer. 5. To be 'away from' in time means that you are not yet ready for something chronologically or in some other way. a. He's a few years away from retiring, but he's thinking about it. b. They are dating, but she is a long way away from getting married (marriage).  c. He's just started High School, so he's four years away from graduating. 6. 'To stand a chance' means to have a chance; both are interchangeable. a. They stand a good chance of winning the race.   They have a good chance of winning the race. b. That boxer doesn't stand a chance of winning.     That boxer doesn't have a chance of winning. 7. 'Casual' is relaxed, comfortable, and not formal. a. It's just a casual dinner party, nothing formal. b. When we go for walks we wear just casual clothes. Tweet //…

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Hunger in the U.S.

2012-12-02
Length: 15s

In a recent interview with Howard G. Buffet, farmer, philanthropist, and son of billionaire Warren Buffet, he commented on the relatively unknown problem of hunger in the U.S. Studies show that one in five children don't always know where their next meal will come from.  Interviewer:You've supported global(1) hunger relief for years; what made you turn your attention(2) to America? Howard Buffet :Before, I never understood how difficult things were in this country, and how they were getting worse. In America, hunger is hidden; people are ashamed of it.The number of people who are living on the edge(3) has exploded. If you're choosing between medicine and food, or paying the electric bill and food, those are tough(4) choices, and they happen everyday. But there's no reason why we can't put hunger out of business(5) in this country. Farmers produce more food today than we did five years ago. People are hungry not because there aren't enough farmers or food, but because they can't afford it(6). There's also an estimated $3 billion worth of food(7) wasted because farmers either can't get the labor to harvest it or it doesn't look perfect enough for the store shelves(8). There are some great programs that collect produce that isn't acceptable for the supermarket and get it into the food banks. That's next on my list - making that system work better(9). 1. 'Global' is self explanatory. The word 'world' can also be substituted. a. The global economy is in recession. b. That piece of news will go global. *Here we wouldn't substitute with 'world'. c. Global wheat prices will go up because of droughts. 2. 'To turn one's attention to...' is to focus on. You can imagine someone turning his head to look at something. a. He finished fixing the broken pipe, then turned his attention to mopping the floor. b. When I finish my essay, I will turn my attention to my art project. 3. 'To be on the edge' or 'to live on the edge' can mean a couple of things. The first could mean that you are at risk (in danger, eg. in poverty, likely to get ill). It can also mean that you are very stressed or close to having mental health problems. The second phrase implies that you either enjoy living a risky life, or that you are poor. a. I sky dive in the morning, and cave dive in the afternoon; I like living on the edge. b. That neighborhood lives on the edge (of society); most of the residents are hungry. c. If he gets any more pressure from work, I'm afraid it'll push him to the edge. 4. 'Tough' is one of those miserable spellings in English that I'm afraid you just have to memorize. It's actual meaning is strong, durable, or hard to chew, but it's used often as the word 'difficult'. a. That apple pie was as tough as an old boot! b. Having a knee operation was a tough decision to make; but I can now walk without pain. c. That truck is so tough; it can handle heavy loads and bad weather conditions. 5. 'To put something out of business' can be used figuratively meaning to stop something. a. Good education will put ignorance out of business. b. That chain store put the smaller shops out of business. 6. The format of this sentence is important to understand and use: '.....not because, .......but because....'. This is good practice. a. The students do well in his class not because he's friendly, but because he explains things well. b. He should be respected not because he's rich, but because he is generous. c. The film was a success not because it was good, but because it was popular. 7. '....worth of ....'  a. There are 5 million pounds worth of gold coins in the chest. b. There are $150 worth of lottery tickets in her bag. c. There were $10,000,000 worth of investments in the project. 8. 'Store shelves' here means the shelves that are in the shops and supermarkets. Remember 'shelves' is the plural of 'shelf'. Words with similar singulars and plurals are: Self, selves; elf, elves; half, halves;wife, wives. 9. More examples of this sentence are: a. That's next on my list, - getting (to get) into shape. b. That's what we need to do next, - employ more staff for each store. c. That's his plan, - going (to go) to Germany and finding (to find) a job.  You're all welcome to join me on my FACEBOOK page called Anna Fromacupofenglish. My app is available for you in iTunes, and you can send any questions or comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com  or acupofenglish@live.com. Tweet //…

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A No-Joke Fruit Cake.

2012-11-28
Length: 14s

Recently, when I went back to England, I indulged in(1) something that I don't often get to indulge in; fruit cake. It might not seem very important, in fact, it might seem like a joke, depending on where you come from. Here in the U.S, for some reason, fruit cake is a joke. People joke about receiving a fruit cake at Christmas, and then trying to find a secret way of disposing of (2) it: put it in someone's mailbox, disguise it as a pet, or leave it in a basket outside a hospital......I've even heard of a book called 'One hundred and one ways to get rid of(3) a fruit cake.' Well, this is all a new experience for me. I love fruit cake. But, then again, there's fruit cake and there's fruit cake(4). Maybe the problem is that people here have never had a decent one. In England fruit cake is on the essential list when it comes to(5) baked goods. The recipe originates in Roman times, and was changed a little in the Middle Ages. Traditionally, it is made with wheat, and loaded with(6) dried fruit, nuts, and brandy. It's just the thing(7), after a long walk, with a slice of quality cheese and a cup of tea. And that is how I ate it in Yorkshire with my sister. We had been for a long walk through a forest and fields, to a panoramic (8)viewpoint. Then we walked back to a cafe that is actually a converted farmhouse. It was a warm, rock building, with wooden tables, views of the fields, and the smells of a bakery.  1. 'To indulge in' often means to eat or drink something that is quite special, though it can also be used as 'to experience' with some non-eating activities. You can miss out the word 'in' if the object is not mentioned. 'To indulge oneself' is used as 'to treat oneself'. a. We indulged in the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had. b. They over-indulged at the New Year's party, and felt ill the next day. c. I indulged myself in the spa with a manicure, pedicure, and a facial. 2. 'To dispose of' is the same as 'to throw away' or 'to get rid of'. a. Dispose of old batteries responsibly: take them to a recycling center. b. He disposed of the evidence; he threw it in the sea. c. The waste disposal is in the sink (machine that liquefies food waste). 3. 'To get rid of' is an English expression that is very common: a. Could you just get rid of that old pair of shoes? b. What did you do with the car?   Answer: I got rid of it. c. What should we do with the corrupt politicians?    Answer: Get rid of them! 4. 'There's fruit cake and there's fruit cake.' Why did I make this repetition? What does it mean? It means that there is good fruit cake, or real fruit cake, and there is also bad, or not real fruit cake. You can use this repetition about anything. Sometimes the word 'then' is used in the middle of the comparison to emphasize the contrast in quality. If you really want to contrast one with the other, you can also add an adjective in front of the second object. a. My mother doesn't like hamburgers. But, you know, there are hamburgers and (then) there are hamburgers. b. That shop says that it sells antiques. Well, there are antiques and then there are antiques. c. There are tires and then there are quality tires. 5. 'When it comes to...' is similar in sense to 'on the subject of' or 'while we're talking about...' a. It's always best to double check your plans when it comes to traveling. b. When it comes to baked goods, we should always use quality ingredients. c. When it comes to the house, I think we spent too much money.  6. 'To be loaded with' or 'to load with' is, again, a very English sounding, common expression that can be used for more or less anything. a. They loaded my plate with chips; there were far too many. b. His car is loaded with all kinds of junk. c. This cereal is loaded with iron. 7. 'It's just the thing' is an odd expression that means 'it's the perfect thing'. a. Ah! A hot bath is just the thing when you're cold. b. Some discipline is just the thing for lazy people. c. My muscles ached after work, so I took an aspirin, and it was just the thing. 8. 'Panoramic' is a difficult word to say, so let's practice it. a. Pan -o-ramic, pan-o-ramic, pan-o-ramic. b.  That photo is panoramic; you can see the whole view. c. My camera has a panoramic setting. Remember you can join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish. If you need my app. you can find it in iTunes under A Cup Of English. And feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com.  Tweet //…

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Storm trooper, hands up!

2012-11-20
Length: 14s

When I travel I feel really alive. There is something about getting away from my daily routine that helps me see things from a different perspective. I find it exciting, refreshing, and inspiring(1). Even when I travel to familiar places, such as England, I'm open to learn, and I thoroughly(2) enjoy observing. Another thing that I love about traveling, is the unpredictability(3) of it. Sometimes the unexpected happens. Recently, I went back to England for a couple of weeks to visit my family. While I was there, I visited the historic town of York with my sister. I have been to this rural city many times, but I never get tired of going there. I think, for me, it is just about(4) a perfect place. First of all, it's beautiful. It's cathedral, fourteenth century buildings, and Roman wall, are both perfectly preserved, and fully used(5). It's very clean, very green, and also prosperous. It's a university town, so it has a culture of learning, and it is also very arty. By arty, I mean that there are many places in York where art of all kinds can be experienced. You even find it in the streets. Now, I expected to see(6) buskers on the streets: people playing an instrument, or singing for money. But, as my sister and I walked into the heart of the city, we had a little surprise. Standing at the side of the pavement, dressed completely in white, hard, plastic, and carrying a long, black gun, was a Storm Trooper, a Star Wars Storm Trooper. We were delighted. We had never seen one in person (7) before. He was standing around, displaying his costume for money. I asked if I could take a photo of him, and he suggested that my sister take one of both of us. He handed me the gun, and we posed for a "Hands up!"(8) photo. He told me that he had bought this genuine costume in the '80's for quite a lot of money, and now he was having fun making money by wearing it. Brilliant! It's a good idea. Perhaps our politicians can get out their old costumes, dress up, and make some money to help with the financial crisis. Disney costumes would be the best for them. Anyway, I was thrilled to be with a Storm Trooper,especially considering that I was the one with the gun, and the force. 1. 'Exciting, refreshing, and inspiring'. A list of adjectives like this is a great way to make yourself sound natural when you speak English. It's worth choosing and practicing a few adjectives that you feel comfortable with, so that you can throw them into conversation. Here are a few examples of lists of adjectives: a. The situation was difficult, uncomfortable, and negative. b. My teacher is encouraging, knowledgeable, and positive. c. The project was long, ambitious, and expensive. 2. 'Thoroughly' is a very English sounding word. It means 'fully' or 'totally', but there are specific occasions when we use it. a. We thoroughly enjoyed the play.    (You will hear it most often with the verb 'to enjoy'. It sounds most natural when it is in front of the verb. Note: if you hated the play, you would probably say, "We completely/ absolutely hated the play", you wouldn't use 'thoroughly' with 'hated'. b. Wash the pot thoroughly before using.  (it is often used with 'to wash' in instructions). 3. 'Unpredictability' is a difficult word to say. It's meaning is 'the not knowing, and the changeability' of a situation. Let's practice the pronunciation: Un-pre-dicta-bility 4. 'Just about' is a highly useful phrase used in front of adjectives, 'the' + adjective, and before or after verbs. It's meaning is 'almost completely'. Used by itself (as a response) it means 'more or less'. a. It was just about the worst party I've ever been to. b. She is just about the best singer in the whole competition. c. He ran just about the whole mile. He just about ran the whole mile. d. We painted just about the whole building. We just about painted the whole building. e. Did you understand the lecture?  Answer: Yes, just about / more or less. 5. 'Fully' is another word that means 'completely', and is used after a past participle. a. The hospital has been fully renovated. b. The project is fully funded by donations.  *Note:'fully funded' is one of the more common uses of 'fully'. 6. 'A busker' is a person who entertains on the street by playing an instrument or singing. a. The busker was fully clothed in silver. b. That busker is just about the best that I've ever seen. 7. 'In person' means 'live' or 'in the same place' when referring to an individual. a. I've never seen that singer in person, but apparently she's quite beautiful. b. I've seen pictures of the Queen, but the other day, I saw her in person. 8. "Hands up!" is usually what is said when someone is arrested. Other phrases are "Stick them up!" (meaning your hands, though this phrase is used mainly playing), or "Drop them!" if the person is carrying a gun. a. "Drop them buddy, and hands up!" Remember you are all invited to join my FACEBOOK page called Anna fromacupofenglish. Also, if you have questions or suggestions, feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com and I promise to email you back. If you wish to have instant downloads, you can purchase my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English.  Tweet //…

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Share: Storm trooper, hands up!


A House Of Fright.

2012-11-05
Length: 14s

Halloween is a time of screams and fright, horrible faces and hideous (1)costumes. It's a time when people who love to be scared can fill up on that experience(2). Those of us who don't like witches, skeletons, zombies, and Draculas hope that the day of Halloween passes quickly. Though the roots of this holiday are ancient, it has become a very modern celebration. By this, I mean that each year Halloween is updated. My almost daily(3) trips to Walmart showed me that that is very true. If you want to give your neighborhood a full Halloween night of fright, you have to jump into the world of shopping. It's no longer enough to carve out a pumpkin(4), put a candle in it, and leave it on your front door step. Your house has to undergo(5) a full theatrical production. While most houses in our town had not been decorated, there were some that should have received awards for their effort and creativity. We took our two youngest children out to 'trick or treat', and we knew just where (6)to go to make the occasion memorable. The neighborhood up the road, ironically next to the cemetery, has one particular house that has to be visited. We weren't sure which road the house was on, but as we walked along the dark road, flashes of blue light and sounds of screaming were coming from the next street. When we got there we found a house on a steep hill, fake fog floating all around, robotic spiders and skeletons, and three humans at the top of a very long flight of stairs, but they certainly didn't look human. My children, who are usually very brave, stood still and stared. They didn't want to go up the stairs. “Come on,” I said. “I'll go first.” I took my daughter by the hand, made a joke about the silly dressed up teenagers who were trying to look like zombies, and up we went(7). My son followed right behind me. By the time we got to the house, I was actually a little scared, but I didn't admit it. The zombie teenagers were hideous, and the atmosphere was even worse. Was it worth going through this(8) just to get some candy? Well, we didn't stay to find out. Before long we were back at home, and the kids were counting out their candies. They soon forgot about the house of fright as they made their Halloween harvest disappear. 'Hideous' is another word for ugly or scary. Or more like really ugly or really scary. a. At the Halloween party I couldn't look at him, his mask was so hideous. b. That chair is just hideous, plus it looks terrible with the rest of the furniture. 'To fill up on an experience' means to have a complete experience, or a lot of it. This expression can be used in different ways. a. The night at the opera really filled us up; it was a wonderful experience. b. You should fully experience what it is to be a patient, if you want to be a doctor. 'Almost'. I'm sure that you're very familiar with this word; however, it is used in many different ways in a sentence. In this instance I am using it in front of expressions of time and routine. a. My almost weekly visits to the spa soon stopped my migraines. b. His almost hourly snacking makes him fat. c. Their almost constant complaining drives me nuts! 'It's not enough to …' It is useful to learn how to copy this sentence format. a. It's not enough to appologize; he needs to give back the money he stole. b. It's not enough to talk about the dinner party; we need to plan it and invite people. c. It's not enough to eat right; we have to exercise as well. 'To undergo' is used for surgery, and for building renovation. Sometimes we use 'to go through'. a. Our house will undergo a complete renovation. b. You'll have to undergo some surgery if you want your hip to function. 'Just' in the given sentence 'we knew just where to go' has a special meaning. It's the same as saying 'exactly' or 'precisely'. a. He knew just what to say to make me feel better. b. She knew just what to cook on a cold wintery day. c. I'm sure they'll know just what to do. 'Up we went.' You know in English we usually always use the verb before a word like up. But, if you have already given the context of going up by mentioning stairs, or a mountain, or an elevator (etc), then, a phrase like 'up we went' or 'up we go' can be used as the final mention of the action. a. We will dive down into the cave. Come on, down we go! b. We thought a long time about going into the Halloween house, and finally in we went. c. Your plane will climb to 35,000 ft.. You'll get in your seat, put on your seat belt, and up you'll go. 'To go through something' has 2 meanings. It is the physical act of passing from one place into another. Or it is the same as 'to experience'. a. I can't go through another night of no sleep. b. They went through the forest and out into the field. c. She'll go through another divorce if she's not careful. Please join me on my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome. Also, feel free to email me questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com and I promise to email you back. Tweet //…

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Forest Chocolate.

2012-10-21
Length: 15s

My sons love anything to do with survival. I have often seen them playing in the garden, pretending(1) to be lost in a forest. They act out a story(2) of being three brothers, helping eachother to survive by building a  cabin, finding water, catching fish, and making tools. Usually, in my garden, they only get as far as(3) digging a big hole in my vegetable area, and propping up(4) odd bits of(5) wood in it for the cabin walls. By the time they do that(6), they're hungry, so they come into the house to eat, and forget about any more surviving. Their half-made cabin usually falls over, and I clean up the mess. But, I understand their excitement about survival. It would be a challenge, and adventure. It would even be a little scary, but they would have eachother. It would be very different to their real lives. Thankfully, we have a big back garden. It is mainly grass, so the kids can run around and play. However, we do have a fire pit. It's a circular area that my husband built: he brought in(7) extra earth and rocks to make a slight hill. Then he planted all sorts of trees and bushes on the hill. Right inside, at ground level(8), is a flat, grassy area with rock walls all around, and a rock fire pit right in the center. Now that the plants and trees have really grown, it is like a mini forest. Robert was in a survival mood(9) the other day, and persuaded me to help him make a little fire and heat up some hot chocolate. He chose not to(10) use the fire pit, but to make his own very small fire on the hill. We found small, dry twigs, moss, and pine cones for the fire, and we put rocks all around in a circle. Robert was the chef. He mixed the water and hot chocolate powder, and tasted it a few times until it was sweet enough and hot enough. And, you know, it was an adventure. We were out in our mini forest, surrounded by trees, surviving for just a few minutes. 1. 'To pretend' is a verb which means 'to act as if'. Children do it all the time when they play, and sometimes adults do too. a. He pretended to be Darth Vader, and his sister pretended to be Luke Skywalker. b. She'll make a great actor one day; she's very good at pretending. 2. 'To act out' is the verb used 'to perform'. It is followed by the noun, or the scene or play that is performed. It has a second meaning as well. It can mean to behave disruptively. This second sense can be expressed as 'to act out' or 'to act up'. a. The students acted out the play they had written; it was very good. b. The class was really acting out/up; they weren't listening, and they were hard to control. 3. 'To get as far as' means 'to accomplish' or 'to achieve' but not enough, or not totally. It has a sense of measuring how much was done, but knowing that it the job wasn't completed. It is often preceded by 'only'. a. He wrote for two hours, but only got as far as the middle of his essay. b. I bought the book that you recommended, but I have only got as far as page 28. c. We visited the art gallery, but we only saw as far as the second floor. 4. ' To prop up' is like saying 'to lean something up'. The item that is propped is not securely fixed. a. The tree branches were propped up with wooden poles because they were so heavy with fruit. b. I don't have time to fix the table legs; I'll prop it up now, and fix it tomorrow. 5. 'Odd bits of' is similar to the expression 'bits and pieces'. a. My daughter found odd bits of string, and made a pretty collage. b. My dad made a path of odd bits of broken pots. 6. 'By the time....' is similar in meaning to 'when' but it indicates that time has been spent, or has gone by before something has been achieved. It can be used with any tense. a. By the time we arrived, the party had finished. b. By the time you hurry up, you will have missed the train. c. You need to stop talking because by the time you eat your soup, it will be cold! 7. When there is building or construction of some kind going on, often we use the phrase 'to bring in' when talking about equipment or machinery; we don't just say 'to bring' or 'brought'. a. The workmen brought in a bulldozer to make the land flat. Later they brought in a crane to put the roof on the house. b. To build our fire pit, we brought in lots of rock and soil. 8. 'Ground level' is easy to understand; it's the level of the land.  a. The restaurant is at ground level, near the reception area. b. Let's park the car at ground level, and then take the elevator to the shopping area. 9. 'To be in a .... mood' is a useful phrase. Notice that an adjective or a noun can go before 'mood'. a. I'm in a coffee mood; I haven't had a good coffee for ages. b. They're in a party mood; they've finished their studies, and they want to celebrate. c. He's in a cozy mood; it's snowing outside, and he wants to stay by the fire and read. 10. 'He chose not to use the fire pit' has an important and flexible format. You could  say 'He chose to not use the fire pit'. The sentences are interchangeable. Both are more specific than 'He didn't choose to use the fire pit.' They are deliberately rejecting the fire pit. The choice is 'to not use the fire pit'. a. I chose to not take my iPhone; I didn't want to lose it.  b. She chose not to wear her engagement ring; she didn't want anyone to know about it. c. They chose not to drive; flying would be safer. d. We chose to not stay in that hotel because of its bad reviews. Remember you can email me questions and comments at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com and I promise to email you back. Also, check out my app in iTunes called A Cup Of English. And all of you are invited to join my FACEBOOK page Anna Fromacupofenglish.   Tweet //…

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Share: Forest Chocolate.


A good buy.

2012-10-16
Length: 13s

I have been trying to think of ways to save time recently. I even read a book once on how to save time, but that took too long. I really admire people who are efficient, can plan well, and can get lots of things done. It takes a lot of thought. My children and my husband have been telling me to get a smart phone for a long time. I don't know why, but for some reason I thought that more technology in my life would take up(1) more time. It wasn't until last Saturday that I realized that my family was right(2). It was the day that we had four baseball games. If you're not familiar with baseball, you might not understand how time consuming(3)it is. The games are two hours long, and the players have to warm up before the game for about forty five minutes. So, if you're any good at mathematics, you can calculate that we were in the park all day. I should have been prepared with books, and perhaps my iPod, but I wasn't. And in between games(4), I had to drive home to check on everyone else to make sure that my other kids were okay with their babysitter. So, I was flying around all day, but standing around (5)at the park. What could I do with my time there? If I had had a smart phone, I could have answered emails(6), sent emails, written a bit of a podcast, or even skyped with my sister. It was half way through the third game that I made the decision. I had to stop being a dinosaur. I needed to update my phone, and update myself. Wow! What a revelation! What a great step forward for mankind. Well, a couple of days later, I found myself in a very busy Verizon store. It was full of customers who were being served by very smart looking Verizon employees. They each had an iPad, and would quickly take the customers details, and just as quickly, take their credit cards. It was so efficient that it was almost scary. And before I knew it(7), I was getting in my car with my brand new iPhone. So, yesterday, while I was waiting at my daughter's tennis lesson, I read my emails. Great! Then I tried to write a podcast. That is still a bit difficult. My fingers are not used to the small keypad(8). They seem to touch the screen like heavy elephants, and I misspell words, or accidentally change programs from one second to the next. I'm sure I'll get used to it. I look forward to the day when I upload a podcast, and at the bottom it says 'sent from my iPhone'. 1. 'To take up' is used when referring to time or space. a. That sofa takes up too much space; there's no room for anything else! b. My dog takes up so much of my time! He demands that I play with him every five minutes! c. Our Friday office meetings take up too much time. 2. This sentence format is worth practicing. a. It wasn't until I arrived at work, that I remembered (that) I had left my front door open. b. It wasn't until sixth grade that we started to learn Spanish. c. It wasn't until two months later that he apologized. 3. 'Time consuming' literally means 'eating time'. It is used as an adjective. a. Gardening can be very time consuming, though it is also very beneficial. b. Setting up parental controls on computers is very time consuming. 4. 'In between' is an efficient use of words. Instead of saying, for example, 'After the first practice, and before the second practice....' we just use 'In between practices'. a. In between lectures, the students have a coffee. b. In between meetings, I took a nap. 5. 'Around' is one of those multi-purpose words in English that you just have to get used to. 'To stand' is just the physical act of standing; it could be brief, or go on for a long time. It also seems deliberate. BUT, if you say 'to stand around', it means that you don't have anything else to do, or that you don't know what else to do. a. We were standing around waiting for the game to begin; it was so boring. b. She just sits around all day. I wish she would find something to do. c. He's always racing around. Is he really that busy, or is he hyper? 6. This type of sentence with the past subjunctive is not that difficult; we basically use the pluperfect tense. Let's practice: a. If they had needed money, I would have given it to them. b. If he had studied every night, he would have got a better grade. c. If we had known you were in town, we would have visited you. 7. 'Before ... knew it' is a very native sounding phrase, also used in the present (for a  future sense). a.  Before you know it, you will arrive. b. Before they know it,  they'll be married. c. Before he knew it, he had graduated. d. Before we knew it, a storm had come, and we were lost at sea. 8. 'A keypad' is the part of a computer or device where you type. It is also numerical. a. One of the letters is missing from my keypad. b. The door lock has a keypad. You have to put in the correct code to open the door. Remember to join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish ; you're all welcome to join.  Also, if you have any questions or comments, email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com  and I promise to email you back. Tweet //…

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Share: A good buy.


Kendama fever.

2012-10-10
Length: 14s

"Practice makes perfect" is a saying that I've heard ever since (1)I was a little girl. To become good at something, you must practice.  We all know that. Those of us who are naturally disciplined are quite happy with that saying. Those of us who are not find it annoying. Academics, hobbies, sports, and languages all require loads of (2)practice. Tonnes of practice(3). Here, a recent fashion has appeared that needs a lot of practice. It is the hobby of playing with a Kendama. A Kendama is a Japanese, wooden toy that has three cups of different sizes, a spike, and a ball attached by a string. Children of all ages are begging(4) their parents to buy them. They play with them individually or in groups before and after school. And of course, they compete. The idea, is to flip (5)the ball up so it can land in one of the cups, on the spike, or even balance between the spike and a cup. There are, apparently, 101 tricks that you can master with practice. It's refreshing (6)to see children using a wooden toy, for a change. I'm so used (7)to seeing them with digital, plastic toys that have screens and internet connections, that it is quite surprising to see them play with something that is non electronic, and quite basic. All the creativity comes from themselves, not the toy. We have two, so far, in our house. "Mum, I know a kid who has 32 of them," said my son Cass, as he flipped up the ball of his Kendama with skill. "Why on earth does he want so many?" I asked. The conclusion was that this boy likes collecting, and has too much money. So, the competitions have started at my house. I haven't got involved(8) yet, and I'm not sure if I will, because my children are already way ahead (9)of me. There are formal competitions in Japan, where the skill level is extremely high. I'm expecting to see a lot of practicing here, and I'm quite happy for the kids to do so, as long as it's away from the television and other breakable(10) objects. So, for a while, instead of watching something on a screen, we can have live entertainment in our living room, and see who is the latest Kendama king or queen. 1. 'Ever since' is used on a daily basis in many situations in English. a. Ever since he crashed the car, he hasn't wanted to drive. b. He got promoted, and ever since (then) hasn't spoken to us. c. Ever since he had the operation, he has had more energy and has been able to work. 2. 'Loads of...' is an informal way of saying 'lots of'. a. There were loads of people at the school meeting. b. I couldn't believe how much spaghetti she ate, loads of the stuff! c. You'll need loads of practice to be able to play that piece of music. 3. 'Tonnes of..' is more or less the same as 'loads of', but with a sense of even more. a. Did you say that he owns four hotels? Well, he must have tonnes of money! b. I have tonnes of bills to pay today. 4. 'To beg' is often used figuratively instead of 'to ask for' a. My daughter begged me to buy her a Hello Kitty jacket, even though she already has one. b. I hope I get a raise, but I'm not going to beg for one. 5. 'To flip' describes how, with your wrist, or with your fingers, you can throw something up into the air quickly. a. He read the note and then flipped it to me. b. I'll flip a coin. If it lands on 'heads' I win; if it lands on 'tails' you win. 6. 'Refreshing' can be used to describe a cool drink or cool food, or it can be used to mean 'a nice change'. a. Cold watermelon is so refreshing on a hot day! b. His speech was refreshing; it wasn't the usual boring nonsense. 7. 'To be used to ...' is a daily expression that is worth learning. When you are familiar with something, or have had a habit of doing something, then you are 'used to it'. a. She was used to getting up very early to milk the goats. b. I have to give myself insulin injections, but I'm used to it. c. We are used to the noise of the construction work; even my baby can sleep through it. 8. 'To get involved' means to take part, to become informed, or to become mixed up in something unpleasant/ dangerous. It can also mean to have a romantic relationship with someone. a. I became involved in the movement for the rights of girls to be educated. b. Don't get involved in their argument! They'll upset you! c. She became involved with the main actor, but their relationship didn't last long. 9. 'To be way ahead of...' is an American phrase that is also used in England. It means to know more, or to have gained more skill than someone else. a. He's way ahead of me when it comes to computers. He's had tonnes of practice, and I've had very little. b. That company is way ahead of its competitors. c. I'm way ahead of the class because I have already read the book. 10. 'Breakable' is easily understood. It refers to an object that can break. a. All of those antiques are breakable; please don't let your dog in there! b. The package said breakable, so the mail man carried it carefully. Remember you can always join me on my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish    or email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com and I will email you back. My app is available in iTunes! Tweet //…

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Share: Kendama fever.


How it all started.

2012-10-04
Length: 12s

It's time you had an update(1) on the fire situation here in Wenatchee, and the rest of Washington State. Most of the month, we have had smoke in the valley. We have been told that the air quality is hazardous(2). The local shops have been selling face masks for people who need to be outdoors. I actually bought a box of them the other day, and used one for the first time in my life. The smoke was really thick that particular day, and I found myself holding my breath as I went from the car into shops and out again. "This is ridiculous!" I thought to myself. "I have a box of brand new breathing filters at home; I should be wearing one!" We have got used to the situation now. It has become normal to see people walking around with filters or face masks on. It's also normal to receive emails each day of activities being canceled. It's funny how you quickly get used to a change in lifestyle when you have no choice. And this situation, like a natural disaster, has been ruling our lives. It all started with a lightening storm. I have been in storms before, but never like that one. That day, I had actually been thinking that my life needed a bit more excitement; I was bored and uninspired. By the early evening, however, I was riding on the back of my husband's new motorbike, going up through the wheat fields, and at the same time, watching the drama of a violent lightening storm. The valley was all in shadow, and fork lightening was coming down out of thick clouds. The bolts(3) were striking all over the place, and in the wheat fields as well. I suddenly realized that my life was far too exciting, almost scary. The lightening was getting closer and closer, and I wanted to go home. Most of the fires near us have been put out, but the wind will often blow the smoke from distant fires into the valley. So we have to keep our face masks at the ready(4), and be flexible with our schedules. The 2 or 3 clear days that we have had, have been glorious. Everybody has poured out of(5) their houses into the parks for walks. The noise of children at outdoor recess has been in the air. And people like me have charged into the garden to dig, and plant, and enjoy every second of clean air. For a while, we were let out (6)of prison. If we had rain, it would be over by now. Those of you from dry climates probably understand what I'm saying. When the fires are out, there will be a big celebration, but until then, I will have a face mask in my handbag, just in case(7). 1. 'An update' is a very common word. We see it used when talking about computer programs, and also news. a. Your photo editing program has been updated, but your anti-virus program still needs to be updated. b. The following is an update on the situation in Syria. 2. 'Hazardous' means the same as dangerous, but it is usually associated with chemicals, gases, or building materials. 'Dangerous' can be used more broadly. a. Old batteries are hazardous; they must be recycled properly. b. The air quality is hazardous; the gases and poisons in the air can affect our health. 3. 'A bolt' is a metal lock that slides into place. 'To bolt down/in' is used when meaning to lock something into place with metal or chains. However, we use the word bolt with lightening, especially if it strikes the ground. a. The bolt on the door will keep the wild animals out. b. The bolt of lightening struck the tree, and split it in two. 4. 'At the ready' is a military expression. It means to keep something close by, so it can be quickly picked up and used. In the military this term would be used with weapons, but we use it also for everyday objects. A more everyday and less serious expression to use would be 'handy'. a. Keep your medicine at the ready /handy in case your symptoms come back. b. The doctor keeps his beeper at the ready / handy in case he gets called to the hospital. 5. 'To pour/to pour into/out of' is used figuratively to describe how living and non-living things move. a. The sheep poured out of the field as the dogs chased them. b. The smoke poured out of the building and covered the surrounding parking lot. 6. 'To be let out' is a phrase that is easy to understand, but again, it is used figuratively a lot. It means 'to be allowed to exit'. a. When the neighbor's dog had gone, we let the cat out. b. They let the children out early to play because they had finished their work. 7. We have already seen a couple of examples of 'just in case', but because it is such a common expression, let's see some more. a. Just in case the baby gets hungry in the night, I've left a bottle of milk in the fridge. b. I'll check the route on the GPS just in case we get lost. c. They checked in early at the airport just in case. They wanted to avoid large crowds. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish; you're all welcome.  And, if you have comments or questions, please email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com  or acupofenglish@live.com   Tweet //…

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Share: How it all started.


Fashion dictates.

2012-09-18
Length: 17s

"Mum, please don't buy me any clothes. I just want to go shopping for clothes with Dad." This request was made by my almost thirteen year old, and echoed(1) by my fourteen year old. It was totally unexpected. In fact, I have never heard anything like that before(2). I've shopped for my children's clothes all of their lives, and now, suddenly, I've been told not to. Did their request hurt my feelings? Not really. I understand that my two oldest are adolescents; they have what we call a 'mental fog'(3) of hormones and changing feelings. I was the same. Perhaps they no longer like my style. Perhaps the brand names I buy are just not cool. Or perhaps they know something that I don't know about fashion. I have never really followed fashion; I just buy what I like. But fashion, for my boys, has suddenly become quite important. The reason they want to shop with their dad, is that he doesn't care about bargains, sales, or saving money. I, on the other hand, am always looking for a bargain. I shop around(4). My husband will find the nicest shop, and buy whatever(5) the boys want. That's why they now prefer dad over mum, the traitors. So, I decided to show my kids that I'm not out of touch(6), I can be fashionable, and perhaps even cool. The latest thing now, apparently, in middle school are Elites. They are a super duper(7), special, wonderful, cool-to-the-extreme(8) type of sock. Everybody wears them, well, everybody who is anybody(9) wears them. If you want to be seen as normal you have to have Elites, otherwise your life is meaningless. So, I followed the dictates of fashion, and spent far too much money on socks. And, you know, I think there is something special about them, some kind of magical power. As soon as my boys put them on, they seemed happier, more confident, and definitely cooler. They walked into school like two zebras joining the herd(10); they belonged. 1. 'Echo' can be used figuratively when someone's words agree or reflect someone else's. a. My sister's words were echoed by her husband: I should go to the doctor immediately. b. My grandmother's voice echoed in my daughter's laughter. 2. 'I have never heard anything like that before' is a useful sentence to practice with different verbs: a. I have never seen anything like that before. b. I have never eaten anything like that before. c. We have never been anywhere like that before. d. They have never done anything like that before. e. She has never said anything like that before. etc etc 3. 'Mental fog' is used when talking about health issues, when a person feels forgetful or not fully awake. a. If I don't sleep enough, I have a real mental fog. b. Depression gives you a mental fog, but exercise and a good diet can make you mentally sharper. 4. 'To shop around' means to spend time going from one shop to another to find the best price. It is also slang for dating lots of people to gain experience. a. I liked the car, but it was too expensive. I think I'll shop around. b. You don't have to marry the first man you meet; shop around a little. 5. 'Whatever' is too important to not mention. It's a great word to use in many situations. a. Buy whatever you want. Eat whatever you want. Listen to whatever he says. (The negative of this is 'don't listen to anything he says'). Do whatever you want.  6. 'To be out of touch' is to not see or respond to reality the way most others do; or to not be realistic. It is also used for being non-communicative with friends and relatives. a. My family thinks that I am out of touch because I don't have a computer. b. I'm so out of touch; I really need to get on Facebook and catch up with my family and friends. 7. 'Super duper' is a traditional slang; it's an extension of super and is lighthearted. a. After dinner, we had Maria's super duper yummy apple pie. b. I think the Honda Leaf is a super duper car. 8. '.....to-the-extreme' can be used with many different adjectives. a. They are sporty-to-the-extreme; it's all they talk about, and all they do. b. They are unhealthy-to-the-extreme; they smoke, drink too much, never exercise, and only eat at McDonald's. 9. 'Anybody' or 'somebody' are both used to refer to someone who has social importance. The opposite is a 'nobody'. a. He really thinks he's somebody. He left the party because he said it was full of nobodies. I'm glad he left. b. You must see the Oscars; anybody who is anybody will be there. (Here you can say 'everybody who is anybody will be there') also. 10. A herd is a group of animals, usually 4 legged. a. The herd of cows ran when the thunder started. b. The huge herd of zebras covered the plains to the horizon. Tweet //…

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Fire to the West.

2012-09-10
Length: 12s

Do you remember a few episodes ago, a podcast called Smoke to the North? We learned how to say that something is going on in  a particular direction. Well, recently, we have had very bad fires to the West which are still burning. The photo on the blog page was a late afternoon view from my back garden, unusually dark, with a beautiful but very unusual sun. That was taken a few days ago. Now the hillside is completely black, and the fire has swept up(1) to the forests and hills behind our valley. First of all, when the fire was small and confined to an area of empty, dry hillside, it seemed just interesting, and even a little exciting. You could hear the whining (2)of emergency sirens here and there, and of course, it was the main topic of conversation. But these fires have dragged on(3). For the past two mornings we have woken up to a valley full of smoke; you can't even see the hills anymore. The local school district has cancelled all outside sports and recesses, and sporting clubs have done the same(4). People we know have had to evacuate their homes, though some have decided to stay in order to wet their rooves, trees, and gardens, to prevent fire. And remember, it's not just people who have been affected. The hills around here have many different kinds of wild animals, including predators. They are on the move(5) now, trying to get away from the smoke and ash, to reach cleaner, greener areas. One of my husband's favorite hunting areas is getting heavy traffic of deer and coyotes; the bears and cougars will be following as well. The whole thing started with a lightening storm several days ago. There was fork lightening everywhere, and of course, after the summer, the surrounding hills are completely dry. A fire was bound to (6)start. Add to that our desert climate of very little to no rain, and you find us here, still in this smokey situation. The fire fighters have been working around the clock(7), and helicopters go to and fro(8) collecting water from the rivers and taking it up the mountains. Now, it's a question of sitting and waiting. There's nothing really that we can do. It is not so bad that we have to leave, but it's certainly not yet under control. I hope that in a few days we will be back to normal; I look forward to breathing clean air again. 1. 'Swept' or 'to sweep' is used often to describe how something has moved, especially if that something looks similar to a brush, or acts like a brush. It is similar, in this case, to 'wipe'. a. She swept her long, thick hair out of her face, and pinned it up at the back of her head. b. The fire swept through the fields in no time, burning up the wheat. 2. 'To whine', 'whining', or 'whiny' is an uncomfortable sound used to describe a certain noise that people make, though it can be used to describe mechanical noises as well. a. I can't stand it when children whine; their tone of voice when they moan, beg, or complain is tiring. We must teach them to express themselves differently. b. That man is a whiner. He complains about everything; he's always negative. c. The fire alarm whined loudly, and immediately everybody evacuated. 3. 'To drag on' means to continue tiresomely. a. The musical rehearsal dragged on; the beginner players tried their best, but sounded awful. b. Gosh that meeting dragged on! I wish people wouldn't repeat themselves  and talk on and on for no good reason. 4. 'The same' is short for 'the same thing'. The sentence talks about sports clubs doing the same thing as the school district; it is unnecessary to always add 'thing'. a. They have just painted their fence, and we've done the same (thing). b. She got 99% on the math exam, and he got the same. (* Here, you wouldn't use 'thing' because you are specifically referring to the percentage). 5. 'To be on the move' is used when referring to animals migrating, or large amounts of vehicles moving. a. The wildebeest are on the move, walking many miles each day in search of food and water. b. The tanks have been given their orders, and are now on the move. 6. 'To be bound to...' means the same as 'was/were going to'. 'Bound' is the past participle and adjective of 'to bind' which means to tie up, to secure. So, 'to be bound to...' means that something will happen, and there is no other choice. a. With the economic crisis hitting this town, there is bound to be a lot of unemployment. b. He's bound to go to the pub; he can't stay away from them. 7. 'Around the clock' is a phrase we use in order to say 'a lot' or 'for many hours' or 'night and day'. a. The builders have to work around the clock to get the stadium finished on time. b. The investigators are working around the clock to find the criminals. 8. 'To and fro' is similar to 'back and forth'. a. The deer would come into our garden and then go back to the forest, to and fro all Winter. b. We watched the tennis players hit the ball to and fro, until our heads got tired. Remember to join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish; it's an open invitation to all listeners! If you wish to contact me, you can do so at acupofenglish@live.com      My app 'A Cup Of English' is available in iTunes. Tweet //…

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Back in business.

2012-09-05
Length: 11s

We're back in business! In fact, I'm back in business. This is an English expression, an idiom(1). And what does it mean? It means that things are working again as they should. I decided to call this podcast 'Back in business' because I am beginning to do my podcasts again, after missing several weeks. I do apologize for disappearing during the summer, but life became very hectic(2). Now that there is more of a routine in my home, I can take time to work on my podcasts, and enjoy bringing you the expressions and useful language that will make your English sound natural. It's good to be back in business. You will hear this expression in all English speaking countries. If, for example, your car has a flat battery(3), and you charge it, hoping that when it has enough power, you will be able to start your car. You finish the charging process, detach the cables(4), and turn the key. Suddenly, "Vroom!" it works; the battery is full of energy, and your motor is working. That is when you say with a smile, "We're back in business." The car is working as it should. This idiom can be used in most situations. Let's say that you are going to catch a plane but it is delayed(5). After waiting and waiting, you hear the airport announcer say, "Flight 801 to Madrid will begin boarding (6)in 15 minutes," your response could easily be, "Hey, we're back in business!" So, this expression is often said with a smile. An opposite expression that you use when your plans have to suddenly change, or when things are not working, is "There's a bump in the road." You can imagine a smooth road that you are traveling on, and suddenly you can't go any further because of a big bump. There is a delay, you need to call for help, or you have to solve the problem yourself. This expression can also be used in many situations. An example of a coversation that you might have using both expressions is the following: "Our company had its annual meeting yesterday." "Oh really? Did it go well?" "Yes, but there was a bump in the road." "What happened?" "The main speaker choked on an olive and had to be taken to hospital. Thankfully, his assistant was familiar with the presentation, so we were back in business." 1. The word idiom sounds a lot like 'idiot' but has nothing to do with it. An idiom is an expression that is native to a country, and not obvious in meaning. For example, in Spain, if you want to describe someone as being talkative, you could say, "He talks through his elbows." In other countries, it might not be obvious that that person talks a lot. The expression is typically Spanish, and needs to be interpreted, and learned as a complete expression, not translated. 2. Hectic is another word for 'too busy'. It is like a mix of 'chaos' and 'busy'. a. I have a hectic schedule at work. I hope I can surivive! b. The tour of the city was too hectic; we were in a rush, and we saw too many things. 3. There are certain words that we use with batteries. A battery has 'power' of course. When it has its maximum power, we say that it is 'full'. When it no longer has power, we say that it is 'flat'. You could say 'empty' as people would understand, but the correct word is 'flat'. And, in order to regain power, we 'charge' batteries. a. I need to charge my cell phone battery because I have almost no power left. b. My car battery is completely flat. I don't think I can charge it anymore. I just need to buy a new one. 4. In the podcast I mentioned detaching the cables from the car battery. In other words, I was talking about taking off the wires that were charging the battery. A cable is generally a wire conductor that is covered in plastic. A 'wire' is not always a conductor of electricity; it might be used for something else (like hanging a picture). Cables are used when charging cars. Infact, those specific cables are called 'jumper cables'. a. Be careful when you detach the jumper cables from the car battery. You could get a shock! b. She makes the most beautiful art  out of copper wire. 5. 'Delay' and  'delayed' are essential words in English. Delay is a verb and a noun, and delayed is used as an adjective. a. The plane was delayed for three hours, so we took the train instead. b. He's going to delay our plans if he keeps talking/ he's going to make us late if he keeps talking. 6. 'To board' is another essential verb in English which means to get on a plane/ boat/ train. It sounds exactly like 'bored' (which means unentertained) but has a slightly different spelling. a. It's time to board the train; hurry up, let's go. b. We can't board the plane for at least 15 minutes. Tweet //…

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NBC Olympic frustration.

2012-08-09
Length: 11s

Oh, I'm frustrated. I haven't seen the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. I've been searching on the internet, but all I can find are a few highlights(1). NBC, here in the U.S. refused to show a live stream (2) of the event. They had their reasons. They said that, because of the time difference, not many people would watch it, plus they would make more money if they waited until prime time(3) the next day. Because they paid $1.3 billion for the rights to show the games, the National Broadcasting Company wanted to show the opening ceremony at a time when they would make the most money from advertizing. Unfortunately, the television network  made the mistake of cutting out  a lot of the event, and switching to studio commentary. I've heard many disappointed, and even angry comments about this. Danny Boyle, the film director who created and organized  the ceremony, did so as a continuous production, like a play that needs to be watched completely, unlike a Superbowl intermission (4) when you can leave the room and get popcorn, or cut your toenails. When so much time has gone into a work of art, it deserves attention and recognition. Many, many television viewers here in the U.S were deprived of the live showing, and that's just not on (5). So what could have happened? What would you or I have done? Nobody wants to lose huge sums of money, even for historical art, and global traditions. Could NBC have had a live showing of at least part of the ceremony, and then said,"For the whole ceremony, join us again tomorrow at such and such (6) a time,"? Perhaps they could have explained as well that the time difference was the main problem. Perhaps a link on their website with the whole opening ceremony could have solved the problem. Who knows? I have, actually,  been enjoying the sporting events very much, and recording them, but I'm still not a happy camper (7). I found  the commentaries by the NBC commentators, as the teams came out, to be very negative, and not in the spirit of the games. They were even derrogatory about the team from Greece, immediately talking about the country's financial problems, and saying that they were "lucky" to be at the Olympics. How condescending! The past 4 Olympics that I have seen here have been the same; the U.S commentators tend to be patronizing to other countries. Surely NBC must realize that commentators of an international event have a tremendous responsibility to educate the public, and to be a good example of their country's best values. It's not just about sports; it's about being globally minded. And,what is the spirit of the games? Several things:  friendship, excellence, respect, and peace. It would be so refreshing to hear more informed and impartial comments. I understand that each country has its perspective, its sense of patriotism, and its pride. We all have it. But commentators of international events surely should be intelligent and sensitive, and very carefully chosen, otherwise they do their own public a disservice(8). Well, I have vented, but I don't think that I've been unjust. I look forward to the day, perhaps at the next Olympics in Brazil, when I can hear the U.S commentators really reflect the spirit of the games. 1. 'Highlights' is a word that has several meanings. In this context it refers to the most important parts of an event. Highlights are also a lighter, random hair coloring. The verb 'to highlight' is often used in place of 'to emphasize' or 'underline with a pen'. a. Later tonight, I will watch the Olympic highlights to see who won what. b. Just for a change, I had highlights put in my dark hair. c. A good way to study history is to highlight the important dates, names, and other details. 2. 'A live stream' means a showing of something on television (or computer) that is taking place right now. a. There was a live stream of the royal wedding, so the whole world could see it as it happened. 3.  'Prime time' is the hour or two when the most people watch television. The word 'prime' means 'best'. a. That obscure film won't be on prime time; most people won't want to watch it at 7pm. 4. 'Intermission' is basically a break, a time during a film, a show, or some performance, when you can get a drink, stretch your legs, or use the bathroom. a. It's a good job that there's an intermission because this play is two hours long. 5. 'It's not on', 'That's just not on' is a term that is used (mainly in England) to say that something isn't right, fair, or appropriate. a. He volunteered his time, and nobody even thanked him. That's just not on. b. Taxes are going up for businesses again.           Well, that's not on.      I know. It's not on at all. 6. 'Such and such' is a very common phrase used when giving examples or hypothesis, butwhen you're not wanting to be specific. It is often used instead of a specific person, place, or time. a. Angie could tell him, "Come back later, at such and such a time".   Here a person is suggesting that Angie could tell a man to come back later, but the time is not specified. b. "Let's pretend the party has started, and the guests are arriving. You need to say,"Good evening Mr. and Mrs such and such, please take a seat. The waiter will be with you shortly.'"  7. 'A happy camper' just means a happy person. It's a playful phrase used in England. a.  I got a free watch when I bought my laptop, so I was a happy camper. b. He was thrown out of the theatre before the play started. He was not a happy camper. 8. 'Disservice' is a lack of service, or bad service. The phrase is 'to do someone a disservice'. Tweet //…

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Smoke to the north.

2012-07-23
Length: 12s

  The view from the back of our house faces north, looking at the hills on either side of the Columbia river. They are brown this time of year, after a hot and dry summer. For a few days, the view was hard to see because there was smoke to the north(1). The bridge that crosses the Columbia from Wenatchee to East Wenatchee has a view that follows the river upstream(2) for a long way. As I drove across it the other day, I took a quick photo on my phone of the thick smoke that was now filling the valley. I know that I shouldn't really do that when I'm driving, but it was just a quick second snap, and I had the picture. A fire had started in a place called Chelan, and the smoke had blown in our direction. Thankfully, it cleared up(3) in a few days. If you are familiar with forest fires, you might know that they can last much longer, and the smoke can invade surrounding towns, bringing everything to a halt(4). Once, a long time ago, my husband and I left Wenatchee for the day because the smoke in the valley was so bad; we couldn't stand it any longer(5). I don't envy the work of the firefighters this time of year. It's grueling(6). Smoky the Bear is a cartoon character that appears on television and talks about avoiding forest fires. He is part of a campaign by the government to educate the public. He appears as a friendly bear in a hat, carrying a shovel, and his motto is “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Statistics show that, in this country, 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans. And, as you can imagine, a 'wildfire' is one that is unwanted, and out of control. As you drive near forests, you will randomly see Smoky the Bear posters on the side of the road as a reminder to be careful with fire. The effects of being careless can be devastating. The wildfire up in Chelan is out now, and the smoke to the North has cleared, but the expense and waste of forest will be long lasting. 'Smoke to the north'. When we talk about what we see in a certain direction, we use 'to the..' a. The mountains are to the north, and the desert is to the south. b. This house has a lot of windows, and to the east is a view of a golf course. 'Upstream' is a direction. It refers to rivers and streams, and it is the opposite direction of the water flow. Generally it is said that a river flows 'down', and so 'upstream' is against the flow of water. a. Salmon swim upstream when they return to their birthplace to lay eggs. 'To clear up' has several meanings. It can mean to tidy up. It can also be used when an infection is going away/getting better. And it is an expression used with the weather. a. Let's clear up these toys; the place is a real mess. b. Her ear infection has finally cleared up. c. The thick clouds have cleared up/ the storm cleared up later in the day. 'To bring something to a halt', 'to grind everything to a halt', or 'to bring everything to a grinding halt' are often used to describe how something (powerful or unwanted) will stop normal activity. 'Grinding' is an excellent descriptive word that refers to metal brakes. a. The sudden snow storm brought the whole town to a grinding halt. b. When Lady Sotherby found the cockroach in her salad, it brought the dinner party to a halt. 'To not stand it any longer' is a very common phrase which means the same as 'to bear' or 'to put up with'. a. I had to put earplugs in last night. The neighbors were having a party, and I couldn't stand the noise any longer. b. I tried so hard to not scratch my mosquito bites, but then I had to do it. I couldn't stand it any longer. 'Grueling' means extremely exhausting and physically punishing. It comes from the word 'gruel' which is an old, rare word meaning a kind of soup. The exhausting activity leaves a person like gruel. It can be used figuratively as well. a. The triathlon was grueling; it took us days to recover. b. My interview was grueling. I don't feel confident about the result. If you have comments or questions, feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com And join me on Facebook at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Tweet //…

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King Tut - where's the mask?

2012-07-01
Length: 10s

 Once in a while a fabulous opportunity comes along, an opportunity to experience something excellent and unusual, a wonder of the world, perhaps. I had just this kind of opportunity in Seattle this month. The Pacific Science Center has the collection of items found in King Tutenkhamun's tomb. My son's class had planned on making(1) a special trip to this exhibition as a final field trip. All year long, the school had been raising money for this special event by having bake sales(2). Everyone had bought and eaten cakes and cookies all year, and helped to pay for the museum visit. My job was to drive. I was lucky to go; in fact, once I had heard about the Egyptian exhibit, I was determined to find a way to go. A teacher, a parent, and an extra student came in my car, as well as my son. Each driver was given an itinerary and a map of the museum. Our schedule was going to be busy and packed. In the space of(2) five hours, we were going to go to the planetarium, see a laser show, see an Imax movie, and finally see the tomb items of King Tut. Somewhere in the middle we were going to squeeze in (3)lunch. So, we had lots to chat about on the way there. The three hour journey went very quickly. We all gathered in the parking lot, and made our way into the Science Center. The place is huge. There are different floors, and different rooms filled with exhibits from dinosaurs to insects, and planets to robots. It's impossible to see everything in one day; you have to be selective. We made our way through the exhibits, lunch, and the movie, and finally it was time to see King Tut's gorgeous stuff. I was so excited. The whole area was elegantly painted black, with spotlights on each individual item. I was amazed by the amount of relics, statues, and jewelery found in his tomb. I was busy photographing a statue, when I realized that my son had disappeared. He had raced through each of the rooms, just glancing briefly at everything, and was near the exit. He wasn't interested in reading about anything; he's nine. It was fun enough for him to sneak through a series of dark rooms. When I caught up (4)with him, I asked him if he had seen the king's mask. “Yep,” he said, “it's right over here.” He took me to a glass case and pointed at a statue. Well, it looked like King Tut's face, but it wasn't the mask. I looked around quickly, wondering where it could be. A security guard was standing nearby(5), so I asked him where it was. “Oh, it's not here,” he said. There was a pause. “It has stayed in Egypt since the late 70's.” I felt completely deflated. How disappointing! Everything else was stunning, of course, but I had been expecting to see what was on the posters that advertised the exhibition: the mask. The icon of Egypt simply wasn't there. If I want to see it, I need to take a trip to the Cairo Museum, and, in order to do that, I'll have to do a few bake sales of my own. 'To plan on doing something' is good, native sounding English which can have many variations: a. We planned on driving all night. b. They planned on meeting us half way. c. She planned on freezing the cake after she made it, and keeping it for Christmas. 'In the space of....' in this case refers to time. The word 'space' means an area or span of time. a. In the space of two hours, I cleaned the house, taught a class, and paid the bills! b. In the space of three days, they hiked over the mountain and across the border. 'We were going to squeeze in lunch' means that you are trying to 'fit' lunch into a busy schedule. a. If we hurry, we can squeeze in a nap after lunch, just before the meeting. b. They didn't have much time, but they managed to squeeze in a museum visit before they caught their plane. 'To catch up with someone' has 2 meanings: it is to physically follow and meet up with a person, or it is to find out what has been going on in the life of someone who you haven't been around for a while. In this paragraph, it is the former. a. He ran ahead of me, but soon I caught up with him. b. I hadn't seen them for years, so we spent some time catching up. Tweet //…

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Geocaching.

2012-06-04
Length: 12s

 Field trips are always fun for school children. The typical trips are to museums, parks, and science centers. Of course, it depends on where you live. You have an advantage if you live in a city because there is more variety and entertainment. In a rural area, a school may have to be more creative to keep their field trips interesting. One activity that my kids took part in recently was geocaching. It has very quickly become popular globally, even in this small, rural area. So, what is it? Geocaching is considered an outdoor sporting activity in which players use some kind of navigational device (1). Coordinates (2)of a certain place are given, and the participants have to find their way there. Once they reach the exact spot, they search and find a container of some sort(3). Inside are inexpensive items such as toys, nicknacks(4), or items of interest or meaning. These can be taken and kept by the person doing the geocaching, but it is expected that the finder replace these items with something else. Also, inside the container will be a logbook where the geocacher will write the date and his or her personal geocaching code(5). You can receive a code by registering on-line as a geocacher. So, basically, this sport is like hide and seek, except that you're not hiding yourself but a cache, a treasure of some kind. As long as the container of the cache is waterproof, it will be safe until someone finds it. Geocaching started in Oregon in the United States in May of 2000, when a man by the name of(6) David Ulmer hid a cache and posted the coordinates on-line on the international Usenet newsgroup. Since then, geocaching has taken off(7), and is currently in 100 countries, even in Antartica. People continue to register on-line at sites like 'Geocaching.com' where you can find coordinates of caches in your area, and the rules of the game. So, it sounds like fun, doesn't it? It's a great, free activity that you can do with friends and family. Schools, of course, are taking advantage of this as well. When we went geocaching, my childrens' school split up into several groups and hunted around in the parks. While they walked from one cache to another, they picked up litter. As they came to the spots where the coordinates met, there was a lot of excited hunting, looking in bushes and trees, until someone would shout out excitedly, “I've found it!” One cache was tiny. We wouldn't have found it without the help of the teacher who had been there before. The container was a tiny, metal cylinder, about a third of the size of (8)a pencil. It had a screw top, and was inserted into a hole in a sign post. The logbook was a very small rolled up paper, and the cache was a sticker. The students were fascinated. After finding that cache, they discussed the possibilities of creating tiny and unusual caches that they could plant. I'm forming a list of activities to do this summer, and I think I have found one more thing to add to it: geocaching.   'A device' is a general word for a useful tool. It can range from a simple pair of scissors, to an iPad. a. When scissors were first invented, they must have been considered incredible devices. b. To geocache properly, it is best to have a navigational device. 'Coordinates' is an unusual word. Two 'o's' together usually create the 'ooo' sound, but not in this case. A similar word is 'cooperate'. Let's practice. 'Of some sort' is the same as saying 'of some kind'; the two expressions are interchangeable. a. When you plant a new tree, you should use some sort of support for it for the first year. b. He contracted some kind of skin disease, and had to use antibiotics to get rid of it. 'Nicknacks' has the same meaning as 'trinkets'. They are usually small items of little value such as collectibles, ornaments, fridge magnets, and memorabilia from vacations. a. After lunch, we walked around the town and looked at the trinket shops. We bought a few nicknacks. b. I wish you'd buy something decent, and not all of those cheap nicknacks. 'Geocaching' is the topic for today. One point to remember is the pronunciation of the 'ch': it sounds like 'sh'. 'By the name of' is used instead of 'called' or 'is called'. a. A woman by the name of Elizabeth Brown established this line of ceramics. b. A man by the name of Rodger Snoops informed the police about the suspect. 'To take off' is used in several contexts. A plane can take off (when it first leaves the airport). Also, a hobby or sport can take off, as in become very popular. a. Geocaching has taken off over the past twelve years because everyone likes to hunt for treasure, and it is inexpensive. b. Reality shows took off about ten years ago, and are now in every country. When comparing sizes using fractions, we use expressions like 'half (of)the size of' or 'three quarters (of) the size of'. The first of is usually included in British English, whereas in the U.S it is missed out. a. The dog is half (of) the size of the cat. b. The museum is three quarters (of) the size of the bus station. Tweet //…

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Money For Blondes.

2012-05-25
Length: 12s

 I came across some interesting information the other day, bizarre information, crazy information, that has led me on a journey of discovery. I was watching one of my sons run during a track meet (1). There were six middle schools all competing in the various track events, and the place was packed. I sat in the middle of the large crowd of parents who had come to cheer on (2) their children. A lady who I knew was talking to me about children growing up, entering high school, and applying for scholarships. “My oldest is a few years away from all of that,” I said. “But still (3), I should probably start looking into (4) scholarships.” She told me that she had already done so, as her son is older than mine. “There are all kinds of private scholarship funds out there. You won't believe it. There's even one for being blonde!” There was a long pause, as I frowned and thought about what she had said. “For being blonde?” I asked in disbelief(5). So many questions rushed into my head. “How blonde do you have to be?” “Could I bleach (6) my hair blonde to get a scholarship?” “And who decides if you qualify? Does a little old lady with a huge Madonna wig come to your house and check-out your hair?” This couldn't be true, I decided. How ridiculous. But, my friend told me that lots of rich individuals will leave money for people who have certain qualities. I had to investigate. So, back at home, I did some research on the internet. I came across a website called '45 of the weirdest college scholarships'. Well, I didn't find any scholarships for being blonde, even though there were many searches for 'scholarships for blondes'. But I did find a lot of other bizarre ones: if you are a male over 6' 2'' or a female over 5'10'', you could qualify for $1000 by writing an essay entitled 'What being tall means to me.' If you're a nudist, a vegetarian, if you wish to study fungi, if you enjoy duck calling, or if you like to watch the series 'Star Trek', then you can get money for college! Or if you can predict the future, play the bagpipes, or can design clothes for the prom (7) out of duct tape (sticky tape), then you are also eligible (8) for money. If only I had known about all of this 20 years ago! I could have joined all of those groups, and got a PhD for free! I could have been a duck calling, bagpipe playing, fungi studying, future predicting nudist vegetarian (well, perhaps not the nudist part) who could predict her own shining educational future..... and not even have to change from a brunette to a blonde. 1. 'Track' has several meanings. It can mean a small path created by man or animals. It can mean 'to follow', or it is a noun meaning the sporting events that are running based. a. My son competed in the running long jump and did quite well. b. The mile run was the last event in the track meet. 2. 'To cheer on' can also be expressed as 'to cheer for'. The first expression implies encouraging someone in their event, the second implies supporting an individual or group. a. As the athletes ran, we cheered them on. b. Though he was last, we cheered him on, and tried to encourage him to go faster. 3. 'But still' is often used like 'however' when you are using 2 slightly contrasting ideas. a. They won't arrive until later, but still we should get the house ready now. b. We have plenty of food in the fridge, but still we shouldn't be wasteful. 4. 'To look into' can mean to investigate. a. We looked into getting a loan, but we didn't qualify. b. They looked into scholarships and found one for bald people! 5. 'Disbelief' means 'not believing' and is usually preceded by 'in' or 'with'. a. I looked at him in disbelief; I couldn't believe what he had just said. b. He put his hand to his mouth in disbelief when he saw how beautiful she looked. 6. 'Bleach' is a powerful chemical cleaner that is used to remove color from hair. It can be used as a verb sometimes. a. I used some bleach to clean out the garbage can. That should clean it! b. The sun has bleached our patio chairs; they look so pale now! 7. The 'Prom' is a very important dance at High School. a. Are you going to ask someone to go to the Prom with you? b. Their Prom costume is very elegant, but if you look closely, you can see that it is made of duct tape! 8. 'Eligible' is when you satisfy characteristics for something, it could be age, gender, ethnicity, background etc. a. He wants to run for President of the Student Body, but he is too young; he's not eligible. b. At 65 years of age, you're eligible for a pension. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish or email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com with questions and comments. Tweet //…

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A hanging head.

2012-05-21
Length: 11s

 Recently I've had the strangest feeling when I've been alone at home. My husband is at work, and my children are at school, so I should be alone. I don't hear footsteps(1), or anyone moving around in the house. I don't hear talking or breathing in any of the rooms. But I sense that someone else is in the house, or something else. When I'm upstairs, folding laundry in the laundry room, I feel it less. But as I walk downstairs, I become aware(2)of a presence, gradually with each step. As I write this, I'm in the living room, where the feeling is strongest. It reminds(3) me of when I was a girl, and I would stare up at the ceiling at night, in my room, in the darkness. My imagination would make me see all sorts of things up there, or coming out of the walls. Shadows of toys would become people or creatures, fairies and figures. So, here I sit, and it feels as if a pair of (4)eyes is watching me. Something has made its place in here, silently. And, as I sit here writing, I can feel that it is directly above me. Should I turn and look? Am I brave enough to reach out to touch it? Yes, I will. And I do. My fingers immediately feel something very large, cool, and smooth. The more I touch, the bigger it appears. It's body goes up and up. It feels strong, and what's that? It's not skin, but fur(5), and lots of it. In fact, it's completely covered in fur. Up my hand goes to its face. A long snout, and big bulging eyes, those eyes that never close. I feel a small forehead. This creature has a small brain for such a big, strong body. Large, hairy ears are alert at the sides of the head, listening for danger. This creature is wanted. This creature was wanted. Its powerful legs weren't enough for it to get away. It was wanted for its crown; and what a magnificent crown it is, unique, impressive, a crown of battle. It was a guardian(6) of the forest. And now it is here, still a guardian, quiet, watchful, always alert. It was barely seen among the trees, a passing shadow. And here, it's barely noticed, until you are alone. Then, you hear a whisper from the forest, you read its story in its eyes, and you feel the glory of its crown. 'Footsteps' can be heard. 'Footprints' can be seen. a. I knew that he had arrived because I heard his footsteps in the entryway. b. I followed the footprints in the sand and found where you were. 'To be aware' of something is to know or recognize. a. I was suddenly aware of being followed by a man in a long, black coat and hat. b. I wasn't aware that they had moved to the city. 'To remind' or 'to be reminded' is very similar to remembering. a. She reminds me of her grandmother; they look and act the same. b. Please remind me that the pie is in the oven, otherwise I'll forget and it'll get burned. 'A pair of' is singular, so the verb form used with it is the same. a. That pair of shoes is too expensive. b. That pair of socks isn't the right color. You need to wear this pair with those trousers. 'Fur' is a kind of coarse hair that animals have. a. There is something furry moving through the trees. b. Native American Indians would use the fur and skins of animals for clothing. 'Guardian' comes from the verb 'to guard'. We don't pronounce the 'u'. a. He was the guardian of the temple, and had to protect it at any cost. b. He takes his job as palace guardian very seriously. Remember to join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish and I will friend you!  I also love to get your comments and questions by email    acupofenglish@hotmail.com      or  acupofenglish@live.com Tweet //…

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A Time For Parades.

2012-05-13
Length: 8s

 There is a festival in this town that brings in thousands of visitors, and livens(1) the valley for over a week. It's called Apple Blossom. By the name, you can tell that it coincides with the blossoming of the many apple trees that grow here. The weather is still playing a tug-of-war(2) between cold, windy days, and hot ones, but usually, by Apple Blossom, the sun is winning. For a few weeks leading up to the festival, groups of people are busy building floats that have varying(3) themes. There is always one for the three Apple Blossom princesses who have been elected by the local high schools. Their float is often something to do with Spring, or flowers. They stand and wave and look pretty; it must be a very hard job. And then there are all the floats of schools, sports groups, charities, and some businesses. If you are involved in one of these organizations, you have the opportunity to walk next to the float. My daughter, who does gymnastics, was chosen with her friends to hold the sign of the gymnastics group, while other girls and boys did cartwheels(4) and flips all along the road. I walked with the proud parents and handed out water bottles. It was very exciting. I was tempted to do a flip, just like the children were doing. But then I realized that if I did do one, it would be the very last thing that I ever did. So, I took photographs instead. I waved a little, trying to mimic(5) the princesses (my wave was better than theirs). A few people I knew were standing along the road; they called to me and waved. I began to feel famous. In fact, other people waved enthusiastically and called to me, “Oh hi there..” but then used a name like Angela, or Rebecca, or Mary. But I was caught up in the enthusiasm, so I waved back and smiled. What lovely confusion! The parade was a big event. There were bands and schools from all over the state, and visitors from Japan. A carnival had been set up down by the river, and a food fare was crammed(6) into one of the down town parks. There are so many people in the center of town for the parade that it's impossible to find parking close by, so you need to park far away on a street in the residential area. Our parade finished, we rested and had icecream, and then Domini and I had a long, hot hike back to the car. To liven means to bring a place alive with excitement, movement, or color. It is often followed by the word 'up'. a. The new paint in the kitchen really livens up the place. b. When the DJ gets here, the party will liven up. A tug-of-war is a game played where two people or groups pull on a long rope. The winning group is the one who manages to pull the opposing team over a half-way line. a. We played tug-of-war, but our opponents won; they were much stronger than us. Varying comes from the word 'vary' or the verb 'to vary' meaning to offer variety. It's pronunciation can be a bit tricky, so here's some practice. a. The artist's pictures were all blue, but varying in subjects. b. I think that everyone enjoyed the comedian, to varying degrees. To mimic means to copy, usually in action or a facial feature. a. The monkey mimicked the lady drinking coffee. b. The boy mimicked his teacher when he wasn't looking. To be crammed comes from the verb 'to cram' which means to stuff or pack something in tightly (do you remember the phrase 'jam packed'?) a. He crammed the crackers into his mouth and threw the empty packet in the bin. b. The pencils are crammed so tightly in the box, that I can't get them out! Remember, you can join my FACEBOOK page at Anna Fromacupofenglish. Also, feel free to send me an email to acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com. Your questions and comments are welcome.…

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Learning in the past.

2012-05-02
Length: 8s

  I was fortunate enough (1)the other day to go on a field trip with the school that my son attends. As his school doesn't have a bus, parent volunteers are needed to transport the kids here and there. I am one of them, and, you know, I benefit from volunteering in many ways. That particular day, I learned a lot about the Wenatchi Indians, and the pioneer days of this area. We visited a museum in the town of Cashmere which is about eight miles from here. It's a small building, but jam packed(2) with artifacts and donations. I had been to the museum before, but this time, we had a very knowledgeable (3)guide who happened to be a Native American Indian. As time went on, and he took us from one display area to another, I began to realize that he had deep knowledge and deep personal interest in the museum. He was half Cherokee and half Sioux, and knew not only about those Indian nations, but also a lot about the Wenatchi nation. He told us that the baskets that were made by Wenatchi women are worth thousands of dollars. He went into detail, telling us how they would gather(4) the grasses, chew them, dye them with berry juice, and then weave them. These baskets were made so well, that they could carry water. In fact, the Wenatchis would boil water in the baskets by placing boiling hot stones from a fire inside a basket full of water. That kind of information, and many other things that I learned, gave me new respect for the history of this local area. Then, we moved to the outside area of the museum where there's a collection of original pioneer (5)homes. There was a home, a jail, a hat shop, a print shop, a school, and a hotel. My son's class loved the school. It was obviously very basic, all wood, dark, it had a stove, small chalk boards for the students, and a metal bucket that everyone drank out of. The guide told us that school was only available for a few months a year; during Winter it was too cold, and, as all the children helped to farm, they couldn't go to school during planting or harvest seasons either. My son thought that that (6)was great, “Only a few months of school? Awesome!” he said. If children could basically learn to read and write, and do a little mathematics, then the main goal was accomplished. Their lives were agricultural and they were hard working, so school was considered a luxury. How different it is today! 'To be fortunate/lucky/unlucky enough' the use of 'enough' speeds up a sentence that could otherwise be a bit awkward. a. I was fortunate. I got into the theater for free. OR I was fortunate in that I got into the theater for free. INSTEAD with the use of 'enough' we can say : I was fortunate enough to get into the theater for free. b. She was unlucky enough to miss the bus, so she was late for work. 'Jam packed' is an expression that means tightly squeezed or squashed into a place. It can describe the subject or object. a. The cinema was jam packed last night. b. The students were jam packed into the assembly hall for the graduation ceremony. 'Knowledgeable' describes a person who knows a lot. Let's practice the pronunciation. 'To gather' is the same as to collect or to pick (as in flowers); it also means to congregate. a. The Wenatchi Indian women would gather grasses to make their baskets. b. A group of protesters gathered in the main square.     5.'Pioneer' means the first person to do something, or to settle somewhere. a. The pioneers in this area were the first Europeans to settle and farm here. b. Santiago Ramon y Cajal was the great pioneer in the field of neurobiology. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish   or email me your comments or questions to acupofenglish@live.com  or acupofenglish@hotmail.com  ï»¿…

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Water for Africa - analysis time.

2012-04-29
Length: 9s

Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on(1) a vast reservoir of groundwater. They say that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface. The British Geological Survey and the University College London team has produced the most detailed map yet(2) of the scale and potential of this hidden resource. Across Africa more than 300 million people are said to (3) not have access to safe drinking water, and the demand is growing because of population growth and the need for agriculture. "Where there is the greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in Libya, Algeria and Chad," said Helen Bonsor from the BGS. In fact, according to the studies, there are aquifers even across sub-Saharan Africa. Water, over many years, can collect in the spaces between rocks underground, and even in the tiny spaces inside sandstone. This watery, wet stone area is an aquifer. The water found in these reserves(4) is usually cleaner than surface water. These huge bodies of water are equivalent to(5) a quarter of the Mediterranean Sea, or three times the Red Sea. The British experts caution (6) that drilling for water should be done carefully, and with a lot more research. The UK's secretary of state for international development, Andrew Mitchell said, "This is an important discovery which the British Government has funded, and could have a profound effect on some of the world's poorest people, helping them become less vulnerable."(7) 1. 'To sit on' can be used to say "He sits on the chair", but it can also be used figuratively with words like 'a fortune' or 'a time bomb'. a. That boy comes from an extremely wealthy family; he's sitting on a fortune, and doesn't even know it. b. That situation is like sitting on a time bomb; any day disaster can strike. 2. 'Yet' can be used in many instances. In this particular case, it means 'so far'. Here are 2 similar examples: a. I have had fifteen job interviews, and the last one was the best one yet. b. I have tried this new cookie recipe a few times, but this batch (collection of cookies) is the best one yet. 3. 'To be said (to)' can be followed by a positive or negative verb, or the verb 'to be' followed by an adjective. a. The whole population is said to be musical. b. Now, after the disaster, the ground, the river, and the plants are said to be radioactive. 4. 'A reserve' means a place where something is conserved, either naturally or deliberately. a. Because the bird is so vulnerable, an island in the very south of New Zealand has been dedicated as a reserve for the kiwi. b. Poland, apparently, has some of the biggest reserves of salt in the world. 5. 'Equivalent to' basically means 'equal to' or 'the same as'. a. My son and his grandmother are equivalent in height. b. The time we spend sleeping is equivalent to a quarter of our lives. 6. 'To caution' is a verb that means to warn. Note the difference in these two following sentences. a. We cautioned him about driving fast. b. We cautioned him that driving fast in icy weather would be a mistake. 7. 'Vulnerable' is another way of saying easily affected, weak, or exposed. The pronunciation is a bit tricky, as the 'l' isn't  always silent. a. He feels vulnerable without his glasses on. b. Hopefully, as Africa utilizes its vast water reserves, its people will no longer be vulnerable to drought or famine. Feel free to join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish   or email me your comments and questions to acupofenglish@hotmail.com  or   acupofenglish@live.com  and I promise to email you back.…

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Ethanol anybody?

2012-04-24
Length: 11s

Today's podcast is going to test your knowledge of ethanol. What is it? How is it made? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of using it? I asked myself these questions recently, when I drove past a gas station that had a sign saying 'No ethanol in our gas'. I asked myself why it would be good to not have ethanol in petrol? I remember hearing about large amounts of the stuff being produced in this country, and how some people are for it, and others are against it. So, what exactly is ethanol, and what are the issues surrounding it(1)? Ethanol is a fuel that, for a long time has been produced from corn. In the U.S., the government subsidized (2)corn growers for many years specifically for the production of ethanol. But,  why would they do this? First of all, a desire to be self sufficient was at the heart of this project. If you can produce your own energy, then there is no longer any need to rely(3) on other countries. Secondly, some believe that the cost would be less than petrol. Thirdly, ethanol reduces greenhouse gases(4) by 18%-29%. Ethanol is easily mixed with petrol, so all cars can use gas (petrol) that is 10% ethanol. There are some cars that can use 85% ethanol with 15% gas. Continuing research has raised questions(5) about ethanol. If we are using millions of acres of agricultural land to produce corn that nobody eats, surely this will raise food prices globally. Also, farming corn is costly, and uses a lot of gas and gas products when you think of the heavy machinery, the transportation, and the petrol-based chemicals used on the plants. How much cleaner is this biofuel than traditional gas? And, should the government be spending tax payers' money on subsidies for a process that isn't overwhelmingly (6) beneficial? Well, as I continued to research ethanol, I found that globally, research has improved its production, and removed the two major problems: using food for fuel, and only reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a small percentage. Apparently, a new ethanol, called cellulosic ethanol is now produced from nonfood crops, such as bark, corn stalks and leaves, and switchgrass. These are agricultural and industrial leftovers, and switchgrass is a rapidly growing weed that is used to prevent erosion. So, instead of expensively growing corn, we can use by-products. Just think of the savings. The carbon footprint(7) is tiny compared to that of growing, transporting, and processing corn. And, talking about our carbon footprint, cellulosic ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions by 85%. Now, that is substantial. Don't you think that collaborative(8) research is always our best route to good ideas? Globally, this is already believed, because research into improving ethanol and making its production efficient and highly beneficial is continuing. Facilites for production are all over the globe, the biggest one being in Italy. People want a home-based, clean alternative to fossil fuels; it will improve global health and national economies. So, on our list of cleaner energy sources, we can add cellulosic ethanol. 1. 'The issues surrounding ..'  means the important questions or problems that are linked to something. The phrase gives a good visual of a central idea or thing being surrounded. a. There are lots of issues surrounding the government's political agenda. b. There are a lot of questions surrounding his proposal. 2. 'To subsidize' is when money is given to a project to protect and enourage it. a. The corn growers of the U.S have been subsidized for many years. b. Tax payers' money is often used to subsidize projects. 3. 'To rely on' is the same as to depend on. a. I rely on him to tell me the truth. b. We rely on email to keep in touch with family and friends. 4. 'Greenhouse gases' a.Greenhouse gases are the gases produced by burning fossil fuels, such as coal or petrol. b. Greenhouse gases can be reduced by using clean energy sources. 5. 'To raise a question' is slightly different from 'to ask a question'. It is less specific; the question might not have been vocalized yet. It might just be in someone's mind. a. His actions raised a few questions in my mind: is he fit for the job? Does he need more training? b. I'm sure questions will be raised when the employees hear about him leaving the company. 6. 'Overwhelmingly' here is used as an adjective, but of course, it comes from the verb to 'to overwhelm'. a. The votes show that she is overwhelmingly the most popular singer. b. I was overwhelmed by your act of kindness. 7. 'Carbon footprint' is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we cause on a personal level. a. This year, I'm going to do all that I can to reduce my carbon footprint. b. There are some simple ways to reduce our carbon footprints, like recycling, and turning off lights that don't need to be on. 8. 'Collaborative' comes from the verb to collaberate, meaning to work together and share ideas. a. The project was a collaborative effort; many experts were involved. b. If we collaborate, we will probably find the best solutions to our problems.   Feel free to join me on my FACEBOOK  page   Anna fromacupofenglish    or email me at acupofenglish@live.com or acupofenglish@hotmail.com    and if you do, I promise to email you back. Remember, the app of A Cup Of English is available in iTunes.  …

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When will she arrive?

2012-04-16
Length: 15s

Waiting, waiting, waiting. It's difficult to do sometimes. I found myself waiting a couple of weeks ago at Seattle International Airport. My sister and my two nephews were coming for a two week visit, so I made the three hour drive over the mountains to pick them up. I don't often go to Seattle, but I love to. It's a gorgeous place, if you like forests, the sea, and modern buildings. So, I take any opportunity I can to drive there. The airport is actually outside of Seattle, half way between Seattle and Tacoma, and is therefore called Sea-tac airport. It is a smart, modern facility that, believe it or not(1), smells of coffee. How wonderful! You might think that I'm joking, but it's true. You know that Seattle is where Starbucks started, and Seattle is known for being the coffee capital of the U.S. In fact, it has more coffee houses per 100,000 residents than the U.S. has overall(2). So, even the airport is fully equipped with coffee all over the place. While I waited for my sister to arrive, I found myself(3)at one of the many coffee shops. I bought my soy latte, and wandered around a magazine shop. The plane had come in on time, there was no delay(4). However, because the flight was an international one, my sister and her boys had to go through immigration(4) and customs(4). That is a time consuming necessity. Also, the flight was full, so the two hundred or so sleepy passengers took extra long to arrive at baggage claim. I kept on returning to the arrivals escalator, to see if anyone from the flight had turned up. Nope(5). It took about an hour and a half for the travelers to arrive. It was interesting to stand back and see the different people step off the escalator. There was a real mix of shapes and sizes, ethnicities, and demeanours(6). Some people were dressed professionally, pulling behind them small, black cases on wheels, and obviously focused on business. Others were more casual, looking for family or friends, and openly emotional. There was a tall, military man returning from service abroad(7), who was greeted by his young wife and three year old daughter. She had stood at the top of the empty escalator and called "Daddy, daddy!" impatiently. When he finally arrived and picked her up, she stared at him for a long time with an unsure, curious expression. Then came the stragglers(8): a very hairy man carrying a large, framed picture, a tall African lady with tons of luggage, and a skinny young man with a huge cello case. What a variety of people! Then, last but not least(9), my sister and her two boys came up the escalator with big smiles. Finally, they were here. We hugged and kissed, and immediately started chatting and giggling about the journey. We picked up the luggage and were in the car before we knew it. 1. 'Believe it or not' is not an essential phrase. It is light hearted and introduces the idea that something interesting or unusual will be mentioned: a. My daughter has, believe it or not, joined a traveling circus. b. Believe it or not, that very small shop grossed half a million dollars last year. 2. 'Overall' is another way of saying 'all together' or 'in general' or 'added up': a. There were some imperfections, but overall the performance was a success. b. The population, overall, prefers coffee to tea. 3. To find oneself can be used with any person: a. We found ourselves pennyless, out of petrol, and in the middle of nowhere. b. So, you met the prince in the party, and before you knew it, you found yourself  in the palace! Unbelievable! 4. 'Delay, immigration, customs' are all useful words to do with international travel. a. The plane was delayed, I had trouble in immigration, and customs confiscated my Elvis toothbrush! b. The plane was on time, thank goodness. My visa was still valid, so I got through immigration quickly, and then I had nothing to declare in customs. 5.'Nope' is basically 'no' but with attitude. It is used frequently in the U.S. a. Do you want to go out tonight?       Nope! b. I've lost the receipt for the bookshelves. Could you look for it?      Nope! 6. 'Demeanor' means the manner or behavior of someone: a. She looked elegant and formal, but her demeanor was unsure. b. I can tell by his demeanor that he is confident. 7. 'Abroad' is often used instead of 'overseas'. The two are interchangeable: a. She will study abroad for six months to learn a different language. b. They had studied overseas all year, and had decided to stay longer. 8. 'Straggler' describes the odd, few people who are the last to arrive, either from a journey, trip, or race: a. At the end of the Tour de France we see the stragglers coming in. Some are well known cyclists who unfortunately fell off their bikes, and others are less known riders. b. The displaced villagers got to the shelter by nightfall, the stragglers arriving by midnight. 9. 'Last but not least' is a quick way of saying "I'm mentioning this person last (on the list) but he is just as important as anybody else". a. Ladies and gentlemen, we have Princess Sofia, Prince Filipo, and, last but not least, their little sister Princess Angelica. b. Here we have to crown your dinner tonight, last but not least, a pineapple chocolate bomb for dessert. Remember to visit me on FACEBOOK  at Anna fromacupofenglish. Also feel free to email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com    and if you do, I promise to email you back.…

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Exciting science.

2012-04-04
Length: 10s

Science can be so exciting. I was listening to the BBC World Service the other day while I was driving in my car. Their series called Science in Action, which, by the way, comes out in podcast form, is a lively presentation of the most up-to-date science innovations(1). I don't always listen to it, but the other day I was on my way to pick up the kids from school, when I turned on the radio just at the right time. By the time I reached the Middle School, I was bursting to(2) tell my boys the latest scientific news. They were impressed. Since then, I have told everyone I have been around. Well, you shouldn't keep good news to yourself, should you? There were two main points that I managed to catch(3). The first discovery was made by an Australian scientist who has been involved in genetically engineering plants. He and his team have successfully managed to grow and harvest from a salt tolerant(4) wheat plant. It can grow in salty soil, which up until now has been impossible for many kinds of grains. Changing its genetic makeup allows the plant to keep the salt at its roots, so it doesn't get into the plant and affect it at all. Just think what that could mean for global production. That kind of wheat could be grown in many more areas, and perhaps even be watered with sea water! The next discovery is also something to do with salt. An Irish scientist is finding a way to make the leftovers(5) of desalinization(6) profitable and practical. After salt water is processed so it can be used for drinking water, there is a super salty solution left over. He has found that if you add naturally occurring (7)bacteria, plus natural food for them, they begin to give off an electrical charge. When this happens, particles of metals from the salty water stick to the bacteria. The more they eat, the more metal sticks to them, until they get so heavy that they sink(8) to the bottom of the container, and can be easily separated. Metals such as Magnesium which are expensive and really useful, can be gathered in this way. By doing this, scientists will be able to use the waste product of desalinization, and offset(9) the cost of producing clean water by harvesting metals. I was blown away by all of this(10). It seems that, in spite of what the general media tells us, science may be innovating just in time to keep up with our global needs. 1. Innovation means a new idea, method, or device. It is often used in the fields of science and technology. We also use it in its verb form 'to innovate'. a. These scientific innovations will improve our daily lives. b. You have to be creative and have a vision to innovate. 2. To be bursting to tell someone something. This means that you are so excited that you can hardly wait to spread the news. 3. Catch is sometimes used when we talk about hearing the remainder of a conversation, perhaps the last part, or something that is hard to hear. a. Did you catch what he said at the end? I'm not sure if he said that the bank is to the right or to the left. b. I'm so glad that I caught the news summary when I turned the tv on; I really want to keep up with the daily events. 4. Tolerant means that you put up with, you cope with, you can manage something. You can be tolerant of people, conditions, or elements. We use the word tolerant a lot when we talk about peoples ability to digest food. a. She is wheat tolerant, but lactose intolerant. She has to be careful with her diet. b. I planted drought tolerant plants in the area of my garden that I don't water. c. They are so intolerant of people who are different from themselves. 5. Leftovers are one of my favorite things. They are different foods that are left over, or have not been eaten by the end of a meal. You can also have leftovers of a process, similar to by-products. a. Thanksgiving leftovers are yummy. There are usually enough to feed us for a whole day. 6. Desalinization, as you probably know, is the process of getting clean, drinking water from sea water. As it's a long word, let's repeat it a few times. 7. Naturally occurring is often used in science or natural history arenas. a. There are naturally occurring minerals in that water. b. The naturally occurring process of photosynthesis keeps our planet alive. 8. To sink is to fall down in water, to go down, to do the opposite of float. It is the same word and pronunciation as the kitchen and bathroom sink. The verb has an irregular preterite. a. The ship crashed on the rocks and sank out of sight. b. When I woke up at the end of the math exam, I had a terrible sinking feeling when I realized that I had slept through the whole thing. 9. To offset is to make up for, or to counteract. a. The company's profits this month offset its losses from last month. b. Planting hundreds of trees on the mountainside will offset the risk of erosion. 10. To be blown away by something means to be completely surprised. It can be used negatively and positively. a. When he opened his mouth and started to sing, I was blown away. b. I was shocked at his ignorant comments; infact, I was blown away by them.  …

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Umtanum.

2012-03-25
Length: 13s

Yakima is a small city located an hour and a half's drive(1) from Wenatchee. It is a wide valley, famous for its grapes and apples. We were there last weekend for a baseball tournament, the first of the season(2). One interesting fact about Yakima is that its name is taken from the Yakama indians who are from this area. There are actually indian names in many areas of the state. When the baseball tournament was over and we were leaving Yakima, we drove past a barren(3), rocky few miles and crossed over a bridge. Immediately after the bridge, I saw a sign 'Umtanum Canyon'. The name sparked my interest(4). "Now, that must be an indian name," I thought to myself. When I got home, I looked up the name on the internet. I found quite a few pages about Umtanum, but no translation of its name. Reading about the canyon made me even more eager to find out its name, because the land is geographically interesting, and has a wealth(5) of wildlife. Hunters would love it because there are big horn sheep, deer, and coyotes, aswell as pheasants and all kinds of rodents(6). Most of these creatures come to the creek, which is a small river, to drink. The predators obviously take advantage of this being the only water source for all the animals nearby. The canyon walls are steep and rocky, which are perfect for big horn sheep who are expert climbers. The banks of the creek are grassy with wildflowers, a perfect place for ground squirrels, marmots, and rabbits. They have to watch out for the coyotes all year round, and the rattlesnakes in the summer. Infact, it's recommended that hiking parties go during the autumn, winter, and spring, and avoid the snakes in the summer. Umtanum, I would say(7), is typical of eastern Washington. There are many such large expanses of land that look seemingly(8) empty, lifeless, dry, even boring. But, when you get out of the car, and walk deeper into the countryside, you find that it is full of life. 1. An hour and a half's drive. When the duration of something is between one and two hours, we use an apostrophe s to show possession. a. It's a two hour walk. It's a three day hike. It's a four hour swim. b. The mall is an hour's drive from here. It's an hour and a quarter's wait until the next bus. Note that it is used mainly with one hour or when 'half' an hour is being used. 2. The first of the season is easily understood. I am emphasizing this because it is a very natural sounding add-on to a sentence that will make you seem more native. a. On May 2nd there is a country dance, the first of the season.  b. We waited to see the main ballerinas, the best of the dance troupe. c. The politician answered the questions, the most difficult ones he has been asked. 3. Barren is a word often used for being lifeless, bare, or childless. It is quite poetic, and often used for bare landscapes. a. The land looked like a barren wasteland. 4. To spark someone's interest means to get someone's attention and create curiosity. You can also spark anger. a. The sudden movement of something in the dark sparked the cat's curiosity. b. The conversation sparked his anger. 5. A wealth of wildlife. 'A wealth of' is used to describe a large quantity. It implies something positive. a. On that beach, you'll find a wealth of different crabs. b. My grandmother and her friends are a wealth of knowledge and experience. 6. 'Rodent' is the general name for mice, rats, rabbits, and other small ground creatures. 7. 'I would say' is a little phrase that expresses opinion. Sometimes 'you could say' is used in its place. It's rare now for people to use 'one could say' or 'one would say'. a. Elizabeth, you could say, has the destiny of becoming a star. b. I would say that growing wheat on that barren land is a rough, tough job. 8. Seemingly means to have an appearance of. It comes from the verb 'to seem' and, as you can see, it implies that perhaps reality is not what is seen. a. The house was run down, lightless, and seemingly deserted. But then, from a distance they heard music coming from the upstairs. b. When I spoke to him he didn't respond, was quiet, and seemingly uninterested.  Let's hear the paragraph once more. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish  or email me questions or comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com  and I promise to email you back!…

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Analysis time, reviving ancient flowers.

2012-03-20
Length: 14s

Because many of you have responded positively to my new series 'Analysis time', we will continue with a particularly interesting one today taken from an article about 'break-through' scientific technology. If you haven't come across the phrase 'break-through', you might be able to imagine its meaning. It is literally the idea of breaking through a wall of ignorance, and arriving at new knowledge and new technology. A break-through is positive and exciting, and it can be used in many different areas: science, medicine, even psychology. Infact, you can even use it on a personal basis Ex: I had a break-through with my counselor yesterday; I realize that I must forgive my parents. So, there will be many more examples coming up. Let's here the article. A plant that was frozen in Siberian permafrost for about 30,000 years has been revived by a team of Russian scientists - and borne (1)fruit, to boot(2). Bacteria and other simple organisms had been known to survive in the ice for thousands of years. But reviving a life as complex(3) as a plant is an entirely different matter(4), scientists said. For this study, the researchers managed to(5) grow a plant without even using a seed. Instead(6), they thawed, washed and disinfected the fruits and took out bits of nutrient-rich fruit flesh known as placental tissue(7). When bathed in the right broth(8) of chemicals, placental tissue acts like the plant version(9)of stem cells. The study is an encouraging sign that it may be possible to revive larger and more complex beings that were preserved in the frozen tundra. 1. Borne comes from the verb 'to bear fruit' . The sentence should have said 'and has borne fruit' to be clear. The plant has produced fruit. It is an irregular past participle that obviously looks nothing like the original verb 'to bear'. It is spelt the same as the predatory animal 'bear', is pronounced the same, but has nothing to do with it. It is also often used with other meanings, such as 'to accept' or 'to carry'. There are other meanings, but these are the most common. Exs: a. He bore all the criticism, even though other people were guilty.        b. I can't bear the pain anymore; I'll take a headache pill. 2. To boot is a funny little phrase that means 'also'. or 'besides'. It carries (or bears) more of a sense of surprise or significance than 'also'. Exs: a.  He not only sailed the Atlantic, but he wrote a novel at the same time, to boot.        b. I returned the dress to the shop and got my money back, and a gift certificate to boot. 3. Complex is a straight forward word meaning complicated or difficult. It is used in any arena. Exs: a. She is a complex individual. Just when you think you know her, she says something very unexpected.        b. The math that my son is doing in school is too complex for me! 4. 'An entirely different matter' is a very useful phrase that adds seriousness to a second idea. Exs: a. Why they argued is one thing. The state of their marriage is an entirely different matter.        b. Making austerity cuts might be necessary, but creating economic growth is an entirely different matter. 5. 'To manage to + verb' is a very useful and common phrase implying that some effort has been used to achieve an outcome. Exs a. I managed to find my wedding ring; it had been missing for two months.       b. I don't know how he did it, but he managed to pull himself out of the hospital bed and walk out of the building. It is also used when asking questions in an accusatory way:      c. How on earth did you manage to crash the car into the mailbox? 6. 'Instead' means 'as a substitute for' or 'as an alternative':     a. I was going to call you, but I decided to walk to your house instead.     b. I told him to study, but he played outside instead. 7. Tissue is the soft paper we use to wipe our noses. It is, however, also used as 'material' or 'substance' when talking about animal or plant life. Exs: a. They took some brain tissue to do a biopsy.        b. Some of the inside tissue of the leaf was studied. 8. Broth means a thin, watery soup that usually has meat or fish extract in it. It can be used, as in this case, in science when talking about a mixture. Ex: To make the best chicken broth, boil the bones for at least half an hour, then add vegetables and seasoning. 9. The ... version of indicates that something is similar to something else in function or essence, but different in a fundamental way. Exs: a. That boy is the young version of Elvis Presley!        b. 'Lovesong' by Adele, is a slow jazz version of a song by The Cure.        c. I met Mary's mother the other day. She is an older version of her daughter; they are so similar. Let's here the excerpt one more time. Join me on FACEBOOK  at Anna fromacupofenglish and I'll friend you. Or email me at acupofenglish@live.com or acupofenglish@hotmail.com  …

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Analysis time, a Chinese revolt.

2012-03-07
Length: 15s

Today we will analyze part of a newspaper article in depth.  Wukan, China - The Chinese fishing village that went into open revolt(1) against government control last year held elections on Saturday, an event that(2) some local people said was the first time they'd been able to elect their leaders. After years of resentment(3) about real estate(4) deals (5)between local leaders and businessmen, villagers staged a series of demonstrations. "We will solve the land issue (6)step-by-step," said Lin, the newly elected chief of the village. If those efforts to reclaim land come up short(8), then the experience will have been an empty one, many said. 1. Open revolt is when people demonstrate, express disagreement, rally together, and do so in a very public and obvious way. Ex: After the votes were counted, the people went to the town hall in open revolt at the result.     There has been open revolt in Greece over the government's plans to raise taxes and cut public spending. 2. The arrangement of (2) 'the event that' is a good stylistic way of adding more information about the elections. Many nouns that describe times or events can be reviewed and have more detail added to them. The arrangement of words, reflecting on the event, avoids having to make two sentences out of one, or one that doesn't sound as well crafted: The Chinese fishing village ..........held elections on Saturday, which some local people said was the first time..... . Or it could have been written: The Chinese fishing village........held elections on Saturday. Some local people said that this was the first time...... . The sentence structure in the article is much better than these two: The Chinese fishing village ........held elections on Saturday, an event that some local people said was the first time ...... . Let's see some other examples of this structure, and how it improves the flow of a sentence: Exs: The ball was a magical occasion, a special moment in time that Cinderella would never forget. This sentence flows nicely because of its second part. It could have been split into 2 sentences: Either: The ball was a magical occasion. It was a special moment in time that Cinderella would never forget. Or       The ball was a magical occasion, and was a special moment in time that Cinderella would never forget. Let me give you a few more examples of sentences using the more successful format: a. They bought the company in 1902, a decision that changed their lives completely. b. She sang "We'll meet again", a rendition that had everyone standing and applauding. c. He will analyse the book for a class, a job that most people would hate. d. We left town in winter of 1988, a season no one will ever forget because of the record snowfall. e. Their private conversation was not quiet enough, a mistake that caused a lot of embarrassment. 3. Resentment is similar to anger, or holding a grudge, or not letting an offense be forgiven or forgotten. Exs: He didn't get the promotion, so he was full of resentment.      The teacher was unfair, and that caused resentment among the students. 4. Real estate is property in the form of land or buildings Exs: She bought good real estate at just the right time; now it is worth ten times as much money.      The real estate market is slow at the moment, a sign that the economy isn't healthy yet. 5. Deal is both a verb and a noun. To deal is to hand out cards in a card game. You can also 'deal a blow' which basically means to punch. That expression is used figuratively as in this example: The financial crisis dealt a blow to the car companies.         It sounds old fashioned to use this expression when talking about punching someone; it's best to use 'punch'. A deal is a business or personal arrangement, some kind of agreement: Exs: The banks made a deal.  The buyers made a successful deal with the sellers. Note that the word 'dealings' has a sense of something illegal or secret, or unpleasant: Exs: The govenor's dealings with oil companies were exposed.     I don't want to talk about his dealings with the mafia. 6. Issue is an emotional or psychological problem. It can also be an important topic, or a disagreement with something. Exs: The issue of raising taxes always causes a lot of discussion and emotion.       He disrupts the class, is rude, and doesn't do any work. I think that he has serious issues.      I have an issue with the way he talks to people. I don't like it, and I think he needs a different approach.   Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish or email me at acupofenglish@live.com  or acupofenglish@hotmail.com…

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An intimidating meeting.

2012-03-05
Length: 9s

Last week, as some of you know, I met with the Superintendent of Wenatchee Schools. I was very nervous, for some reason. I had never met him before, though I had seen him a couple of times in School Board meetings. My intention was to encourage changes in the school district, changes that have been wanted and recommended for a long time but haven't taken place. But, as I stepped into the office, and sat down in the waiting area, I began to feel very small. For some reason, I started to doubt my right to be there. Was I informed enough to have a pertinent conversation with this very busy man, a man who obviously knows more about the school district than me? Would I forget what I had planned on saying half way through a sentence? Would I stutter, or burp, or trip and fall and smash something important, like his laptop? "Okay Anna, what's your problem? Are you losing your edge?" (1)I said to myself, "Whatever happened to the girl who did public speaking, or the rock climber, or the hitchhiker? Pull yourself together!" (2)I talked reasonably to myself in order to calm down my thumping heart, and my sweating armpits. I did some deep breathing exercises, and focused on the meeting being over, rather than the meeting itself. "Hello Anna," a voice interrupted my thoughts. I looked up, and standing there was a smiling man, reaching out his hand to shake mine. I quickly got up and shook his hand, "Hello Mr Flones, how are you?" The Superintendent had just got back from lunch, and had approached me while I was in the middle of my deep breathing exercises. He led me to his office, which was moderate, and practical, and not intimidating at all, plus there was nothing that I could easily break, so I started to relax. "I appreciate you meeting with me, Mr. Flones. I will be brief, I won't take up much of your time." "That's fine," he replied, looking at the clock, "I'm good."(3) I realized that I could stop being apologetic, and could just get on with what I wanted to say and ask. It turned out, actually, to be the opposite of what I had expected. He was not only very open, but he was very candid about the state of schools, and changes that needed to be made. What a relief! We agreed on many things, and towards the end, I said, "Really, I want to offer my hand of friendship, and to help in this transition to an upgraded school district." I said this because I have felt in the past that there were two separate and conflicting groups: parents and the school district. Of course, it doesn't have to be that way. If we work together, we can get twice as much done in half the time, as long as we really listen to eachother. I left the meeting feeling very satisfied, and stood outside for while, taking in the early Spring sun. As I walked to my car, I pondered why I had been so nervous. Well, if you've recently raised four children, and not worked, then you've been out of the loop(4): no office meetings, no business lunches, no professional decisions etc. It can be intimidating to step back into that arena when my world has been diapers, a-b-c's, and the price of milk. But, the impression that I got from the Superintendent was that, as a teacher and a parent, I have very valuable things to say. It didn't take long to adjust back to the school-decision making world. So, I've planned for another meeting in a few weeks, to check on progress, but this time, I won't need the breathing exercises. Related expressions: to lose your edge, pull yourself together, I'm good, to be out of the loop. 1. To lose your edge means to lose the quality of a skill through lack of use or fear. Exs: I used to tell jokes at parties, but I haven't done that for years. I've lost my edge.       I couldn't possibly skydive anymore; I've lost my edge. 2. To pull yourself together means to become brave by effort. You can use this as a command, even for yourself. Exs: Pull yourself together, man, you only need one filling. Your other teeth are fine.       I need to speak to him right now, but I really don't want to. "Pull yourself together Anna! Just do it!" 3. I'm good is used in the U.S. It's an expression that means "That's okay, I'm fine" or "I don't need anymore". It is used when people are asked if they want some more to eat, or if they want to communicate that they have plenty of time. Exs: Do you want some more cake?       No thanks, I'm good.       Here it means that he is satisfied and has had enough.        I won't take up much of your time.       I'm good. I've got plenty of time.        It can be used by itself without specifying 'I've got plenty of time' afterwards. 4. To be out of the loop means that you have been away from a certain arena, perhaps work, or a circle of friends, or an activity. Exs: I haven't sung in the choir for a few months; I'm out of the loop.       I used to meet with the ladies from my dance class, but I haven't been to it for two years. I'm out of the loop.               Here, 'I'm out of the loop' is used because she hasn't been to class, and she hasn't had connection with her social group.   Join me on FACEBOOK  at Anna fromacupofenglish and I'll friend you!    Or email me at acupofenglish@live.com  or acupofenglish@hotmail.com  …

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Analysis time - community colleges.

2012-02-26
Length: 13s

Community colleges still don't get the dollars of their four-year counterparts(1), but they're standing very much in the spotlight(2) these days. President Barack Obama made them the focus last week when he unveiled(3) his proposed budget. Why all the attention? One reason is that so-called(4) 'middle skill' jobs - requiring more than high school but less than a full college degree - look like the most promising source of fuel(5) for quickly revving(6) up an economic recovery. Federal data show they account for roughly(7) half of all jobs, and even when unemployment was over 10 percent, companies reported shortages(8) of qualified workers. 1. Counterpart is a very effective word for referring to a related item, especially if you want to avoid repetition. So, instead of saying : Community colleges still don't get the dollars of four-year colleges, you substitute in 'their four-year counterparts. We usually use a possessive adjective with counterpart(s) because it relates to the subject. Also, often an adjective or two about the counterpart are often given in order to make it clear what the counterpart actually is. In the paragraph 'four-year' obviously relates to larger, full-time universities. Ex: He was much faster than his stronger, heavier counterparts on theteam.                                                                        Ex: The country dental clinics are more personable than their larger, urban counterparts. 2. To be in the spotlight, or to stand in the spotlight means to have a lot of attention. It's a great visual description of someone or something having all eyes on them. Ex: Senator Brown is very much in the spotlight after his comments on the new tax bill. Ex: The financial difficulties of Greece are still very much in the global spotlight. 3. To unveil is to show something for the first time, or to show something that has been hidden. Ex: The sculptor unveiled his latest statue that has been donated to the city. Ex: The city has just unveiled plans for a new park. 4. So-called is used to qualify a description that might not be accurate. Ex: He's the so-called 'King of Pop'. So-called here shows that perhaps not everyone agreed with the title. There is no way of measuring if he really is the king of pop. Ex: The so-called free medical care has proven to be quite expensive. 5. Fuel, in this instance, doesn't mean actual combustible fuel. It is used to show the idea that the President wants to stimulate or ignite the economy. It is implied that he wants the economy to grow like a fire gets bigger and bigger. Ex: I wouldn't argue with him. You'll just add fuel to his argument (fire). 6. To rev up is similar to the word fuel. It is short for revolutions. To rev is usually used with engines, when you push the accelerator in and out and make the engine noise increase and decrease. It is often used figuratively. Ex: Wake up, have your coffee, let's get revved up for the meeting. Ex: My neighbor likes to rev his engine, even though his car is tiny. 7. Roughly is often used instead of approximately or nearly. Ex: The company has increased production by roughly 50 percent. Ex: Roughly a third of elementary school children are obese. 8. Shortage(s) is often used for a lack of. We see it a lot when talking about employment or produce of some kind. Ex: There is always a shortage of laborers and nurses. Ex: There will be a global shortage of wheat this year. Let's hear the paragraph one more time at normal speed. You can always join my FACEBOOK  page under Anna fromacupofenglish or send a request or question to : acupofenglish@live.com     or    acupofenglish@hotmail.com  …

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Xephos and Honeydew, in Minecraft.

2012-02-23
Length: 8s

This title is the kind that gets attention, isn't it? I first heard about these two characters a few days ago. My three boys play an on-line game called Minecraft. It's actually quite fabulous. It is an unending arena, where you can discover and create different worlds made out of blocks. My sons' favorites are the survival worlds, where you have to find raw materials* such as wood, edible plants, animals, tools, and fire. In order to survive and prosper, you must build yourself a house, and be in it by nightfall*. The reason is that zombies, or 'creepers', come out at night and attack you if you are not safely hidden in your house. Every day, I hear of their new discoveries such as exotic animals, or useful tools of some kind, diamonds, gold, enemies, friends, and even lava. It is hugely popular and globally played and loved. I can see why. If you have a look at Minecraft, you will see that it is a perfect combination of computer game, interaction, creativity, and adventure. My boys tell me all the time how educational it is, "Mum, you have to read a little, and even type!" And, you know, compared to a lot of the mindless, destructive video games out there, Minecraft is superior because a player not only has to be creative and curious, but he can add his own personal touch in a world of his choice. As with many on-line games, you have the ability to chat with other players. Mind you, you have to be careful what you say. If you accidentally offend a person who has created the world that you are in, you get banned. There are rules. Two people who know these rules very well, are Xephos and Honeydew. They are gurus of the Minecraft world. Infact, they have made their knowledge and practice of this game into profit. They have a website with up-to-date* video blogs of their Minecraft activity and discoveries. They are two, young English gentlemen, who are friends, and devoted gamers. They give regular commentaries while they game together in the same world in Minecraft. They have, what we call in England, 'the gift of the gab', which means an ability to talk and entertain. They are funny, expressive, and energetic, and other gamers, like my boys, love to follow their progress and listen to their advice. They battle evil characters, build detailed and unusual homes, and even search other people's homes and 'borrow' items that they find. The accumulation of riches is an important theme in Minecraft, and Xephos and Honeydew are expert miners who manage to collect all kinds of precious metals and gems* from the ground. I have come to terms with the fact that* my boys are addicted to this game, as are millions of others. And, thanks to Xephos and Honeydew, they will be encouraged to continue for a long time.  Related vocabulary and expressions: raw materials, nightfall, up-to-date, gems. 1. Raw materials are materials that are obtained from nature, and have not yet been processed. Some examples of raw materials are: rock, wood, metals that have come straight from the mine, and unrefined oil and gases that are collected from the earth. 2. We must find shelter before nightfall. As soon as it gets dark, who knows what dangers will appear in this forest. 3. If you want to download from iTunes, you should get an up-to-date version of it first. You can get an update on the website. 4. Look at the gems in the Queen's crown. They are so beautiful. There must be ten different kinds. Gems or gem can also be used as a compliment for a thing or a person using the word 'of': Ex: He's a gem of a person. He'll do anything to help. Ex: We bought a gem of an antique car; there is no other like it. Ex: I've just finished reading a gem of a novel. It's probably the best I've read in ten years. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish or email me comments or requests to:        acupofenglish@live.com or acupofenglish@hotmail.com …

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A swimming lesson.

2012-02-21
Length: 8s

Every Tuesday, I volunteer to drive several kids from school to the local swimming pool. They go once a week* for six weeks for a full hour*. It's actually a new experience for my  children to be able to swim during school hours; usually, P.E., or Physical Education, doesn't involve getting wet. So, this is a real treat. The first week, the children were separated into swimmers and non-swimmers. Since then, the swimmers can spend half of their swimming session playing with beach balls on teams. They also are allowed to use various diving boards, while the non-swimmers have an intensive swimming lesson. You could call this their 'immersion' session, ha, ha, do you get the pun?* Anyway, for us, it's an unusual and exciting morning. Thankfully, at the swimming pool, there are comfortable seats near the pool, and even internet connection. Infact, I'm writing this as I watch the children swim. The pool is divided into three sections, so three different activities can take place at the same time.* Closest to the edge where I'm sitting is one lane for elderly* people. They usually do gentle exercises, in groups, often with floatation devices. From what I can see, it's more like a social get-together. Next to them are two lanes dedicated to adults who just want to swim laps. A lap is a length of the pool. They go back and forth at their own pace, and have about one hour to get their exercise done. They are the most serious swimmers out of everyone here. Perhaps they have a background in* swimming, or simply enjoy the sport, and wish to include it as part of their healthy routine. So, as you can imagine, I sit here on Tuesday mornings, looking out over the pool, and observe all sorts of interesting activity. This pool is well equipped as far as safety is concerned*. There are two lifeguards on duty at all times, who constantly scan* the pool. They wear red t-shirts and carry red floatation devices, and are ready at any second to either blow a whistle, or to jump in and rescue someone. As I look around the room, I see more safety devices: rubber rings, stretchers for enabling disabled people to float on and enjoy the water, and even a fire extinguisher! You would have thought that that wouldn't be necessary. The swimming teacher is explaining to the kids at the moment the importance of timing in swimming, how you have to use your arms and legs at different times in order to get fast movement through the water. She explains this with the help of a swimmer volunteer, and now the children are taking turns swimming a lap using her advice. And guess what? I see improvement already! She is a devoted swimming teacher. I've never seen her out of the water; it's as if she's a part of the pool. They've got ten minutes left to swim; the kids never want to get out of the pool. They would rather stay here than go back to school.  Related vocabulary and expressions: once a week, a full hour, a pun, at the same time. 1. She has a piano lesson once a week, and a painting class once a month. 2. I wish this class was longer. It's only 45 minutes. I would prefer to have it for a full hour. 3. 'Immersion' is a pun when talking about swimming. A pun is a joke created by words that reflect the situation you're talking about. In this example, immersion is exactly what you have in water when you are swimming. An intensive lesson is also immersion. So, when I say that the children's swimming lesson is like an 'immersion course', I pun. 4. He is a multi-tasker. He can do several things at the same time. Yesterday evening, he was making dinner, practicing Russian while listening to a podcast, and helping his son with his math homework! Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna Fromacupofenglish  or email me at acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com…

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Share: A swimming lesson.


No words please.

2012-02-16
Length: 7s

What's one of the best ways to get refreshed? Exercise. I find, that I am a different person after I've exercised. What I mean by this is that I feel very positive, focused, and inspired when I have pushed myself physically. Mind you, it isn't just going to the gym that does it. Walks in the country are the very best for me. I think it's because, not only do I get all the physical benefits of exercise, but being in nature reminds me deeply of what's real and what's good. You could say that it's a scientifically proven huge dose of medicine. However, when I don't have the time to walk in the country, I'll go to the gym. The one I go to is just a few blocks away. It's one of those places that you can go to any time of the day or night. Each member has his or her own entry card that opens the locked doors automatically. This sounds very fancy, but it's actually just a safety precaution, so only members enter the gym at night. And because there are no staff members in the gym, the cards guarantee that members can work out safely, and alone. I've only worked out at night once, as I prefer to do so during the day. I usually go there mid-morning. Generally, there are elderly people working out when I get there, and an occasional younger person. I often wonder what the non-retired people are doing there in the morning. Do they work a night shift*? Are they unemployed? Perhaps they are in college. Or maybe, like me, they are a stay-at-home-parent-blogger. But my imagination isn't enough to keep me walking uphill on the treadmill*, or lifting weights. I need something to help me. Music works best for me, dance music, in particular. My problem is that I'm fussy about what I listen to. I like a huge variety of modern hits, music from the eighties, jazz, and Motown. However, because I really pay attention to words, I get tired of songs if I have heard them ten or twenty times. The music and the beat* really keep me going in my workout, but the words, often, put me off*. Some modern songs have great beats, but the words are either appalling or cliches. "Baby, it'll be alright in the night, hold me tight, our love is right, let's fly a kite, here's my sandwich, take a bite...." you know what I mean; a good piece of music can very quickly become annoying because of the childish* lyrics*. If only my ears didn't care about words. But that's how I am; I'm into* words, and I listen to everything. So, recently, after seeing the movie Tron, I bought the soundtrack. No words. Just a lot of great techo beats and rhythmns. For now, that is doing the trick*. I hope I don't get tired of it. I need to go to a music shop and look for instrumental versions of dance hits. Hopefully, I'll find some good music with no words, if not, I'll have to develop a sense of humor about modern music's silly lyrics. Related vocabulary: night shift, treadmill, the beat, to put someone off. 1. He prefers to work at night, so he has the night shift in the hospital. 2. A treadmill is the walking machine that can vary speed and gradient. It offers a really good, custom workout. 3. The rhythm of a piece of music is what we call the beat. 4. While I was eating lunch, he blew his nose really hard. It totally put me off my food. I couldn't eat anything after that because I was so disgusted. Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna from A Cup of English, or email questions and comments to acupofenglish@hotmail.com or acupofenglish@live.com…

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Share: No words please.


Analysis time.

2012-02-10
Length: 10s

Some of my listeners have asked me to examine and explain English phrases and vocabulary in depth. I think that that is a great idea. In order to do this, I have selected a small paragraph from a magazine that is about wasting money. This will be the first in a series of 'Analysis time' that will, hopefully give you deeper understanding of certain, common vocabulary and phrases, so you will find them easier to use. Stop wasting(1) food! With a little creativity(2), you can use commonly(3) trashed(4) items and save yourself some major(5) dough(6). Did you know that, on average, Americans throw out 25 percent of the food they bring home, worth(7) an astonishing(8) $2,200 per year. Think of what you could(9) do with that cash(10)! 1. Stop wasting...! It's a command. You could add various words at the end, such as, money, time, my time, the milk. 2. With a little creativity, a little thought, a little care, a little attention to detail. You're using your brain to think carefully.               Ex: With a little effort, you could finish this project in an hour. 3. Commonly: normally, regularly, daily. It is used to describe the items that are 'trashed'. How often are they trashed? Answer is very often, normally, daily, commonly. This action is committed by most people; it is common. 4. Trashed, comes from the noun trash which means rubbish or garbage. It has become a verb, 'to trash'. Ex: We trashed the old car. This means that we threw it in the rubbish, or that we smashed it up first, and then threw it away. It is an Americanism. It essentially means the same as 'to waste'. Garbage and rubbish are only found in noun form; they are not verbs. 5. Major is also an Americanism. It means 'a lot of'. It implies an important amount, or an important position. Ex: I have major bills to pay. This could mean big bills, or a lot of bills. 6. Dough, is taken from bread dough, the uncooked bread. It means money, again slang. * A note about using slang. If you are going to use it, make it consistent. For example, in this paragraph, both 'major' and 'dough' go together well because they are BOTH slang. It sounds like a good fit. If you mix formal language with slang, it doesn't sound so good. Ex: Save yourself quite a lot of dough.   'Quite a lot of' sounds more English, precise, and from England. Whereas 'dough' is definitely slang, street language, and very informal. 7. Worth means 'has the value of'. Ex: This coat is worth a lot more than $100. 8. Astonishing here means surprising and shocking. To be astonished. Ex: I am astonished by his progress! Ex: The opulence of the palace was astonishing. 9. Think of what you could..... is a very useful phrase to which you can add a variety of verbs: Think of what you could eat at the buffet. Think of what you could learn if you went to that university. Think of what you could paint if you had the right equipment. Think of what you could achieve if you were President. 10. Cash, as you probably know is money. It's not as slang as 'dough', it can be used even in formal situations with more formal language. So, let's hear the paragraph again, first slowly, and then at normal speed.  …

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Ivar's of Seattle.

2012-02-07
Length: 6s

During Christmas vacation, we took a trip to Seattle to see the Nutcracker ballet, and to enjoy some time in the city. You might not know a lot about Seattle, but if you google it, you will see that it is a stunningly beautiful area, and a very cosmopolitan city. We stayed in a hotel, right downtown, and fortunately were on the thirtieth floor, so we had an impressive view of the city. After leaving our luggage in the hotel room, we decided to go for a walk around the center of town, and find a place to have lunch. We ended up choosing Ivar's restaurant, which is right on the water. It has been around for a long time, and is famous for its chowder. Chowder is a thick, creamy soup that has clams in it, though sometimes it can just have potatoes. Ivar's chowder is so popular, that it can be bought all over the Northwest in supermarkets. As Seattle is a prime spot* for seafood, we all had fish. While we were eating, our waiter gave the kids a mask each, called Ivar's diver. It goes with the sea theme, and has been Ivar's mascot since the 1960's. It was a sunny, Winter day, and we enjoyed sitting by the windows and watching the boats come and go. On such a day, this is the place to be. There is the view of the water, and also of the islands on the Puget sound, with ferries making their regular trips. We had over an hour before we had to be at the theater, so, when we finished our meal, we walked out onto the deck to have a look around. There were tables with people having lunch. They had company. There was a huge gathering of seagulls that were making a tremendous racket* begging for crumbs and leftovers. I was impressed at their size; they're much bigger than I realised. And they were quite aggressive as well. We had deliberately taken some leftover fries with us to feed them. My children threw them up into the air, over the water. These strong, hungry birds whipped* through the air, and ate most of the food before it even landed on the water. It was like watching an acrobatic display. And these birds are on to a good thing*. They are a permanent part of Ivar's because they know that there is a constant supply of food coming from the restaurant. Some people visit Ivar's just to feed the seagulls. Infact, I think that they would be a better mascot than Ivar's diver. Related vocabulary:  a prime spot/ location, a racket, to whip (through). 1. That place is a prime spot for a restaurant. It will be visible and accessible to pedestrians and drivers. We should get lots of business if we have it in that location. 2. What a racket! What a horrible noise! You don't call that music do you? It's awful! 3. The wind whipped through the building. It was so cold and uncomfortable. * Whip is both a noun and a verb. A whip is a nasty, long, leather device to control and subdue animal, and, in the past, slaves. So, here it describes the 'sting' of the wind, as if it is punishment. Feel free to EMAIL me at acupofenglish@live.com or acupofenglish@hotmail.com Or friend me on FACEBOOK at Anna from A cup of English.…

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Loaded nachos.

2012-02-02
Length: 7s

Studies show that the favorite food in the U.S is Mexican. The traditional hot dog and hamburger have to take second and third places, because the tasty and sometimes spicy food found south of the U.S takes first place. When I first came to the U.S., I had very little idea of how much influence Mexico has, in general, on this country. As I am English, and England is very far away from Mexico, I had only ever been to one Mexican restaurant that was in London. I didn't know much about Mexico either.  Now, twenty years on*, I'm sure that there are many more, up and down the country, especially the popular food chains like Taco Bell and Taco Time. So, during my first visit here, I ended up eating more Mexican food than I had expected. You could say that while I have lived here, I have learned not only about the U.S way of life, but also about Mexico, its food, its culture, and its people. I've been fortunate enough to* go to Mexico a few times, see its capital, explore some of its major historical buildings, and experience some of its traditions. And Wenatchee, believe it or not, is very influenced by the Mexican culture. Although it is a small town, of about 40,000, a large percentage of the population is from Mexico. Their culture is attractive and lively, and very proactive*. There are more and more restaurants, bakeries, dance clubs, travel agencies, and daycares that are Hispanic and Spanish speaking. A healthy bicultural nature is emerging in this town. Because of this, even the traditional supermarkets are offering products that Hispanics like to buy. It's good business. And one of the prefered dishes is nachos. It is based on corn or flour tortillas, which are flat and round. These can be fried to become crispy, toasted slightly in a frying pan with no oil, or simply warmed in the microwave. Nachos typically are crunchy. Bags of tortilla 'chips' are purchasable anywhere, so it's easy and convenient. Some people make a simple nacho dish of tortilla chips with tomato salsa and shredded cheese on top. However, 'loaded nachos' is a much more substantial dish that is varied and filling enough to be a full meal. The word 'loaded' is used to mean that it is a full, and quite heavy dish. A loaded gun comes to mind; it's ready to do some serious firing, and the nachos are ready to deliver some serious taste. So, we have the tortilla chips, and on top, fried , seasoned, minced beef, salsa, sour cream, advocado slices, black olives, shredded cheese, and sliced chili peppers. Wow! Beat that! It is full flavored, as you can imagine. This dish is perfect for parties and get-togethers. Recently, the Superbowl was on, and it is a tradition to have loaded nachos available as one of the dishes to enjoy while watching the football on television. The supermarkets stock up with all the ingredients, so you can easily throw them all together to make this easy but satisfying dish. Related vocabulary: ....years on, to be fortunate enough to..., proactive. (Get-together found on Facebook under Anna from A cup of English. 1. She started a naturopathic clinic. Several years on, she had to open two more; it was that popular. 2. We were fortunate enough to find five pairs of shoes on clearance. 3. He is so proactive. He is always making good things happen, and when there is conflict, he finds a way to create a good situation out of it. Feel free to EMAIL me at: acupofenglish@hotmail.com  or  acupofenglish@live.com OR join me on FACEBOOK at: Anna from A cup of English.…

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The wrong shoes.

2012-01-30
Length: 6s

I haven't ever had a reason to visit a podiatrist (which is what we call a foot doctor), until recently. I don't have any problem with my feet, thankfully. I suppose, over the years, the shoes that I have worn have been good enough to keep me out of the clinics. My feet rarely complain, so I ignore them most of the time. However, my son Cass, who is twelve, has been complaining for a while of heel, ankle, and arch pain. I reasoned that he is growing fast at this stage, and that growing pains of all sorts are quite common. He does play a lot of sports, and so, any problem or tenderness* can get worse. As he practices basketball twice a week, and has to do lots of running, I researched a little on the internet the ways I could ease his pains. You know I love to Google; well, I also love to find tutorials on You-tube. It's a wealth of information! In an instant, I found a video clip that demonstrates how to wrap your feet before you take part in any sporting activity. It was surprisingly simple, and really made sense. It started by showing a 3-D image of the inside of a foot. I thought it looked freaky!* The visual* made it very clear how the foot works, and why a person might experience pain. So, I wrapped Cass's feet, and he told me after practice that it had really helped. I also made an appointment for him to see a podiatrist. It was just a few days later that we went to see Dr. Hoover, a softly spoken, straightforward man. After looking at Cass' feet and his shoes, he came to the conclusion that stress from sports, and the wrong shoes, have brought about the problem. Cass normally wears Adidas shoes. They are fine for walking, but they don't provide a lot of arch support, and the basketball shoes bend in the wrong place. Apparently, a good sports shoe bends where your foot does, basically at the toe area. If it bends in the middle, it puts stress on the joint that we have in the middle of our foot, because this joint is very limited, and is not supposed to move much at all. So, after he gave us a brief lesson on how the foot works, and a list of recommended* shoes and shoe inserts*, Cass had an xray. It turns out that he has normal feet, and just needs some good support during sports. That was a relief for me; I didn't have to worry about anything serious. The next day I bought him two kinds of inserts, and different basketball shoes. These things have made all the difference. He's much happier now after practice, and no longer has stiff, tender feet in the morning. How wonderful that we have such quick access to information that can educate us, and help us avoid making mistakes with our health. Related vocabulary:tenderness, freaky, a visual, recommended: 1. When a part of your body is injured, the area around the injury can feel tender, sensitive to pain. 2. That Halloween costume is freaky! It's one of the wierdest and scariest I've seen. 3. It's much easier to study if you have a visual, because, as Shakespeare said, "A picture paints a thousand words." 4. That hotel is recommended; it has everything we need. However, the one next door isn't recommended at all. *JOIN ME ON FACEBOOK, AT   Anna from A cup of English.…

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Dirt bike night.

2012-01-28
Length: 6s

It was Friday night, and we had tickets for a special event. Our local Town Toyota Center was going to host a dirtbike show. We had six tickets, so there were enough for me, the kids, and my brother. I had never been to a dirt bike night at the arena, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But I do like motorbikes; I took a riding course many years ago, and my husband had several, so they are an area of interest for me. We had been told that a company in town had been asked to bring in ton(nes) of earth (soil) to make a course for the bikes. "That must mean that there are some jumps!" I said to my kids, who got very excited at the thought of it. And there certainly was a lot of earth. The view from our box showed a racing course that was made entirely of soil, with about seven hills for jumping. The arena slowly filled with spectators, while a giant monster truck revved* its engine, and gave people a short ride, forwards and backwards along the length of the course. It was an enormous vehicle that was perfect for the show, but I can't imagine using it in day to day life; it wouldn't fit anywhere. The announcer stepped forward, introduced himself and the sponsors of the show, and then called forward the first set of *bikers. They were semi-professional, looked like they were in their mid twenties, and they were all riding three to four hundred cc bikes. Ten of them lined up and revved their engines. There would be money for the winner, and you could tell that they were eager.*The flag signalled go, the line dropped, and they were off with a loud, drilling machine noise from their engines, and soil flying from their back tires. They rounded the corner, and came up to the a set of bumps in the course. They had to slow down substantially to get over them without falling off. Then there was another sharper bend, and two large jumps. One by one, they flew through the air, their colors blurring* with their speed. Two more lengths of the course and they were finished with the first round. Five rounds in total and they finished. One lucky one received five hundred dollars, but the rest went home empty-handed. There followed about nine more performances from different age groups and categories, ranging from five year olds (believe it or not), to professionals. Funnily enough, the shortest session, was that of the over fourties category. They looked heavier than the first lot, but just as enthusiastic. However, when they rounded the first corner, three of them fell over, two quite badly, and that was the end of that! Two of them limped off, injured, and none of the others completed the course. My brother and I looked at eachother and shook our heads. We're both in our fourties, and we both understand that people our age don't bounce like rubber anymore. Well, by the time each category had run the course, the arena was full of exhaust fumes, and we were more than ready to go home. It had been entertaining, though quite noisy. Actually, the noisiest part was the announcer, who felt like he had to shout through the entire evening for some reason. I was glad to get in my car, in the relative quiet, and drive easily and safely home, no bumps, and no falls. Related vocabulary and expressions: a set of, eager, blurry, to rev the engine. 1. I bought a set of storage boxes and a set of flower pots that were on sale. 2. After swimming in the sea, my eyes were all blurry; I couldn't see clearly at all. 3. My neighbor was making such a noise revving his engine; does he think that he's a race car driver?…

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Here at last.

2012-01-24
Length: 5s

 Here at last. There has been a scraping sound in Wenatchee for about a week. It's the sound of snow shovels. Finally, the snow is here. And there isn't just a little of it. Out of the blue*, a storm moved in, just as we were getting used to a snowless Winter. It took us all by surprise*, and it has had its usual impact on everything. Our lives have adjusted by becoming slower. You can't rush around if you are walking or driving on snow and ice. You can't afford* to be a little late, because by the time you get to where you planned on going, you will be very, very late. One of my kids told me yesterday, that one of her classmates was late for school because her front and back doors were frozen shut! There are inconveniences everywhere, and you just have to get used to them. On my way to the grocery store, there was a hold up* in the traffic. One car had slid into the snow bank that was in the middle of the road. It was stuck, and sticking out*, right in the way of the traffic. People were looking out of their windows, honking their horns, and generally looking impatient. Finally, a hero turned up to rescue the stranded person. It was a policeman. He walked slowly over to the stranded driver who was desperately spinning his wheels, assessed the situation*, got back in his car, and literally pushed the car out of the way with his police car. It worked; problem solved. One thing about living in this area is that you become more flexible in the Winter. I think you become more understanding. Everyone has things to do; we are all in a hurry, but there is a white obstacle out there, in the streets and driveways, that slows us all down, and sometimes causes accidents. So what does all of this mean? It means we have to be more thoughtful. One of our neighbor's boys cleared the snow from my friend's driveway because she's in her late seventies, and lives alone. You'll often see people snow blow their own driveways and walkways, and then continue on to the neighbor's. I'll be going over to my mother's house today to clear her walkway while she's at work because she's terrified of slipping and falling. To avoid an accident, she wears attachable*, rubber crampons, believe it or not. They keep her stable and safe. Whoever sells those should be making some good money this time of year. Related vocabulary and expressions: out of the blue, to be taken by surprise, you can't afford to, to stick out. It was a quiet, Spring day, when, out of the blue, a noisy jet screamed through the air, right above my house. I was in a daydream, looking at the flowers, when John came up to me and started talking. He took me completely by surprise. You can't afford to spend your time watching television when you have an exam tomorrow. I cut my leg on a nail that was sticking out of the step.…

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Amaryllis.

2012-01-12
Length: 5s

Something has grown in my mother's kitchen this Winter. It is tall, beautiful, and bright red. If you're in the room, you can't help but * look at it. It's an amaryllis. It was given to her as a Christmas present, and she has been growing it from a bulb since then. They are originally from South Africa, a member of the lily family. As there are no plants growing here in the Winter, it is common to give the gift of an amaryllis bulb in a pretty pot, as a plant to be grown inside the house. Once planted, it will quickly grow tall, and produce a stunning flower. It's the kind of plant that you want to photograph up close. Its stamen are a contrasting yellow, and hold a lot of pollen. It's similar to some of the orchids that my mother has grown through the years; they also have a very fleshy*, waxy feel to them, and have very rich colors. The other day when I visited her, I was reminded that I also have bulbs at home that need to be planted. Actually, in the Autumn, I bought three bags of bulbs, to be planted that season in the garden. Let's just say that I put them 'out of sight'*, and they are still in the bags. They have actually started to sprout, even though they are not in soil. Apparently, even though I missed the season, I can still plant them in pots and keep them in the house where they will slowly grow. Then, in the Spring, I can transplant them outside. It's a bit like the potatoes that I buy for making chips, baked potatoes or mashed potatoes. If don't use them in time, they will have sprouted all sorts of roots and become inedible. Plants are programmed to grow, and they will do it, whether or not we are taking care of them. A friend of mine told me that one year she planted too many zucchini plants (they are also called courgets). They had a car parked next to the vegetable patch that was not used much. Before anyone knew it*, the zucchini vine had grown all over and inside the car! All this talk of plants is making me yearn* for the Spring. First things first though; I need to find those bags of bulbs and get them planted! Related vocabulary: you can't help but..., fleshy, out of sight, before you know it. 1. You can't help but admire him. Everybody thinks he is brilliant. 2. These apricots are so fleshy. They have a lot of body, and are filling. 3. He didn't really clean the houe. He just put everything away, out of sight, in the cupboard. 4. You'll have a child, and, before you know it, he will have grown, and will be leaving for college.…

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Cave spotting.

2012-01-11
Length: 6s

It's been such a mild Winter. There has been no sign of snow for weeks and weeks, which is very odd. Christmas didn't feel very Christmasy because of it. But there is an up side* to this strange weather. Everyone has been able to go for walks. Normally, when there is so much snow and ice around, you don't see people walking on the street at all. They stay in their cars, nice and warm, if they want to go anywhere. But this year, people are still walking and jogging on the streets. The parks are almost as busy with people as they are in the Spring or Autumn. Walking in the countryside is something that I love to do. It gets the heart pumping, the circulation going*, and clears the mind. So, a couple of days ago, my brother and I went up into the hills that are nearby. We followed a road called Horselake, up to a rough, primitive road, that took us winding up, away from the town. It was a cold day, with mist sitting on the tops of the hills. The grasses and bushes up there were all different hues* of brown, blonde, and pale greens, - very gentle on the eyes. We were hoping to see some wildlife: perhaps a coyote, or a deer. My brother noticed all kinds of foot prints in the mud. Some were definitely those of dogs, but a few looked as though they could have been cougar prints. We do have them in the area; we've even had a couple in town in recent years. Yikes!* I don't like the sound of that! Well, we walked upwards, following a ridge. On one side of it we could see a valley with the Wenatchee river cutting through it, and on the other side, a steep slope down into a ravine*. It was hard work, but worth it. The view was great. We ended up walking down onto the road because from there, we could access some sandstone caves. I had been up this way before, but had never seen the caves. They blend into the side of the hill, so they are very hard to see. We scrambled* down to reach them, and then spent some time exploring. It was fun. It reminded me of rock climbing in England when I was young, though I'm not as brave now as I was then. We crawled up to the biggest ones, and took photos, and looked for signs of animals. The wind and water had carved out fascinating shapes, mini bridges and arches, and little places that would be perfect for small animals. There was evidence of birds staying there: droppings*. After taking photos and having a good look around, we headed back to the car. There was still no sign of coyotes, but, then again, they are very smart animals, and had probably been observing us the whole time. Related vocabulary: an up side to something, get the circulation going, a hue, yikes. 1. This weather is terribly wet. Mind you, the up side is that the garden is getting plenty of water. 2. That aerobics class is hard. It really gets the circulation in the body going. 3. She painted her whole house in different hues of yellow. 4. Yikes! I wouldn't want to hold that rattlesnake!…

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Graduation day.

2011-12-31
Length: 7s

There was a special day to celebrate, back in November. A friend of mine was graduating from a nursing program(me) which she had been in for two years. Normally, as a young student, two years of study isn't that much. However, she is in her forties, married, and has two boys, so it was quite a challenge. Mijung, is my very good friend from Korea. We have known eachother for about seven years. Infact, our boys went to the same preschool, and it was there that we met eachother. We got together once after preschool and had lunch while the children played, and our friendship took off* from there. Mijung is both compassionate and intelligent, so I think that she has the right qualities to make an effective nurse. I actually haven't seen her much for the past two years because of her busy schedule*. Knowing how much effort she had put into her studies, and how difficult it had been to maintain a balance between studying full time, and also having a family, I was determined to go to her graduation ceremony to show my support. It took place in the gymnasium of the college that she studied at, here in Wenatchee. By the time I found a parking spot and ran into the building, it was packed with people, and the teachers were giving their speeches. It was warm in the gym. Families, dressed elegantly, were sitting in groups, holding flowers, and looking very proud. There was a surprisingly large number of children running around (girls in pretty dresses, boys in smart suits) unaware of the formality* of the occasion. They must have enjoyed the spacious feel of the room, and the shiny floors. A few mothers got up and told their kids not to roll around on the floor, and they did their best to wipe off their children's now not-so-clean clothes. Finally, the time came to give out the graduation badges. I took off my coat, got out my camera, and squeezed past* a few people so I could see my friend clearly enough to take a good photo. "We will hand out the badges in alphabetical order," announced the speaker. "Oh, great! Mijung's last name begins with 'W'; I'm going to be waiting for a while," I thought to myself. It was a school day, and I had just over an hour before having to pick the kids up. The graduates approached the podium* to say a few words and receive their badges. Most of them were tearful and happy; they thanked their family members for supporting them, and those with children said a big thankyou for everyone's patience. I actually grew impatient, listening to all of the mini-speeches. I didn't want to leave without seeing Mijung. I couldn't quite get to the perfect spot to photograph her: if I moved to the left, a flower arrangement blocked her face. If I moved to the right the podium was in the way. Finally, a little frustrated, I just walked out in front of the first row of seats and started to take pictures. Her name was called. She got up quickly and joined her family at the podium. She hugged her family and everyone applauded. She was one of the few students who received the extra honor of graduating with straight 'A's': Magna cum laude, I think it's called.  During the applause, I managed to catch Mijung's eye, and I waved and blew her a kiss. What an accomplishment! She deserves to feel proud. I'm sure she'll make a positive impact on people who need physical help. It was such a happy moment for so many students. Even the very young children who were running around and sliding on the floor, clapped as if they knew what was going on. I checked my watch, and I was glad that I did, because I only had five minutes left before I had to leave. I fumbled* to get my camera back in the bag, I quickly handed a present for Mijung to her husband, and waved goodbye. Related vocabulary:to take off, busy schedule, formality, to squeeze (past) 1. The business took off as soon as it opened. It has done really well since then. 2. I have to change my busy schedule; it's too much. I'm so busy that it's not even practical! 3. You must understand the formality of the occasion; the correct dress and etiquette should be used. 4. She squeezed through the crowd to get a better look at the pop singer.…

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Waiting to go South.

2011-12-17
Length: 5s

It's that time of year when a lot of people are waiting to go South. Normally, by now, we would have snow, lots of it, and icy roads. This year, however, has been very strange. We experience hard frosts at night, but sunny days. Everyone is talking about how strange the weather is. Children have their winter boots, gloves, and hats at the ready*. At the first sign of snow, they will frantically get dressed, and run outside to play in the glorious white stuff. But, it's just not happening. By now, also, most migrating birds have left to go to either California, Florida, Mexico, or some other sunny destination. But, even some of them are hanging around* the town still, waiting for the snow to come. I was coming out of Walmart the other day, when I saw a cloud of birds swirling around in the sky, 'practicing' moving as a group. They looked playful, and amazingly skilled*. They moved to and fro* effortlessly like hundreds of acrobats working in unison*. As I got closer to my car, I saw that they had settled on a radio tower across the highway. I took out my new camera to zoom in and get a closer look. There were hundreds of them sitting on the metal poles. It was like a chatty, nervous group of people, waiting excitedly for something. I'm not surprised that they were excited. The thought of going somewhere sunny is very appealing right now. Many people I know have already made plans to spend a month or two in Arizona. They are usually retired, and therefore can afford to take off* for a long time. Younger people can usually only go for a couple of weeks because they have to come back and work, of course. Golf or tennis are usually the planned activities for those Winter vacations. And, when the travelers come back, they show off their tans to the rest of us. I'm sure, even though the weather is strange this year, the migrating birds will soon be gone, and our retired family members and friends will have packed their bags and left too. Perhaps a heavy fall of snow will come a month late, so we can enjoy a little more sun for a little longer. Either way, we'll cheer up our long, dark nights with Christmas lights, and stay cozy by the fire. Related vocabulary: at the ready, to hang around, skilled, to and fro. 1. Water pistols at the ready! The water fight is about to begin! 2. A group of suspicious young men were hanging around our neighborhood last night. We should find out who they were. 3. Look how skilled the potter is! The detail she puts on her ceramics are amazingly fine. She is excellent and exact at what she does. 4. I watched the bird go to and fro from its nest, bringing worms and bugs to feed to its babies.…

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A surprise package.

2011-12-12
Length: 5s

My morning routine has ups and downs*. First thing in the morning, I find myself rushing around like a frantic woman, trying to get my children up out of bed, and off to school. I'm usually still in my pajamas (pyjamas)* when I drop the kids off, and I drive off quickly before anyone sees me. But, when I get home, I can slow down a little before I start the chores of the day, or run errands. I take my time over my morning coffee, stretch, pet the dogs, check my emails and Facebook, have a bit more coffee, and then plan my day. I was doing that this morning, when there was a knock at the door. A Federal Express delivery man handed me a package, a large box. I had to sign in order to receive it, and then he went on his way. I assumed that the package was for my husband, who buys a lot of cycling and hunting equipment on-line*. However, it was addressed to me! I was instantly awake, and opened the box quickly. The side of the box said 'Greenvale Scottish baby potatoes'. I knew that I hadn't ordered any potatoes; why would I? But the word Scottish gave me a clue as to what was inside, and who it was from. My father lives in Scotland, on the West coast. And, yes, it was from him. Thankfully, the box wasn't full of potatoes, but rather, it was brimming with Christmas presents. I was so surprised! He and his wife had wrapped up all of the gifts in traditional wrapping paper, with colors of red, green, gold, and white. I took them out of the box, and tried to guess what they were. " The children will be so excited to see them under the Christmas tree when they get home," I thought to myself. This is their last week of school, and they are beginning to anticipate# the holidays. I noticed that one of the wrapping papers had one of my favorite English Christmas carols on it: The Holly and the Ivy. The first two lines were visible under the bow. It says: 'The Holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. And the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer, the playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.' It really sets the scene for Christmas. I must rush out and send off a package as soon as possible to Scotland. I hope it gets there on time! Related vocabulary and expressions: ups and downs, pyjamas, on-line, (to anticipate   at Anna From A cup of English on Facebook). 1. We all have ups and downs; sometimes we are positive and energetic, and other times we are the opposite. 2. Pyjamas is the English spelling. Pajamas is the American spelling. 3. I do a lot of my work on-line, which is very convenient. I can even do it in my pyjamas.  …

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An unusual way to advertise.

2011-12-06
Length: 5s

Do you ever watch the programs (programmes) on television that show the funniest international advertisements? They generally come out about Christmas time, and provide an hour of side-splitting* entertainment. Advertising is to be scrutinized*. Even my children will comment on whether or not an advertisement is any good. Some are very clever, some are downright* annoying, and some are confusing. I've found that as my children's critical thinking develops, so do their comments about anything in the media. "That advertisement sucks," one of them will say. Obviously 'sucks' is slang for something being awful or of very poor quality. I will ask why it 'sucks', and the answer will be something like, "It's not convincing," or "there's no point to it," or perhaps even, "they're trying to be funny, but they're not." I suppose the whole point of advertising is to catch the attention of the public, and to convince us to buy something. So, everyone should be a critic, and we should use our own brains to decide how good an advertisement is, and if the product is really worth buying. Sometimes the simplest advertisements are the best. I remember a series of Australian beer commercials for Foster's, that were really funny. They were very basic, showing how rugged* Australia is, and then indicating that Foster's beer is also rugged. The commercials used exaggeration to get their message across, and they did a good job. The other day I came across an unusual form of advertising: a large pretzel hanging in a tree. It sounds a little strange, doesn't it? It was outside a bakery, in the town of Leavenworth. Several pretzels were hanging on several trees along the street, and they had obviously come from the bakery which displayed pretzels. I thought that this was a genius idea. I went inside and asked a lady who was arranging cakes if there was a story or tradition around# the pretzel hanging in the tree. "Oh no," she said, "it's just for advertising." It had certainly sparked by interest. Infact, whether they intended it or not, that bakery had established  its own tradition  through advertising. Related vocabulary and expressions: side-splitting, to scrutinize, downright, rugged (a story/ tradition around  on Facebook at Anna Fromacupofenglish) 1. The comedy night at the local club was side-splittingly funny. When I got home, my stomach and my sides hurt from laughing. 2. My neighbors scrutinize everything that I do: how I park my car, when I mow the lawn, even how often I walk the dog. 3. She is downright lazy! She sits around, watching tv, and expects everyone else to work! 4. The men who live in this area are rugged; they are tough, hard working, and basic.…

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Student of the month.

2011-12-04
Length: 6s

What kind of characteristics or behavior can get you the title of Student of the Month? What would you imagine them to be? Intelligent? Avid* reader? High scorer? Or, are there other qualities that can get you noticed by teachers and rewarded. It looks as if there are many traits* and behaviors that can get a student both noticed and appreciated. Recently, in my childrens' middle school, there was an awards ceremony for a group of students who had 'stood out'* as community builders. By community, I mean the student body*, and the overall atmosphere that it carries. When I received the letter from the school, that my son Cass, had been nominated by his teachers for a community award, I was intrigued. I assumed that he had done something for the community of Wenatchee, perhaps for a charity. When I asked him what it meant, he told me that he didn't really know. Knowing that the principal would give some kind of speech about the award, I decided to wait and see what he had to say. The ceremony took place at ten in the morning, during school. The students who were nominated were excused from their various classes, and joined the parents in the assembly hall. The principal introduced himself, and then started to talk about what 'community' actually means within the school, and why it is so important. He talked about students having a positive and caring attitude, and being the 'glue' that holds the student community together, and helps to create a generally positive environment. As I listened to what he was saying, I realised that, yes, community is essential in school. If the student environment is safe and friendly, the young people can learn so much more, and feel free to be themselves, and perhaps even enjoy their school days. The last thing that students need is stress, so if the school system rewards community, I suppose it elevates the comfort level of all members. I took lots of photos of Cass and the other students, who had all been nominated by various teachers. They stood on stage in a group, holding their certificates proudly. After the ceremony, there was time for refreshments#, and mingling# with the other families. I read Cass' award which said, "His maturity, friendliness, and willingness to accept all kids makes him a wonderful member of any group." I felt very proud. I have his award on my desk now, and plan to frame it and put it in a place where everyone can see it. Related vocabulary:avid, traits, to stand out, student body (refreshments, mingling - found on Facebook, at Anna Fromacupofenglish). 1. He is an avid bird watcher; it is his main passion. 2. Characteristics and traits really mean the same thing, though traits can automatically mean physical features. 3. He stood out in the crowd; he was much taller than most people, and was wearing unusually colorful clothes. 4. The student body is putting on a play next week. Every student has his or her own part. Join me on Facebook at Anna Fromacupofenglish, and find more related vocabulary!  …

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Oh my Cannon!

2011-11-30
Length: 7s

Those of you who have been listening to my podcast for the past three years, will know that I have complained about my camera on quite a few occasions. Though it has been both useful and practical for my podcasts, and small enough to fit in my handbag, I have been frustrated with it most of the time. I've described it as a 'dinosaur' more than once. This is a term we often use for an out-of-date piece of technology, such as a computer, or an old cell phone. Well, my little camera is going to be handed down to one of my kids, recycled you could say, because I've got a new one. It's a Cannon, a birthday present from my husband. And, let me tell you, it was love at first sight!*I actually hadn't spent any time researching the best buy*, nor had I asked anyone for advice on the matter. However, I did have a mental list* of prerequisites*: 1. It should be compact enough to fit in my handbag (I'm more likely# to lose it if I have to carry it in a second bag), 2. It needs to take good quality video so I can get action shots of my children playing sports, and also be able to upload video easily to my app., 3. It needs a powerful focus to pick up small detail very clearly. I'm really into# detail when it comes to photos. You know the kind of photos that show the middle of a tiny flower, with pollen on the stamen, and by comparison the petals look huge; that's the kind that I would like to take. I'm going to experiment with my cannon, and find out just how much detail is possible. Perhaps I can focus in enough on a small flower, to be able to get a tiny bug sitting on a stamen. Or even better: I could shoot the hair on the back of the tiny bug that is sitting on the stamen! Wow, that would almost be ridiculous. Seriously, I would be quite happy with clear, close-up detail. I tried out# my camera the other day when we went for a walk up one of the local hills: Saddlerock. Most of it was a steep climb, but it was a perfect day, and everyone was enthusiastic about the exercise. Though the path was really muddy all the way up, the views of the town and surrounding hills were impressive. We reached the top, and sat down at a rocky outcrop. As the children played with the dogs, and my husband tried to spot deer, I took lots of photos. The ones that I like most from that trip, were those of the rock formations and the lichen. If you see the picture on the blog or the app, you'll be able to make out the cubic, stair-step pattern of the rock, and the different colors of lichen growing on it. Marvelous. I'm hoping to upload some impressive photos from now on. I'm so excited about the camera that I bought another, bigger handbag to make sure that all of my stuff plus my camera, can go everywhere I do. Well, that's my excuse. Related vocabulary: Love at first sight, the best buy, mental list, prerequisites, (to be likely to, to be into, to try out). 1. Cinderella and the Prince looked at eachother, and it was love at first sight. 2. I got the best buy on this oven; three magazines say it's the best, plus it was on sale. 3. I've a good memory; I can make a mental list of what I need in the supermarket, and I remember everything! 4. The most important prerequisite we are looking for in a store manager is to be personable. **If you join me on Facebook, at Anna Fromacupofenglish, you can read the last 3 items of related vocabulary.…

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Do you Skyrim?

2011-11-18
Length: 7s

The tenth of November was a day of great excitement for my son, Hudson. He had been waiting for months for a new video game to be released. Skyrim is a game of battling dragons, strange worlds lost in time, heroes, enemies, and lots of gore*! It was going to be released at midnight, so the very beginning of 11, 11, of 2011. Skyrim is one of a series of games called the Elder Scrolls, made by Bethesda. It's appeal is basically a concoction of everything that teenagers, and some adults, like in a game: knights, weapons, spells, fights, castles, and graphics guided by endless imagination. The music is awesome as well. You could say that it is epic and mythological. I'm actually a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so perhaps my son gets the love of such things from me. Well, it just so happened that all the schools in our area were going to be closed on Friday 12th because of Veterans Day. Perfect timing! Hudson could look forward to not only the whole weekend of playing his game, but Friday as well. However, someone had to go with him to the store, and wait in line. Now, who would that be? I can only think of one person: me. Of course I would do anything for my kids: climb the highest mountain, fight the fiercest dragon (or neighborhood dog), or even jump infront of the school bus if I had to. But lining up at midnight, in freezing weather, outside a video game shop didn't seem as heroic or appealing. But I did it. Infact, I did it twice. You actually had to turn up at ten o'clock and line up to get a ticket with a number on it. Then you had to come back at midnight, line up in numerical order*, hand in your ticket, and get the game. Well, it just so happens that Hudson had fallen asleep at about 9:30, so I had to drive over by myself to make sure that we got a ticket. Now, we did also have the option* of having a normal night's sleep, and just buying the game first thing in the morning* on Friday 11th. But where's the fun in that? This was special, so we had to do it the exciting way. Seeing that Hudson was asleep, I got in the car and drove to the video game store as quickly as possible, too quickly actually, because I forgot my coat. As I parked, I realised that there was already a long line of customers waiting, and they were all bundled up in warm clothes. I looked around the car in a panic, hoping to find an extra coat. There was one, belonging to my eight year old son. I took it and quickly lined up. Time went by really slowly; I stamped my feet and wrapped the small coat around my shoulders, finally squeezing the little hood onto my head. Of course, I looked ridiculous, but I just wanted to stay warm. An hour and a half later, I was handed my ticket: number eighty two. Phew! What a relief! I felt sorry for the other one hundred people behind me, but I was mainly thinking about getting back into my warm car. I drove home, picked up Hudson, and back we went. When we arrived, there were even more people there, still waiting for their tickets. Thankfully, we were able to walk straight into the store and get the Collector's Edition of Skyrim; I even took a photo of the occasion. Mission accomplished. I had proven my love for my son by braving freezing weather, and battling lines of evil customers. Now, it was time to kill some dragons. Related vocabulary: gore, numerical order, to have the option, first thing in the morning. 1. I dont' like all that gore in the movies. There is far too much blood and guts! 2. We will announce the winners in reverse numerical order, from fourth place to the overall winner. 3. You know, you have the option of flying instead of driving; it's more expensive, but it will save you a lot of time. 4. The best light is early in the day, so we'll get up first thing in the morning and set up the camera.…

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Please don't shoot!

2011-11-16
Length: 6s

Those of you have been following my podcasts over the past few months, will know that my husband has recently 'got into'*hunting. He is now fully licensed, fully equipped, and on his way to becoming an experienced hunter. Today, instead of leaving at six in the morning, as he usually does, to go to work, he spent the morning with me. He has taken a few days off to go with a friend to Minnesotta to hunt White Tail deer. He deserves a small vacation, so I have enthusiastically watched him pack all of his gear*, and listen to his plans for a successful hunt. Because he was ready ahead of time, he had a couple of hours to kill*, so we went up to the local shooting range to try out a couple of his rifles. I am a novice*, so I was quite happy to watch as he shot at the targets. It was freezing cold, and I had bundled myself up in three coats, a scarf, and a bobble hat: not exactly the right fashion sense for a tough shooter. The first rifle that Tom used was extremely loud; thankfully we both had heavy duty* ear protection on. The funny thing was, each time we said something to eachother, we couldn't hear; we spent the whole time saying,"What?" and having to repeat everything in loud voices. As Tom tested his rifles, I had a good look around. There wasn't that much to look at. The range is basically a long roof that shelters the marksmen. There are a few chairs here and there, but no houses around (who would want to live next to a shooting range?). There was nobody but us there; the hills surrounding us were bare, and there was no wind, not even a sound. Well, the only sound was the horrendously loud noise of the rifle, but other than that, it all felt desolate. I imagined someone whistling the theme tune from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but then I realized that with my woolly bobble hat, I had destroyed any image of cowboys. I did notice, however, some very interesting signs, three to be precise. Obviously, from the looks of them*, some people who come to practice get silly with the guns, and do dangerous things. I read the word "don't" over and over. Apparently, some people shoot beyond the shooting range on to private property, or they shoot at the ground (which is dangerous), or at objects that they shouldn't. T-t-t-t-t-t, very naughty. Someone needs to have his gun taken away, doesn't he? And someone needs to be put in time-out*. I'm glad that I'm not at the shooting range when other people are there; it's potentially very dangerous, and I wouldn't trust other people's sense of safety. Anyway, before we left, I had a go shooting a lighter rifle, one that would be good for hunting birds or rabbits. I found it hard at first to look through the scope, but I go the hang of it. I calmed my breathing, and tried not to move. The cross was over the bullseye, and POW! What a shot! Not bad at all; almost right on the bullseye!. That felt good. I continued, each time thinking carefully about keeping still and controlling my breathing. POW! POW! BANG! WHAMMO! And another BANG! Hey, I'm not a bad shot at all. I even brought the target home to prove it. Related expressions: to get into something, gear, heavy duty, a novice. 1. She really got into sculpting a few years ago, and now is quite good. 2. To rock climb, you need the right gear. You should also check your gear after using it to see if any of it is worn out. 3. I need some heavy duty earplugs; my husband snores like a rhinoceros. 4. Novice hunters are potentially dangerous; the experts are much safer.…

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A Round Robin Tea Party.

2011-11-08
Length: 7s

I had never heard of a Round Robin, until this past Sunday. My friend, Jody, invited me to a ladies' round robin in the town of Issaquah which is on the outskirts of Seattle. We left at about eight o'clock, stopped for coffee on the way, and reached the town of North Bend at about ten thirty. Jody had decided to expand our day trip to include an hour of shopping, and North Bend is a great place to do that. There is an open mall area that has many discount, name brand stores; we call them 'outlet'* shops. The items are new, but very reduced in price, possibly because they are a season or two old. I rarely* go there, but I know many women will make the two hour trip, just to get some bargains. My mind wasn't set on shopping; I was intrigued about the round robin coming up. I was also distracted by the beautiful countryside. Going over the Cascades towards Seattle from Wenatchee is awesome, if you love miles of dense forest, and high mountains. Of course, as you approach Seattle, there is a drastic climate change; the area obviously gets lots of rain. There is nothing but green, and trees everywhere. Overlooking North Bend is the impressive Mount Si, a huge mountain that seems to appear out of nowhere. We got back on the road*at about eleven thirty, and reached our destination just before twelve. Walking into the house was quite surprising. The place was packed with ladies, all wearing different hats (everyone was told to wear a hat as a conversation starter). The house itself was intensely decorated, and filled from floor to ceiling with memorabilia, ornaments, photos, and collectibles. I have never seen anything like it in a private home. I have been to a few antique and collectible stores that were chock-a-block* with items. After being introduced to the host and several other ladies, I turned to Jody and said, "This place must be a nightmare to dust!" Every piece of wall was covered with something, and shelves were full to overflowing with things. We were all called to sit down in the main lounge, have vodka and orange, and introduce ourselves. The point of a round robin tea party is to get to know everyone in the room, at least for a few minutes. So, a five course meal was served by the host's husband, and with each course we were to sit in a different room with a different group of ladies. Each course took about half an hour, and during that time we ate, drank far too much tea, and chatted. Some of the ladies had done this for years, and others like myself, were experiencing it for the first time. And, you know, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had the opportunity to briefly get to know some fascinating ladies. One of the most fascinating was the host, Mary. She had started having parties at the age of seven, and had arranged them ever since. She fills her calendar with gettogethers, parties and trips, for the whole year, and organizes who will be there, and when the invitations go out. It's amazing. Her husband is as amazing as she is. Most men I know would want to live in a house that is like a 'living scrapbook', and certainly wouldn't be interested in serving lunch to a large group of chatty ladies. But, thankfully, it takes all sorts*. Related vocabulary: outlet shops, rarely, to get on the road, chock-a-block (chock-full), it takes all sorts (to make a world). 1. There's no point buying a coat for full price at a regular shop. Go to the outlet shop instead, and save money. 2. "Do you drink?" "Rarely." "How often?" "Once a year." 3. We need to get on the road (be on the road) by six, so we'll get to the office on time. 4. His room is chock-a-block with books and magazines; you can hardly walk in the room, it's so full. 5. That man goes everywhere on a unicycle. Oh well! It takes all sorts!…

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Suspicious bills.

2011-11-04
Length: 6s

Paying bills can be such a pain. It's a necessary evil. It's also something that keeps us honest: when we have to look at our true expenses in the face*, it makes us consider our life styles, and whether or not we are being responsible. But still, it's a pain. I have to have peace and quiet to do it properly: no one around, no music, no tv. Like other people, I have a system that helps me. Daily, I sort out the bills from the junk mail. The junk goes into the recycling bin, and the bills go in a neat pile on my desk. Then, later on, I'll open the bills and sort them out chronologically, so the ones that need to be paid soonest go on top of the pile. The system cuts down on paperwork, and it makes me feel as if the job is already half done. So, when I eventually sit down to pay the bills, I'm organised: I have stamps, stickers with my name and address, extra envelopes, and the bills. What else do I need*? Enthusiasm.... The bills that take up most of my time are from the credit card companies that we use. Why? Well, it's because I pay a lot of my bills automatically with my credit card. It saves me* getting a late fee because I've forgotten to pay, let's say, my electricity bill, or my phone bill on time. It's convenient, and nowadays, most credit card companies have security arrangements, so you only pay what you really owe. If there is a charge to your credit card that you're unfamiliar with, you can always question it, or even stop it. Suspicious charges do crop up every now and then, and so it's important to check all of the charges on your monthly statement. That has been my experience. Even today, as I looked over the list of figures, I saw a substantial charge from a company that I know I owe nothing. I had previously bought a product from them, but had paid 50% of the total cost when I placed the order, and the remaining 50% when I received the product. "Gosh!" I said to myself. "They're charging me a third time!" I got on the phone, and told one of their billing specialists. Surprisingly, she was not apologetic at all, quite the opposite; she was abrupt and impatient. Perhaps she'd been hearing from lots of people about the same issue. She asked for my credit card number in order to reimburse* me, and we said goodbye. I wasn't satisfied, however. So, I called the credit card company and asked them to make a note that I don't owe anything else to this particular company. The lady said that customers, like myself, need to be vigilant. It is our responsibility to keep checking to see if the reimbursement has taken place. "It can take three days, or even up to 28 days, depending on the company." I was glad that she told me that, and have decided to check every few days to make sure that these suspicious bills don't crop up again. Related vocabulary and expressions: to look something in the face, what else, it saves (a person) or (a continuous verb), to reimburse 1. He looked his laziness in the face, and decided to take action and do his laundry. 2. We've got everything for the trip: passports, money, credit cards, hotel reservations....what else do we need? Oh, luggage! 3. Pin the socks together before they go in the washing machine. It saves searching for the other sock afterwards. OR It saves your mother time! 4. I was overcharged when I bought the sofa, but after telling the company, they reimbursed me.…

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Potato Power.

2011-11-02
Length: 5s

The Skagit Valley is a beautifully dreamy green valley located between the Cascade Mountains and the Puget Sound. It is very close to the border with Canada, and right next to the West Coast. I went there a few months ago with my husband, as he had a business meeting with some potato growers. We drove along miles of tree-lined coastal roads, and finally came to a large, flat, lush valley that is farmland. It was cooler and more moist than Wenatchee. There was a consistent breeze coming from the ocean, and everywhere you looked was green. As we drove along, I tried my best* to take photos of the shady lanes and coastal views with my cell phone, but as with many photos, they do not do the beauty of the landscape justice*. We finally arrived at Wallace Farms. It is located in a fairly remote part of the valley: there's not much else around other than potatoes and more potatoes. As this was a business meeting, I decided not to sit in with my husband and his fellow company workers, as I would certainly be the odd one out*. So, I hung out* in the vestibule, and read all about the Wallaces. The family originally came from Scotland. They settled in Ireland, where they grew potatoes on the rolling hills of the far West coast, overlooking the Atlantic. In the 1800's they immigrated to Skagit Valley, and put their farming experience into practice. This particular area of the country is one of the best in the world for raising potatoes. The climate is mild and moist; the land is rich, and there is no lack of water. These happen to be the best conditions for growing this root vegetable. And they do it well. Their farm produces rich, healthy varieties with very smooth skins. The colors range anywhere from very white, to bright red, and to deep purple. They grow conventionally and also organically. I browsed through the well-known Cosco recipe magazine, and Wallace potatoes were recommended for several recipes. Having a mention from Cosco is like having a stamp of approval put on their product. As I waited for the meeting to finish, I thought about how popular potatoes are. Let's face it, everybody loves them. Have you ever met anyone who doesn't? And think how their use has spread from central America to the rest of the world. The simple potato is quite grand, if you think about it. And the high quality ones produce a lot of business.  Related vocabulary and expressions:to try one's best, to do something justice, to be the odd one out, to hang out. 1. He tried his best to fix the car, but it was too worn out to be repaired. 2. That photo doesn't do her justice; she's far more beautiful in person. 3. They all knew about knitting, and I don't know anything about it; I really felt like the odd one out. 4. While I see the dentist, you can hang out in the waiting room.…

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Rats in the house.

2011-10-25
Length: 6s

Halloween has become a bigger and more celebrated holiday over the past few years. I suspected that it would. There is something innately fun about being scared, and telling scary stories. Parties and dressing up appeal to the child in all of us, of course. But I've noticed just how the machine of materialism is driving these occasions. There are Halloween cards now in the shops, so the expectation will soon be that you must give your friends and family a 'Happy Halloween' card. The decorations for Halloween have also increased and become extremely varied. It's not just a pumpkin and a skeleton anymore. People are beginning to put up lights, as they do for Christmas. It's not a bad thing in itself; it does get dark early this time of year, so lights are a good thing. It's just that our actions tend to be driven by what is sold in the shops and what is seen on television. For example, if a large shop like Walmart advertises a cute Halloween scene on television in which we see lots of purple and orange lights, children happily dressed up, plastic pumpkins, skeletons, witches, people giving eachother cards and presents, then the expectation becomes that of doing the same thing. In a way, we are dictated to. Or you could say that we follow like sheep. Now, don't get me wrong, I love to decorate my house, and to have special occasions to look forward to. However, where does the materialism end? Even Martha Stewart, who is the American guru for home decorating and cooking, has a line of elegant Halloween decorations for the home. I was curious to see what exactly they were when I found them on sale in a craft shop. So, I bought a couple of packets. They are pre-cut shapes of rats, crows, and spiders that you stick around your house. It's actually a good idea if you want to add a little spookiness to your home without overdoing it. The shapes are simple but artistic, they catch the eye, but they aren't overpowering like some other Halloween decorations. So, am I a sheep? Was I dictated to by a big, money making corporation? Maybe. Ah, but these decorations were on sale. Plus, they satisfy my need to decorate the house. And I haven't given in* to the whole* card thing. That's where I draw the line: I won't buy 'Happy Halloween' cards, so there! And you know what's coming next, don't you? Thanksgiving. One of my favorite holidays. It's all about being thankful, and spending time with friends and family. Perfect. No presents, no cards, no stress. My prediction is, however,  that that is changing. Last year was the first time that I have ever seen Thanksgiving cards in the shops. I believe the manufacturers' angle* to encourage sales is thankfulness! "I'm thankful for you on this Thanksgiving day," say some of the cards. Mark my words*, next it will be presents. So what's next? Gifts and cards for Bank holidays? Related vocabulary and expressions: to have an 'angle', mark my words, to give in to, the whole .... thing. 1. The angle of his argument is that businesses should have more freedom. 2. I know you don't often listen to me, but I was right about him, wasn't I? Mark my words: he's trouble! 3. She gave in to the pressure to shave her head with her friends. The next day she regretted the decision, and wore a paper bag over her head. 4. I just don't have time for the whole "look at my expensive car, aren't I great" attitude. Who cares what kind of car you drive?…

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Old Man Rattlesnake and the salmon.

2011-10-21
Length: 5s

During my visit to the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, there were several Native American displays. One was a story telling session, inside a large, colorful, inflated salmon. Two ladies from the Yakima Indian tribe sang songs and told a couple of stories. One was about salmon. As with many Native American stories, the main characters are animals with superpowers and human characteristics. It was an emotional story, told well by the ladies, wearing long skirts, and braided hair. It begins with the Creator giving humans the gift of salmon, along with instructions as to how to take care of them. They were never to be greedy or wasteful, only taking the amount of salmon that they needed to eat. For the first few generations, the people were obedient. However, their attitude changed and they became wasteful. Before long, there were no salmon left, and the people started to go hungry. Seeing that they had been disobedient, they were desperate to find a way to bring back the salmon to their rivers. One day, the story says, some of them found a dead salmon on the side of the river. "If we can bring it back to life, other salmon will return." They tried jumping over the fish five times, as legend said that that would revive the creature. Nothing happened. "Let's call on Old Man Rattlesnake. He is wise and has great powers." He lived away from the people, and was so old that he took a long time to walk. As he was on his way, Coyote, the shrewd and sneaky one, tried to trick the people into believing that he had great powers. He wanted to be famous. He quickly jumped over the fish, and at the fifth jump, knocked it with his stick, claiming that he had made it move. However, the people knew not to trust him. Then Old Man Rattlesnake arrived, and with great effort jumped four times. At the fifth jump, he suddenly disappeared into the fish which sprang to life. The salmon then returned to the rivers, swimming upstream. The people had learned their lesson about being greedy and wasteful. To this day, if you cut open a salmon, and look at its spine, you can see a long, white line of flesh which is the mark of Old Man Rattlesnake, and how he revived the salmon. Related vocabulary: braids, wasteful, shrewd, sneaky. 1. Her mother braided her hair every morning. She would part the hair into three sections and fold them over expertly. 2. The Yakima Indians learned not to be wasteful with the Creator's gift of salmon. 3. She is a shrewd business woman. She thinks and plans carefully, making the most of every opportunity. 4. Watch out for him. He's like a sneaky fox. He'll know your private information without you realising.…

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Delivering the Bobcat.

2011-10-12
Length: 7s

Yesterday, I had the most unusual thing to do. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I could see myself doing what I did yesterday, I would have told you that you're insane. I delivered a Bobcat to a taxidermist. Take a while to chew on that sentence*. I will explain. My husband recently developed the hobby of shooting. He started by acquiring a rifle, a shot gun, and a pistol. Fine, I thought. Then, the passion took hold* more substantially. His gun safe became quite full, he learned the hobby of loading his own bullets (that will be a whole other podcast), and several full length camouflage suits can now be found hanging in his closet. His obsession has grown. I'll give you some background to this situation, so you can get a clear picture. First of all, in this area, hunting is a major sport. There is a wide variety of wild animals, including predatory animals, that you can legally hunt. This activity is controlled and monitored by the Fish and Wildlife department of Washington State, which is responsible for preserving all of the native animals, and controlling their populations. Some years, the deer population explodes, which in turn, leads to a huge increase of cougars over the next few years. Crops and gardens can suffer because of too many deer, and farmers' livestock disappear with the increase of cougars. So, in a relatively short space of time, the situation can get out of control. It's great to know that there are plenty of the native animals in this state, but a safe and healthy balance needs to be maintained. Another reason for my husband's new love of hunting, is that all of his cousins (who live in a small, rural town about an hour away) are hunters. They are the type that always have hunting permits ready, and carry guns in their trucks, on the off chance* of running into a wild beastie. One of Tom's cousins is a cattle rancher. He and his hired cowboys take the cows up into the hills to pasture*. "The place is crawling with cougars," he has said to Tom. And he has often lost cattle to the cougars because they are so healthy and well-fed. There are no predators of cougars, so they need to be controlled through hunting. Anyway, my husband so far has managed to get a coyote, and a bobcat. I knew that it would be up to me to take the bobcat to the taxidermist because my husband leaves early for work, and comes back late. So, with mixed feelings, I took this beautiful cat to Tubb's taxidermy to be turned into a rug. How bizzare. The first thing that I saw when I walked into the building was a huge cylindrical machine that was humming, and inside were a couple of dogs. "Are those dogs?" I asked the owner. "Yes," he replied, and explained that they were beloved pets that were being freeze-dried for their owners....As I looked around the room, I felt, actually, as if I was the one being observed. There were animal heads and skins everywhere, and all eyes were on me. Even the massive moose head on the wall seemed to say, "What are you doing here, you silly woman?"Well, I went over the details of the kind of rug we want, made a deposit, and had a quick, last look at the stretched out skins, the hanging furs, the skull molds, and the freeze drying Foofy and Bingo. I made a quick exit. I've come to the conclusion, that being a helpful wife can often open the door to strange experiences, and good material to write about. Related vocabulary and expressions: take a while to chew on that, the passion takes hold, on the off chance, to pasture. 1. He chewed over the situation in his mind before he confronted his boss. 2. The passion for sailing took hold of him at a young age; he's been sailing ever since. 3. I took my umbrella with me, on the off chance that it rained. 4. The farmer put the cows out to pasture early in the morning; now they're ready to come into the barn.…

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Voices of the Colville Indians.

2011-10-04
Length: 6s

On my recent trip to Leavenworth, I had an unexpected opportunity to see a song and dance performance by the Colville Native American Indian tribe. As the salmon festival has expanded over the years, it now includes historical and cultural displays that are related to the salmon and wildlife of the Northwest. The Colville Indians, whose real name is the Shipwoyelpi, have a culture that is strongly tied* to salmon fishing. When European settlers came to this area, they gave the tribe the name of the river they were based by, the Colville. Salmon has always been an important part of their diet, and therefore, has deep cultural significance for them. I wasn't aware that any Indians at all would be at the festival. I walked around to see the different displays, taking with me a small group of children from the school that my son goes to. As we made our way* from one booth to another, we suddenly heard drums. We followed the sound until we came to a circular, sheltered area that was covered with pine tree branches. Underneath were displays of animal skins, antlers, bead work, and cultural posters. Inside the sheltered area was a large circle of earth where young men and women were dancing. They were very colorfully dressed, and had all sorts of bells and feathers on their costumes. One performance was just coming to an end as we sat down, so we settled down, and waited for the next. A different set of dancers from the troupe came into the circular area, and when the two singers started banging the drums  rhythmically and singing, they started to dance. One young man in particular caught my eye; he was dressed as some kind of bird. He danced slightly crouched over, with jerky, pecking movements. I couldn't take pictures fast enough. The singing was also impressive; the two male singers sang in a very soulful, high pitched manner that certainly kept my attention. I only wish that I knew what they were singing. One of them stood up afterwards and explained that he and his friend inherited their love of singing these cultural and historical songs, and had learned how to do so by listening to others, and with the help of* tapes. More school children started arriving, and filling up the seating area. But soon we had to leave because our bus was going to take us back to Wenatchee. I was anxious to hear and see another performance, and disappointed that we had to leave. However, the images and sounds of the Colville were, for me, the best part of the day, and, at the very least*, worthy of a podcast. Related vocabulary and expressions: at the very least, with the help of,to make your way , tied to. 1. At the very least, the famous sculptor deserves an impressive memorial. 2. With the help of podcasts, video clips from You-tube, and magazines, he became fluent in English! 3. We slowly made our way through the maze; it took a lot of time and concentration to get out. 4.His family is tied to the land; they have farmed here for generations.…

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Raptors at the Salmon Festival.

2011-10-03
Length: 6s

It was field trip day last week for Robert who is in third grade. He was particularly excited because it wasn't going to be the ordinary kind of field trip that schools make, you know, to a park, or the fire station, or a bakery. It was to the town of Leavenworth which is about a half hours drive. Each year, among other celebrations, there is The Salmon Festival. On the outskirts of town, there is a salmon hatchery which opens its doors to the public. The salmon have returned from their long, long trip around the ocean, and have come back to spawn. It is an important part of the Northwest culture because the salmon are plentiful here, and huge. Because the Salmon Festival has been held for many years, it has expanded substantially. Now there are different sections that teach about other wildlife, and even Native American Indian history and tradition. Well, after our short trip on the bus, we got off, and walked to the Raptor section of the Festival. We sat in the shade of a pine tree, and listened to an expert on birds of prey. She had a display of four stuffed birds: a golden ealge, a bald eagle, an ospray, and an eagle owl. Though they weren't alive, the creatures were very impressive. We learned all sorts of facts about them. There are only two types of eagles in North America. That really surprised me, because there are 48 species in total. The golden eagle is larger than the bald eagle, which, you may remember, is the symbol of the United States. Unlike many predatory animals, the females are larger than the males. The lady who spoke to us really kept our attention. She had obviously spoken to children for many years, because she knew how to keep the flow of information fast and fun. At one point, she was talking about the wingspan of the birds. Two students held up a large banner that showed the 7ft wingspan of a bald eagle. One by one, children and adults stood with their backs to it, to see if their arm span was equivalent. Of course, nobody's was. Then she talked about the sound of wings, and how different shaped wings sound different as the bird flies. Eagles have feathers sticking out of the ends of their wings, so they make a swooshing noise. Owls, on the other hand are silent fliers; their wings are rounded and smooth, so they can sneak up on their prey. The children were very impressed with the talk. I could hear some of them telling eachother their own stories of seeing birds of prey in our area. We had a few free minutes to walk around afterwards, and I was really pleasantly surprised to find a live display of birds of prey. A shy looking golden eagle was held by a bird trainer, and several other birds were on perches observing the people as we observed them. The bald eagle stared with its well known piercing frown, and the osprey and owls just looked out with little expression; their minds must have been elsewhere, up in the clouds, I'm sure. Related vocabulary: elsewhere, the outskirts, raptor, to sneak up on... 1. The newly released prisoner wasn't allowed to live in this town, so he had to go elsewhere. 2. The center of town is too busy for us, so we decided to live on the outskirts. 3. The eagle owl is an impressive raptor that is strong enough to bring down a young deer. 4. The cat quietly watched the birds play, planning to sneak up on them and perhaps catch one.  …

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Figpickels Toy Emporium.

2011-09-21
Length: 6s

 It was during this Summer vacation that my family and I came across the best toy shop that I have ever been to. It was in the town of Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho, the state that is to the east of Washington State, and next to Montana. As we were only on vacation for a few days, we had a very short time in this particular town, a few hours in fact. The town itself is very clean and organized, with lots of greenery, and right on a lake. It's a tourist attraction, and has a seaside feel to it. It's main street is called Sherman Avenue and is a quaint mix of cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops. It was a hot day, so we stayed on the shady side of the street. You could tell that it was Summer; there were people everywhere, especially in the outside seating areas of the cafes and restaurants. As we walked down towards the lake, I noticed several children a little further down, getting excited, pointing at one of the shops, and going in. My kids soon picked up on this*, and before I knew it, we were inside 'Figpickles Toy Emporium'.It wasn't my intention to buy anything, “We're only going to look,” I said. Well, you know how that goes*, don't you? It was an impressive place, not because of its size (it was a fairly small shop, but long, and divided into different sections). There were ornate, wooden decorations attached to various parts of the ceiling, creating the theme of a magical ship. The shelves that were on every wall, reached to the ceiling, and were completely full of modern, classic, and old fashioned toys. I assumed that they would have the typical toys that you find in big department stores, but they didn't. This was definitely a specialty shop. There were books, puzzles, and building kits about ancient civilizations, pirates, and major battles. I think that my children became so engrossed*, that they forgot about their parents completely. I stood back and watched. The 'girls' toys were tasteful: detailed wooden houses, paper doll kits, dressing up clothes. And actually, most of the toys were unisex*. We must have spent about an hour there. We couldn't leave because the young man who was working there that day was playing with the toys himself. He was using a rubber bow and arrow, firing it from one end of the room to the other, over the heads of the customers! He was having a whale of a time*! So, how could you not get involved when the employee was having so much fun. Thankfully, my kids got hungry after a while, so they were willing to leave. We did buy a couple of things, not because we needed any toys, but more to commemorate our visit. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: unisex, engrossed, you know how that goes, to pick up on something. That jacket is unisex; both males and females can wear it. The boys were so engrossed in their soccer match, that they didn't notice a storm moving in. We told the kids not to get up too early on Christmas day to open the presents, but you know how that goes (i.e. they did get up early). The two men argued in a civilized manner, but I picked up on their mutual loathing.…

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Friends From Estonia.

2011-09-12
Length: 6s

This past weekend was very special. We had friends to stay. What made the weekend special was that, at the beginning of their stay, we actually didn't even know them. This unusual situation started back in June. There was a knock at the door, and when I opened it I found a blonde, young man, with a shy smile, and an armful* of books. "Hello," he said in an accent that I couldn't exactly place. "My name is Mikhail. I wonder if you have five minutes for me to show you these books that I'm selling." I didn't want to buy any books, but neither was I in a hurry to do anything else, so I asked him to come in. It turns out that he is from Estonia, and has spent the Summer going from door to door, selling educational books made by a company called South Western. Mikhail was charming and friendly, and immediately attracted the attention of my children, who proceeded* to crowd around him and ask all kinds of questions. Well, he showed me the benefits of using these books during my children's school years, and how they help to prepare them for exams, including college entrance exams. I decided to take the plunge* and buy them. He told me that they couldn't be delivered until the beginning of September, and that he would personally bring them to us. Fine. Well, Summer came and went, and the last thing on my mind at the beginning of term were books. I received a reminder card from him about his return, but because baseball season is here, and we are up to our eyeballs* in practices and games, I forgot all about Mikhail and the books. Then, a few days ago, he turns up as he had promised, with our set of books and DVDs. He looked tired. He still had a car load of books to deliver, and time was running out. It was 100 degrees that day, some of his customers hadn't paid yet, and he didn't even have a place to spend the night. My husband and I agreed that they could stay with us. We have a roomy, spare lounge which the kids use as a playroom. It would be cool, comfortable, and if they got bored at night, they could always play with the kids action figures.... They quickly became part of the family, infact, we were all disappointed to see them go. We talked about our countries and cultures, about work and families. In a week, they will go to New York, as a reward for their hard work. They also have the chance to win a trip to another country; those who sell the most books get to go. Mikhail's friend, Olev, who stayed an extra day with us, told us that this kind of Summer work is very hard. It forces you to grow up, become industrious, to persist even when you get a lot of negative responses from people, and to learn self control. These are qualities that he hopes to use in his career back in Estonia. They told us that their Summer experiences were completely varied. "I have been bitten by dogs, and had a gun pointed at me," said Mikhail. I laughed in shock when he told me that. "But in contrast to that," he continued, "we've stayed with some really kind host families." I hope they experience kindness for the rest of their trip, and perhaps, one day, they can show us around their home towns in Estonia. Related expressions:  an armful of, to proceed to, to take the plunge, up to your eyeballs. 1. He walked through the door with an armful of potatoes; the harvest has been good this year. 2. The birds flew into the orchard, and proceded to peck at the cherries. 3. We took the plunge and bought the house. It wasn't cheap, but we can imagine staying here for a long time. 4. I'm up to my eyeballs with bills; it's really too much.  …

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Goodbye Summer!

2011-09-08
Length: 5s

Summer has been and gone, can you believe it? For me, it has flown*. I suppose you have been wondering, "Where on earth is Anna? Has she fallen off the planet? Has she given it all up*, moved to Nepal, and become a monk? Or is she just enjoying her Summer too much?" The latter is the correct answer. Yes, I have enjoyed my Summer. I've taken long breaks from the computer. But, you know, to tell you the truth, I have felt the pull back to podcasting. Something in me has missed doing it. I must admit, sometimes it's therapy for me! And the best part of all, is when I make connections with you listeners. One young man called Denis, emailed me from Russia recently. His English is very good, and he uses my podcasts for a little extra practice. Great! That's exactly what they're for. Good luck in Boston, Denis! Well, I have lots to tell about the Summer, but I'll start by telling you what I'm doing right now. I'm sitting in my favorite spot, which is the front door step. It's quiet and fresh; there's nobody around, so I'm admiring the plants and trees, sipping coffee, and writing for you. It's still warm enough to sit outside without a jacket, thankfully, though that will change soon, I'm sure. I don't know what the weather is going to do, come to think about it*. It has been a very unusual year. The heat of Summer came very late this year. Even the bees were late out of their hives. I have loads of green tomatoes hanging on their vines, which usually, by now, would have ripened and been eaten. Fingers crossed* that the frost doesn't come too soon. I've been hoping to show you photos of my spectacular anemones, but they haven't even budded yet. "It's the coolest Summer in twenty years," I heard someone say the other day. I will certainly enjoy this Autumn season, as it's my favorite. Apart from the garden, which you know is an obsession of mine, it's the routine that I appreciate. Summer, with the kids at home, is a wonderful time, but a bit random. It's hard to feel as though you are achieving very much. But today, all the little monkeys are back at school, I have their baseball practice schedules on the calendar, and I'm feeling pretty organized. I also have signed up for substitute teaching again, as I am no longer homeschooling, and I've already had a week's work, with promise of more. So, the lazy days of Summer are gone, but Autumn will be a time for achievements. Grammar notes. Related expressions: flies/ flown (with time), to give it all up, come to think about it/of it, fingers crossed. 1. I can't believe our vacation has finished; the time has flown! 2. He was a CEO of a major car company for ten years, then he gave it all up, moved to the Bahamas, and opened a tattoo salon. 3. I need to get some money out of the bank today. Come to think of it, I don't have a penny on me! 4. I hope we get a good price for our house when we sell it. Fingers crossed!  …

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Chore time.

2011-08-17
Length: 5s

There is a simple principle that can be applied to all homes: if you don't do the chores, the place becomes like a pig pen. But, if you're wise, you can train the little pigs to do the chores. That is something that I have discovered recently. My four little piggies are starting to really help around the house. Now, when I refer to my children as piglets or piggies, it's not meant insultingly at all, though I am aware that in some cultures it may be so. The diminuitive form of the noun shows affection and endearment. However, if you call someone a big pig, or a big fat pig, that is completely different, and quite insulting. So, my little piggies are put to work every now and then. They only do what they are capable of, and actually not very much work. But, because there are four of them, their efforts add up to a substantial amount of help. My son Cass is big and strong, so I have him take out the garbage to the dumpster that is at the end of our driveway. My oldest son, Hudson, mows the lawn. My husband is thrilled about that. And you know, it's not a boring chore either. He gets to use the riding lawn mower, so he has fun driving around. The two little ones help to pick berries and vegetables from the garden, lay the table for dinner and clear it, and occasionally pick up their toys. Phew! It takes a lot of training on the part of the parents. In the past, people would have large families to help run a farm. Well, there are less farms now. We don't live on one, though my house resembles a farmyard sometimes. Anyway, the children are all proud of doing their chores, and my husband and I make sure to praise them for their work. I have a plan to introduce them to the laundry this Autumn. I will open the doors of the laundry room, and let them step in and experience the mystery. It's not my favorite thing to do, at all. So, if, little by little, the children can learn to sort the clothes into color piles, learn about the machine settings, and practice folding the clean clothes, the laundry can become a shared experienced. Now that would be nice! The trick is to develop a routine, so certain chores are done consistently. That's the hard part. Sometimes it seems that it's easier to do the work yourself, instead of supervising other people while they are doing the chores. Ah, but the benefits come later, don't they. I can see myself in the future, with my feet up, eating bonbons, and my medium sized piggies doing their chores, perhaps. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: dumpster, to supervise, chore, benefits. 1. The garbage truck comes to empty the dumpster every Thursday. 2. Those kids need to be supervised in the lounge, or they might break something. 3. You can go to your friend's party after you've done your chores. 4. The benefit of getting to the cinema early, is that you can choose the best seats.…

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All the tents in the backyard.

2011-07-31
Length: 5s

"We've got a bunch of poles missing," said my husband *in a huff, as he got in his car to go to a meeting. He had been looking in the storage area above our garage for tents, and all that goes with them. We needed the tents because nine boys had come over for a Summer party, and the expectation was, that they would camp out in the back yard. The weather was perfect for camping out, plus the thought of having an extra nine, *rowdy boys in my house at night, didn't appeal to me at all. So, camping it was. But you can't do any camping if you're missing any of the tent poles. Now, knowing that men aren't very good at finding things, (I know, that's a huge generalization, but *I'm sticking with it), I decided to go up to the storage room and look for the poles myself. The worst thing about our storage room, is that it isn't insulated, so this time of year it's boiling. We do have a couple of vents and a little fan, but when the temperature reaches over 100, they don't make much of a difference. When it isn't too hot, the storage room is an interesting place to poke around in. A few antiques, Christmas decorations, boxes of painting equipment, snow suits, jack-o-lanterns, memorabilia from trips, and piles of camping equipment fill the room. The missing poles were right where they should have been, next to the tents, not missing at all, you get my point. Well I was glad that I found them. While I was in the storage room, I decided to get all of the tents that we have accumulated *over the years, and set them up. Firstly, it would give me an opportunity to see which poles and pegs fit which tent, and secondly, the tents would get *aired out. I layed out each tent and its fly sheet on the lawn, counted out the pegs, and put the poles together. I layed the poles side by side to compare their lengths so I could avoid wasting time using poles that were either too long or too short. It took some time, but I was happy to do it by myself while the kids all played their noisy army game. When I finished, I looked at the tents and realised that I had erected them in a huddled group, like a little community. The kids would love that. There was ample room for everyone, plus the two dogs. It was about midnight when we went to bed. The dogs and the boys had piled into the biggest tent, and there were whispers, giggles, and flashes of torches here and there. The party had been a success, and everyone was exhausted. The next day, the friends stayed until about midday. Parents turned up here and there to pick up their boys, and slowly the group of kids got smaller and smaller. Everything was cleared away, and I took down the tents. And, do you know what? I found that we had extra poles.... Grammar notes. Related expressions: in a huff, I'm sticking with it, over the years, to air out. 1. She went off in a huff after our argument; she didn't talk to me for weeks. 2. No one will change my mind. That is my opinion, and I'm sticking with it! 3. We planted that oak a long time ago. Over the years it has spread magnificently, and now shades the whole garden. 4. The blankets had been in storage all year, so I aired them out.…

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4000,000 boxes of cherries.

2011-07-26
Length: 6s

I learned a few things this past weekend about the fruit industry. My husband has been involved in national and international export of fruit for over twenty years, and right now, he is *up to his neck in this season's fruit: the cherry. Washington state is one of the major cherry producers, and July and August are the two months for harvesting and shipping. We happened to be in a town called Brewster which is about an hour and a half north of Wenatchee. As you head north, the landscape becomes dryer, and fascinatingly *moon-like. You travel right along the Columbia river all the way up North. At either side of the river are high, dry hills, that continue off into the distance for miles. There are countless *gullies and tucked-away areas where wildlife live, such as coyotes, deer, and even big horn sheep. Down at the river's edge is a different story. Because of the available water, communities have sprung up, including many lush parks, and, of course, the orchards. Ironically, the dryness of the area and the heat suit many of the kinds of fruit that are grown. The water that they need is simply supplied through irrigation. So, you have a contrast between the dry, earthy, barren hills, and lush green areas all the way up the river. Brewster is a small town right on the Columbia that is in the heart of orchard country. My husband works with people who have hundreds of thousands of acres of orchards. And when it comes to cherries, there is a short window of opportunity to get them picked, packed, and shipped off. It is a very perishable fruit, and a lot of care and attention are required in bringing fruit to the customers that is in excellent condition. My visit to Brewster was actually not to visit orchards. The cherries had already been picked. There is a huge packing plant there, and that was our destination. As we approached the packing house, I could see that it was a busy season for them. The parking lot was full, and workers were coming and going, starting new shifts, and getting off of  completed shifts. Hundreds of people are employed, in many different capacities. My children and I were all wide-eyed as we were shown around. We went into the cold storage room, where thousands of boxes that were already ready, were waiting to be shipped to supermarkets around the world. There were fork-lift trucks zooming forwards and backwards, busily stacking boxes up high. And then, we went to a sorting and packing line, where people sorted through a conveyor belt of cherries. They had to take out unwanted cherries, and let the others fill up various containers of different sizes. It was a fast job. There were also lines of clean water flowing past much of the machinery; a lot of washing takes place. As we left the plant, I noticed a man-made lake infront of the building. I was told that they are planning on recycling their water, and also using it for both the heating and cooling of water inside the plant. It's incredible to think that about four million boxes get packed in the region, this particular plant doing at least one million. To say that it is a remote area, there is a lot *more going on than meets the eye. Grammar notes. Related expressions: to be up to your neck, moon-like, more to.... than meets the eye. 1. The office is really busy at this time of year; we are all up to our necks in paperwork. 2. Our land is moon-like. However, once we put in irrigation, we'll be able to plant anything. 3. There's more to him than meets the eye; he's not much to look at, but he has a heart of gold.…

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Tyler Farrar from Wenatchee.

2011-07-22
Length: 5s

For those of you who are following the Tour de France, you will recognize the name Tyler Farrar. He is from the town where I live, Wenatchee. The fact that he is not only in the Tour, but also doing well, has really created a buzz of excitement here. The local newspaper, The Wenatchee World, has a daily spot about the race so we can all keep up to date with how Tyler is doing. What we are holding our breath for, is the sprint into Paris. He will be against Mark Cavendish, the English missile, and other sprinters such as Thor Hushov and Alessandro Petacchi. My husband and I are amazingly addicted to the tour; we have it taped, and so, in the evenings, that's what we watch. Sorry kids, no cartoons. Tyler's father lives and works in Wenatchee; he is a surgeon, and is often seen biking in the local parks. Tyler must have been an unusual child for this area of the States. Most boys become deeply involved in baseball, basketball, or football. Now, soccer and hockey are also popular. However, Tyler started competitive biking when he was only thirteen years old. His father said that from then on, he knew that cycling was what he wanted to do. He is still young, only twenty-seven, so he has many years of cycling ahead of him. As far as his training is concerned, he lives in Ghent, in Belgium. His upbringing here in Wenatchee served him well for building strength and stamina for cycling. There are many, ideal roads for cycling in the hills here, as well as trails for mountain biking. I suppose the four very distinct seasons that we have here can also prepare a cyclist for hot and cold extremes while biking. Now that he lives in Ghent, however, he has all-year-long cycling because the climate is much milder, with less extremes. Being a sprinter means that he has explosive power towards the end of the race. He, like the other sprinters, tends to stay anywhere in the peloton until the end, when he makes his way to the front, and suddenly speeds towards the finish line. He has already won a stage in the Tour de France, and also in the Vuelta a Espana, and the Giro d'Italia, and others in less known races, so he has plenty of experience. So, when we spot him in the peloton, on the television screen, we get excited and hope to see a successful performance. Even though Mark Cavendish is one of my favorite cyclists, if Tyler beats him and wins the grand, final stage of the race, Wenatchee should commemorate his achievement with a statue in his honor. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: a spot (on tv, radio, written), to serve ...well, to tend to, to commemorate. 1. She has a spot on prime-time television, talking about the latest movies. 2. These rubber boots have served me well. I've used them for twenty years, and they still have no holes. 3. I tend to get phone calls whenever I am trying to take a nap. 4. The bronze statue was erected in the center of town, to commemorate independence day.…

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Airsoft beebees.

2011-07-18
Length: 6s

*It's no secret that boys of a certain age like guns, even if they are *make-believe. I remember that before my boys ever had any plastic weapons, they would use other toys, or even sticks, and pretend that they were guns. Perhaps they were influenced by something that they had seen on television, or maybe in a book. Who knows? Even at snack time, they would hold up their carrots at eachother and pretend to shoot. Well, now that my boys are older, we have found a happy medium between play and reality. Air soft. These guns are fashioned to look exactly like the real thing, but often smaller in size. And what they shoot is harmless: bb's. These are small, plastic balls that come in various colors. We have white, orange, and fluorescent yellow ones. The boys *take their weapons quite seriously. They have already had a proper air soft battle with friends up in the forest where they camped out for the night. It was supervised, of course, by parents. Eye protection is a must, and nobody is allowed to play unless their eyes are covered. The extent to which you cover yourself in clothing is up to you. Some people don't want to risk getting hit with a bb because it stings a little. As long as you wear long sleeves, long pants, and cover your face and neck, you are completely sting-free. Airsoft is the sort of hobby that grows on you. Some adults are devoted to it. You-tube is full of video clips about the air soft weapons, and battles among friends in lots of different countries. When my two sons had their air soft camp-out, they came back with stories of all the cool stuff that people had. There are heavy duty combat suits that you can use that not only completely cover you, but also are camouflaged. Some of the air soft guns are CO2 powered (carbon dioxide), so the bb'ss fly hard and fast at their target. What's really fun, is having a make-believe battle in our back garden as the sun is going down. We use the glow-in-the-dark bb's, so we can see when someone is shooting at us, and duck. Our kids absolutely love it; it's intense and exciting. The only trouble is, there are bb's everywhere. If you pick any room in my house, even after it's been cleaned, you will find bb's somewhere. Even the driveway has bright yellow bb's glowing against the black asphalt, and from underneath bushes and plants. Those little plastic balls started out in a factory in China, made their way by boat to the U.S., were transported by train to Washington, and then by truck to our local store. And now, those tiny things will be turning up for months in my house and entryway.  Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: it's no secret, make-believe, to take something seriously, glow-in-the-dark.  1. It's no secret that their money influences local politicians. 2. My daughter's unicorn lives in our backyard; it's make-believe, of course. 3. She takes her cake baking very seriously; don't disturb her when she is making them. 4. My Halloween costume was a glow-in-the-dark skeleton.…

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Chirping Chicks.

2011-07-07
Length: 5s

Oh, I haven't been getting much sleep recently. It seems as though* the whole world is noisy. It's summer, and every living thing is feeling fully alive, and therefore, making lots of noise. I often have to put our two dogs in the garage in the early hours of the morning because they have a barking fit* at who knows what*. There are racoon families in our neighborhood. At night they scurry* around, looking for food in the garbage cans. They need to feed their babies, so they are busy. And, of course, when the dogs pick up their scent in the air, it's barking time. Also, the birds are busy feeding their chicks. We have a bird house next to  our deck, in our back yard, with three chicks in it. Very early in the morning you'll hear the chirp, chirp, peep, peep. It's adorable, even if it is at five in the morning. My children have asked me if we can feed them, but of course I told them "no", because who knows what they would give them to eat when I'm not looking..... I would probably find remnants of Oreo cookies in the nest, and some very sick birds. A couple of other birds have nested in our garden recently which I call my angels. They are wood pigeons; over here they call them doves. They make a very soothing ooo-ooo-ooo sound. When I was growing up in the English countryside, that's a sound that I heard all the time. It takes me back to my childhood, and makes me feel very comfortable. I decided to take a photo of the nearest nest the other day. It's higher up than my head, so I can't see into it without standing on something. So, I took the chance of just lifting the camera over my head, clicking, and hoping to get a good shot. It worked. I had obviously made enough noise to disturb the chicks, and, not being able to see whether I was their parent or not, they leaned towards the opening of the birdhouse, and opened their mouths. It's amazing to think that in a few short weeks, these totally vulnerable babies will be flying around, catching insects. There will be a lot less chirping, and a lot more flying. Grammar notes. Expressions: it seems as though, who knows what, to scurry. 1. It seems as though everyone is wearing skinny jeans these days. What ever happened to baggy trousers? 2. The attic was full of junk: broken furniture, moth-eaten clothes, broken cups and plates, and who knows what else. 3. Mice are rodents. They run with fast bursts of energy which we call scurrying.…

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Preparation for a barbecue.

2011-07-05
Length: 5s

 Preparations for a barbecue. One of the things I like most about Summer is barbecuing. As a person who cooks all the time, it's so nice to have a break from the kitchen, and to do some rapid, easy clean-up cooking on the barby. Over here, it's often the men who are in charge of barbecuing the meat; it's like a tradition. However, because of its convenience, I take over often, and get everything prepared before anyone else turns up. The other day, when I went grocery shopping, I stocked up* on sauces that I can use for marinading different meats and fish to keep my barbecues interesting. I bought an Asian ginger sauce, a Teriaki, a smoky barbecue sauce, and an Indian marinade. That should keep meals interesting for a while. I also bought a packet of wooden skewers onto which I can put all sorts of vegetables. So, now I'm prepared, with a fridge full of meat and vegetables, and also the freezer. “What's for dinner?” no longer has to be an annoying question. Part of getting prepared is making sure that there is enough propane in the gas canister. If that is empty, then dinner is not going to happen. So, I took a trip to the local DIY store (which is short for do-it-yourself). In its gardening department, it has an area that is reserved for propane. And, what makes it interesting is that you serve yourself. First, there is a machine which accepts your credit card for payment. You swipe* your card, as you do in shops nowadays. Then, an automated* voice talks to you, giving you instructions on how to retrieve your propane. From a large set of cages, one of them opens automatically, and the voice says, “Place your empty canister in cage number 23.” So, you follow directions. Then, once you shut the cage door, the voice says, “Retrieve your new canister from cage number 42,” and so you do. And there you have it, an easy, human-free transaction. I felt a little strange photographing the cages afterwards, as if the automated machine would suddenly say to me, “Hey, what do you think you're doing, lady?” So I took the picture, took my propane, and left quickly. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and phrases: to stock up, to swipe, automated, d-i-y We stocked up on Australian wine when it was on sale. Swipe your credit card to complete the purchase. The car wash is automated; there are no workers to be seen anywhere. I need to go to the d-i-y store to buy a closet building kit.…

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A Morning Routine.

2011-06-28
Length: 6s

A routine is a habit, often one that gives us comfort, or some sort of benefit. We say in English that we are 'creatures of habit'. Humans like to have a routine, a familiar way of living. I've noticed that even my children have developed their own routines: how they dress and take care of themselves, what they like to eat and when, and even how they play. A routine that I have in the morning that makes a positive impact on my day, is my coffee routine. A few years ago, my husband and I decided that it was time to get a decent coffee maker: an espresso machine. Espresso, and the whole mediterranean style cafes that are enjoyed so much here, have only really taken off over the past fifteen to twenty years. When I first came over here, Starbucks was very new indeed. They were the first company that brought the laid back, sit and have a coffee, culture to the states. And now there are many other such companies. So, when we decided to buy an espresso machine, Starbucks was the obvious choice for us. If you've ever been in a Starbucks, you'll find that they don't just serve espresso. They have a huge variety of coffee, tea, and juice drinks, as well as pastries, and some savory food. Also, they sell coffee by the pound, either ground or whole bean. And then, you'll also find shelves of cups, tea and coffee pots, and espresso machines. So, Starbucks seemed to be the obvious choice when it came to buying our espresso machine. We ended up with one called a Barista, which is medium sized, and perfect for two people to use. It has a spout which can be used to heat and froth-up the milk, and of course the coffee brewing section. Using an espresso machine was not new to me. I had worked at an espresso stand for a year when I first go married. Before that, I worked in a restaurant in Leicester Square, London, where we had a huge, Italian, copper espresso machine. It could make several drinks at once. It was so big and gorgeous, that we would polish it every day to make it really shine. When it comes to my coffee routine, it's quite simple really. I turn it on, add fresh water, and flush out some of the day-old water. While it is heating up, I put about a tablespoon full of ground espresso into what is called the coffee basket. This is the metal cup with holes in it that is part of the arm that attaches to the machine. When the light comes on that indicates available hot water, I press the 'brew' button, and the hot water flows through the coffee and the filter, and out into the shot glass. It's hot, fresh, and frothy. When it comes to the milk, I cheat a little. I don't bother heating and frothing it in the traditional way. I just warm up some soy milk in the microwave while I'm making the espresso. I add the coffee to the milk, and that's it. Perfect! It's the best part of my breakfast. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: froth, filter, impact, the obvious choice. 1. I like my latte as plain as possible: milk, espresso, no flavoring, no froth. 2. The irrigation system needs a filter so seeds and organic matter don't clog up the pipes. 3. The chemical factory hasn't had any impact on our environment because they have strict safety laws. 4. A German chocolate cake was the obvious choice for the anniversary party; everbody likes it, and it is the baker's specialty.…

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Watermelon eating competition.

2011-06-26
Length: 5s

Are you enjoying your Summer? It is in full swing now. The clothes shops are full of swimming suits, bikinis, and barbecue equipment. Flowers are out, and most families find a swimming pool to enjoy. There were end of year celebrations for schools, held in parks around the area. We went to the end of year barbecue for the alternative school that two of my sons have been going to for about six months. It took place in a well manicured park that is next to our nearest dam, Rocky Reach Dam. There are covered seating areas with sinks, tables, and chairs, for picnickers. There is also a large playing area for younger children, to keep them occupied. Each family was asked to bring a plate or two of food to share, and if possible, watermelon. It was hot when we got there, and there were already lots of young people running around in swimming suits, having water fights. The atmosphere was generally laid back, with most people eventually sitting on the grass in groups, eating, and chatting. When most of the food had been eaten, a whistle was blown, and there was a call for all participants of the watermelon eating competition to sit down and get ready. Several ladies had been busily slicing up the melons for quite a while. They piled all of the slices and pieces into plates, and servers gave each of the children a slice. The rule was, nobody could use hands; they had to be behind your back. Three, two, one, and off they went, *chomping away on the juicy stuff. As soon as a person finished one slice, he would call for another, and keep score of how many he had eaten. It was the only time in the get-together that it was actually quiet! And then, when all the watermelon was gone, there was a quick *tally of those who had eated the most. And the prize? A watermelon! No, I'm only kidding. I don't actually know what the prize was, but it must have been something good, because the winner and both *runners up were very excited about it. As you can imagine, there was a huge, sticky mess to clean up afterwards. Luckily, with concrete floors, you can just hose the place with water. When we finally left, the kids were *worn out. It had been an exciting day, and a hot one too. I could hear people saying goodbye as we pulled out of the parking lot. Some of the kids won't see eachother for a while because they will be travelling. They'll be excited to see eachother in September, and have stories of the Summer to share. Grammar notes. Related sayings: to chomp, a tally, a runner up, to be worn out. 1. The pig chomped on the vegetables, making a lot of noise. 2. When we finished playing monopoly, we tallied each person's gains to find out who owned the most property. 3. He wasn't first place in the race, but he was a runner-up, so he received a medal. 4. The hikers had been lost for two days, and had walked the whole time. They were completely worn out, by the time they reached safety.  …

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Summer Camps Are Here.

2011-06-22
Length: 5s

This is the first week of Summer vacation. The first couple of days seemed a bit unreal; my two youngest kept on asking if they had school the next day. "Nope," I would reply,"it's the Summer, remember?" Thankfully, we are getting used to a slower pace. I don't have to drive as much, which is a relief. There are a few things that I have arranged for the children this Summer to keep them occupied and learning new things. My first and third sons have been attending a basketball Summer camp. It is only for three days, and is taught by seasoned coaches. It is held in the High School, which is exciting for them, because that is where the 'big boys' go. It's a place they don't go to very much, so there is a certain appeal about it. The turn out for the camp has been quite substantial. The morning session, for the younger kids, has about thirty five all together. They turn up at eight thirty, and finish at noon. Then it's home, lunch, and dropping off Hudson for his four and a half hours. The afternoon session has even more participants. There are High School students helping the coaches, and giving demonstrations, so the little ones can get a clear idea of what they need to do. The aim is to teach fundamentals in a fun, mixed age environment. My children know some of the kids there from school, and from having played with them on basketball teams. It's a good opportunity to 'mix it up' as they say here. That means, to mix with people of different ages and abilities, and to do something that is either interesting, or that stretches you. The verb 'to stretch' is used to mean that the people involved have to grow, or learn, apply effort, and improve. It's a good visual image for what it means. The last day of the Summer camp is today; they will be finishing their time together with an awards ceremony. They'll be given some sort of momento so they remember the camp, and hopefully what they have learned. In a couple of weeks, my children will be going to other camps in the mornings. There is a mathematics camp planned for the older boys, and cooking and art for the youngest. What with the camps, swimming, a little bit of school work at home, and lots of play dates, the Summer will probably fly by. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: seasoned, a turn out, to turn up, to stretch a person. 1. He is a seasoned golfer; you can always get good advice from him about the sport. 2. There was a really good turn out for the first Farmer's Market; I think about three thousand people came. 3. In the middle of a snow storm, a little, black puppy turned up on my doorstep. 4. This computer class is really stretching me; I haven't had to focus like this for years!      …

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A Project of Renovation.

2011-06-13
Length: 6s

I have an excuse for not updating my podcast for a few days, honestly....I dove into a renovation project in my house. It's something that I have wanted to do for a long time, but something always seems to come up*, so the project gets put off. The powder room on the first floor of the house has had a face-lift. It was a sweet, little, room, but really quite out of date. Getting involved in this kind of project is tempting, but also dangerous. What you plan on taking a few days to do, can easily spread out to a week or two. And, wouldn't you know, that once I bought the paint, and made a mental note of my great plan, I suddenly needed to do other things. My daughter had to go to the hospital for an exploratory examination. Thankfully, that turned out fine, but it took the best part of the day, and all of my energy. Then, the car had to be taken in to be looked at because its front end has been making a sort of whining, yawning noise. So, that was another two hours spent in a waiting room. And with dropping kids off, picking them up, taking them to practices, meals, laundry etc etc, it began to seem as if I would never get my project even started, let alone* finished. But, Tuesday's are my glory days: all the kids are at school. So, I did as much as I could this Tuesday. I tore off the wallpaper, turned off the water and took out the sink. I peeled off the old counter top. I turned off the main electric breaker to the house, and took off the light. And finally, I took off the wooden trim from around the door. Then, when I finished all of that, I realized how much my back ached. So, a cup of tea to the rescue; that soothes most aches and pains. Then I stood back and planned the painting part of it. I had chosen a cappuccino color for the walls, but they had to be prepped first. That is short for prepared. I had to buy and apply a couple of cans of stuff called 'spackle' which, when you spray it on the walls, creates an orange peel texture which helps to disguise imperfections. This was very strong smelling, so I would hold my breath, spray for a minute or so, and then run outside and breathe. Phew! I was glad when that part was over. Then, I painted three coats on the walls, sanded the vanity*, and painted it with four coats of black paint. Finally, the hardest part is over. I am very pleased with the result. My husband has to help me put on the new, one piece counter top and sink, as it weighs 97 lbs. Then, we will choose a light fixture, and that should be about it*. Well done Anna. The update to the house was a pleasant, creative diversion. Grammar notes. Expressions: something comes up, that's it, the vanity, let alone. 1. When I'm busy, something else always seems to come up. OR "I know your dog has been missing for a few days, but don't worry. I'm sure something will come up." 2. All you have to do to the cake is put the frosting on, the candles, and the sprinkles; and that's it! 3. I don't know why they call the vanity by its name. Perhaps it's because often people will look in the mirror while they wash their hands, and that might be considered vain. 4. I'm sure the hotel will be very expensive, what with room service, parking the car, and let alone the price of the room.…

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Eloy Flying at Kiwanis.

2011-06-11
Length: 4s

I bet if you have downloaded this podcast, you are wondering what on earth it is about. I know, the title is curious. Well, let me tell you. I'm in the city of Yakima at the moment, writing for you from a lounge chair, next to a pool, at the Oxford Inn hotel. It is situated right next to the river, in a lovely tree-lined area, quite close to the baseball park. And that is why we're here. Yes, you've heard about our involvement in this sport before. This summer, we have weekend tournaments just about every other week, and most are out of town. So, right now, we're relaxing after a long morning of driving here, and then sitting through two games. Our team, called the River Cats, actually won both games. We have more games tomorrow, and then drive home. In between games, I walked around the nearby area with my children, and took them to a play area of the Kiwanis park. Over a little shady hill, we discovered a large skateboarding park. Boys and young men were busily whooshing by on their skateboards, making jumps and turns, and doing all sorts of acrobatics. Unfortunately, my camera's battery was completely flat, so I had to use my phone to take photos. You could definitely see a hierarchy of talent out there. The most talented was an older boy who had obviously skated for years. He and I chatted for a while. It turns out that he has backpacked around England, and builds muscle cars. Who knew? You never know who you'll meet unless you start a conversation....Anyway, as I was taking photos, a boy called Eloy came up to me and asked if I would take his photo. "Of course," I said. He excitedly chose a few routes to show off his talents, and I snapped away. After a while, I realised that the next baseball game was about to start, so we would have to leave. I asked Eloy which school he goes to, and I also wrote down acupofenglish.com on a piece of paper, "Give this to your English teacher, and you will see yourself on my blog," I told him. I hope he has a chance to read this blog, and see his photo. These talented young people need to be celebrated. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: involvement, to make/ do a jump/ turn, hierarchy. 1. His involvement in the project was unexpected but useful; he really helped us. 2. The skateboard champion made lots of jumps and turns, and impressed the crowd. 3. The hierarchy of power in the government is seen in the different responsibilities that each has.…

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Stetson Hats.

2011-06-07
Length: 5s

I know a few people who have Stetsons. Infact, when my brother was visiting a few months ago, he bought himself a couple. They are good quality, and last for a long time. Where he lives is very sunny, so they are a charming, and unusual way to get shade in New Zealand. Stetson is an icon of American society. It's typically American, like baseball, and Elvis Presley. Close to the end of the 19th century, the Stetson Hat Company was the biggest in the world, producing over three million hats a year. Even in our little, downtown museum, we have a glass case that is dedicated to the Stetson company. I had no idea that women's hats were also made. John B. Stetson started his company in 1865. Initially, only men's hats were made. It wasn't until the 1930's that ladies hats were also made. The company is based in Garland, Texas, and is now one of the largest in the country. This success story is said to have started when John Stetson went to Colorado to prospect for gold. While he was there, the story goes, he made a hat out of the untreated leather taken from furs that he had collected on his journey. Because his father was a hatter, he had experience with materials and design. He wanted to show off what he could do to his friends. The resulting hat was soft, and protected him from the elements. What started out as a joke, proved to be the first stepping stone to a business. This hat had a wide brim, a large crown (or head piece), and could even be used to carry water. Apparently, later on, John's group met a cowboy who paid him five dollars in gold for the hat. It was this experience that encouraged him to create his signature hat, 'The Boss of the Plains'. He replicated the fashionable hats, but when he launched his own design, it was then that he became successful. The original company was sold in the 1970's to another company, but it, to this day, retains the Stetson logo for those particular hats. I have noticed around town, that some men, especially of Hispanic origin, or older caucasian men, will wear a Stetson for an elegant occasion. When it's time to dress up, the Stetson hat comes out of its box, to put the finishing touches in a formal situation. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: a couple, initially, ...is said to , proved to be. 1. The eclairs in the bakery looked amazing, so I bought a couple. 2. Initially, sales were slow at the beginning of the season, but then things improved. 3. She is said to have been seven feet tall and covered in hair. 4. The cheapest wine proved to be the very best.…

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The First Transpacific Flight.

2011-06-06
Length: 5s

Clyde Edward Pangborn, a stunt pilot, and flight instructor during the First World War, arrived in Wenatchee on October 5th, 1931, after 41 hours and 15 minutes of flighing. He and his partner, Hugh Herndon Jr., had just made a historic flight from Shabishiro, Japan, the first time the pacific had been flown across. What's exciting about that historical trip, is that they completed it in Wenatchee. They had been scheduled to land in Seattle, but couldn't do so because of bad weather. I had heard about this flight a long time ago when I first came here, but I didn't really think much about it until I went to the museum the other day. There was a free day for the public on Friday, so I took my children and another friend to explore. The children ran around like rats, going into all of the different rooms, the art display, the electric miniature railway room, and a real apple sorter from the last century. I followed them into the room that was dedicated to the transpacific flight, and read them a few of the details that were written on the walls. The plane that they used was called the Miss Veedol. There is a model of it hanging from the ceiling. There are also maps, signatures, and details about the lives of both pilots. I was amazed to find out that before leaving Shabishiro, they were both imprisoned, and nearly lost their maps. Then, when they actually took off, the landing gear of the plane (the wheels) were supposed to fall off to decrease the weight that they would carry. Well, they didn't. So what did they do? Pangborn got out of the plane, and at 14,000 feet, got onto a wing, barefoot, and detatched the landing gear himself. What a brave man! Being a stunt pilot, he was used to taking risks, so he was the right man for the job. I can't even imagine climbing out onto one of the wings while the plane is in flight. That's crazy! But they did it, and they managed to land in Wenatchee safely almost two days later. An airport was built later on in Wenatchee at the place where they landed; it's called Pangborn airport. It's very much celebrated here in Wenatchee; there is even a sister-city connection in Japan. Most years during the Apple Blossom Festival, representatives from Japan ride in the parade. It's great to think that, even though Wenatchee seems far away from most places, there is a historic international connection that keeps this place on the map. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to detatch, celebrated (as an adjective), to be on the map. 1. You have to detatch the safety brake before the remote control car will work. 2. He is a very celebrated artist; his work is on display in the National Gallery. 3. That amusement park really put this town on the map.…

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Squirt Guns.

2011-05-31
Length: 5s

I have noticed recently in the shops, a new season of toys on the shelves. When I say a season of toys, what I mean is a new set of toys for this warmer season. The Summer toys are here, and they have a very outdoorsy and watery theme. As you browse the aisles, you will find goggles and snorkeling gear, noodles which are made of styrofoam (also for swimming), buckets, spades, parasols, and slip 'n' slides. Let me explain what some of these are. A noodle is a piece of cheap styrofoam that looks like a giant noodle, but is usually a bright, primary color. It is perfect for hanging on to, or wrapping around oneself. You can even bash a friend on the head with it, without hurting anyone at all. It's a floatation device, of sorts. A slip 'n' slide, on the other hand, is a very long, and wide, sheet of plastic that sometimes has perforated hoses running down its length. The hoses wet the sheet, and you and your friends run as fast as you can, and jump stomach first onto the plastic sheet. You then slip and slide all the way to the end. Now, they come in all shapes and sizes, from the simple sheets that you have to wet yourselves, to the cave-like slip 'n' slides that have inflatable sides, moving hoses, door flaps, and other features that increase the fun, and the speed at which you slide. One other Summer toy that kids love is the squirt gun. And you know that there are many different kinds. This past weekend, during the baseball tournament that we went to, there was a birthday party for one of the players. Squirt guns were some of his presents; and there was a swimming pool in the hotel. Well, it was like a war scene in the pool. We parents, sitting at the side to supervise and keep our kids safe, were sitting ducks. That means that we were prime targets. Even giving our children serious looks didn't make any diffference. The coach even got a good squirt right at his head. Boys with squirt guns just have to be left to squirt until they are tired. They had a blast, and made new friends, and I'm sure some new enemies. The streams of water were hitting people in the side of the head, on the chest, and in the ears. You couldn't help but laugh. It's a good job that we don't have a pool; I don't fancy being a sitting duck again any time soon. Grammar notes. Related expressions: any time soon, a sitting duck, outdoorsy, a feature. 1. He won't be coming back any time soon (an Americanism). 2. If you camp here where the mosquitos are, you'll be sitting ducks. They'll have you for breakfast! 3. That family is very outdoorsy; they are always hiking or camping in the wilderness. 4. My camera has a very useful timer feature; I use it often.…

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A Yard of Bubblegum.

2011-05-30
Length: 5s

 A Yard of Bubblegum. We had an interesting weekend this past Memorial Day weekend. We went to the town of Monroe which is on the outskirts of Seattle. My son had a baseball tournament. It would have lasted for three days if they had won on both Saturday and Sunday. However, they didn't do so well on Sunday, so we were free to leave. There is a saying in England, 'A change is as good as a rest,' which I think applied to our weekend. We don't often get out of Wenatchee, and although Seattle is only three hours away, it is a totally different environment. The climate is much wetter, so the whole place is green, with trees everywhere. Being from England, it makes me feel quite at home. And it is obviously more populated than our small rural town, so there is a lot more to do. After the last baseball game, we headed into town to have lunch and do some shopping. There is a place that I always try and visit whenever I'm in Seattle. It's called World Plus Imports. The name gives away the theme of the store. It is a very colorful international shop, that has everything from food, to jewelery, to furniture. It's one place where none of my children get bored, so I have enough time to really look at everything. There are also English products that I cannot get in Wenatchee. So, I load up on them whenever I'm there: English style baked beans (the ones over here are really sugary), Digestive biscuits, and Maltesers. Some of you who have been to England, might have tried these. I told my kids, who were scampering everywhere like mice, that they could each choose something. Within a few seconds, one of them was waving a huge, plastic tube of bubblegum in my face, “Can I have this, Mum?” “No!” was my very plain but to the point answer. It was a whole yard of bubblegum. We're talking about three feet. They would never stop chewing if we had bought that! And, I'm sure, the dentist would have plenty to say at their next checkup. What will they think of next? Grammar notes. Practice of 'would have', 'could have', and 'should have'. We could have saved time if we had taken the short cut. I would have called you if I had known that you were in town. They should have been here by now; I hope nothing has happened. I couldn't have driven my car yesterday even if I had wanted to; I dropped my keys down the drain! If we were able to, we would have helped him.…

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Thanks for the million downloads.

2011-05-26
Length: 4s

This is a very special podcast because I have some thanking to do. Every now and then, I check on the statistics of my podcast, and yesterday I saw that I have had more than a million downloads all together. Thank you, to all of you who have listened to my short ramblings for the past two and a half years. I suppose one million downloads isn't really that much when it comes to the internet, but for me, it's a rare number, and one that I am very excited about. Now, I can tell my friends and family, "Hey, my podcast has been downloaded more than a million times!" It's a great way to show off. A million isn't really a number that I hear very much, apart from the occasional expression. 'One in a million' is a common expression which means something or someone very special. 'A million to one' is obviously a very low chance of something happening. For example, 'The chance of me getting that job is a million to one.' However, there has been a lot of talk recently using the word 'million' because someone in our little town won a million dollars a few days ago. I'll go into the details in another podcast, because it is a story worth telling. But I will tell you that it is a deserving family of seven, both parents are teachers, and three of the five children were adopted. It's the type of story that makes you glad, because they are the kind of people who seem to deserve something special. Anyway, I'm just glad that some of you are still listening to what I have to say, and putting up with my imperfections. I must tell you that what I enjoy more than anything about podcasting, is receiving emails from you, and getting to know you a little. It's like traveling without leaving home. So, I send you all a sincere thanky ou from Wenatchee, and look forward to the next million. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: statistics, to ramble, to show off, one in a million. 1. Statistics show that it is safer to fly than to travel by car. 2. I wish he would get to the point. He just rambles on about unrelated ideas. 3. He polished his new car and showed it off around town. 4. My grandmother is one in a million; she's a very special and unique individual.…

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Security on wheels.

2011-05-23
Length: 4s

You can really feel that Summer is on its way. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork. People are actually walking on the streets. You don't often see that; it's usually empty sidewalks and everyone in cars. But now, there is plenty of reason to walk. The air just feels soooo good, and the sun is not yet too hot. As I was driving home the other day, I saw two very sporty men on bicycles. Now, there happen to be a lot of cyclists in this area. It's a cycling paradise actually, because of the nearby hills and trails. But, these men were different. You could tell that they weren't cycling for pleasure. They were policemen. And they were cycling up my road! I felt sorry for them actually; our road is very steep. By the time they got to the top, they would have been exhausted. They looked as if they were in really good shape, not the typical, overweight, doughnut eating policemen in patrol cars. If you love cycling, it would be an ideal job. You'd get paid for riding your bike all day. And I doubt that they have to deal with many hardened criminals. First of all, they wouldn't get very far if they had to chase anyone in a car. And secondly, in a hot, hilly town that doesn't have many people on the streets, who would they arrest anyway? Perhaps they are showing a friendlier, healthier type of policeman to the community. They would be handy in places where people gather, like baseball parks, and community events that are outside. I suppose they could even race through a mall on their bikes, or a huge store like Walmart. Now, that would be useful because a lot of shoplifting goes on in those kinds of places. Seeing policemen on bikes, certainly changes their general image, and though they look friendly, remember that they are armed and dangerous. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: sporty, a ...... paradise, to deal with. 1. She looks fit and sporty; I bet she works out, or does some kind of competitive sport. 2. That shop is a chocolate lover's paradise; it is nothing but chocolate. 3. He had to deal with customer complaints all day, and then his car broke down on the way home, the poor man!…

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The Instrument Zoo.

2011-05-22
Length: 5s

It's not very often that you get the opportunity to try out many kinds of instruments. Have you ever blown a bassoon? Have you ever strummed an electric guitar, or tried a set of drums? We had the chance to do that on Saturday. The Woodshouse Conservatory of Music was holding what they called an 'Instrument Zoo' for the public to come and enjoy. When we walked into the entryway, we were greeted by a face painter (for the kids) and we were given a map showing us which instruments were in which rooms. On the main floor, we walked into the room which is normally used as an office. A young man was there with a clarinet. Cool! My sister used to play one when she was little. I love its cool tones. He played a great piece from Pirates of the Caribbean. We are movie soundtrack buffs in our household, and that is a soundtrack that we are very familiar with. He caught our attention immediately. "Do you want a turn?" he asked. Of course I did, but I wanted to let my kids try it first. They all looked shy, and I could tell what they were thinking, "He's just had that in his mouth; do I have to put it in my mouth?" I thought the same, so I asked if he could clean the mouthpiece. He graciously did more than that; he put a new reed in it for me. Anyway, after my obsessive compulsive disorder was satisfied, we all had a go and loved it. Next, we moved onto the bass saxophone. It's huge. Infact, it's about the same size as my daughter, who did her best to blow it, but couldn't. Upstairs to the second floor we went, following the map, hearing all sorts of lovely sounds coming from the rooms, and walking past signs that said, 'Don't feed the animals.' Yes, very funny. In the next room, something very special happened. The oboe teacher, seeing us walk in, played a track from Star Wars. The mouths of all my kids dropped open. This was the 'bomb' as they say here, which is slang for the very best. The boys lined up to have a turn, germs or no germs they didn't care. But believe me, it's hard to blow. That beautiful, haunting sound of the oboe requires a lot of breath! Suddenly, another lady walked in carrying a very long instrument, a bassoon. She gave us a demonstration of what it can do by playing some Mozart. Again, we all had a go, mixing and spreading germs, which now makes me cringe, but at the time seemed to be irrelevant. We finished off our tour with the electric guitar and the drums. Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones were played by the guitar teachers, and my children just strummed one or two notes to accompany. What a great experience. When would you normally have that kind of an opportunity? Not very often, I think. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: tone, graciously, to strum, reed. 1. His tone of voice was very harsh and threatening. 2. I accidentally scratched his car, but he graciously forgave me. 3. Don't strum the guitar too loudly; it sounds better when it is quiet. 4. Reeds grow near rivers; they are also used for instruments.…

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Who invented the Garp?

2011-05-19
Length: 5s

Like many good things, the Garp started out as an idea. A boy had been told by his Science teacher to make an instrument involving specific measurements and the number eight. Well, the idea moved around in the mind of the boy for a few days, changing its shape a little, becoming more real and more possible each day. A day before he had to produce the instrument, and show it to his teacher, the boy set to work. He sneaked into his father's workshop and looked around. Gosh, look at all those tools. "I can surely create something wonderful here," he thought. First, he picked out a piece of wood from the many that were there. He put it in the vice, and tightened it. Then, he very carefully marked in pencil the measurements that his Science teacher had given him. Then came the screws. He screwed them in at each point where he had marked the measurements. Finally, he chose eight elastic bands, stretched and looped each one around two screws, creating a stringed instrument. "Yes," he thought, "this looks good." But, when he plucked the elastic bands, there was hardly any sound. Even the most stretched band didn't make much of a noise. He scratched his head. "This wasn't supposed to happen," he thought. He paced up and down the room for a few minutes, going over the steps he had taken, wondering what had gone wrong. He sat down with a sigh. Then, he started to think about stringed instruments that he had seen: guitar, cello, harp, violin. "Ah-ha!" a light bulb went on in his head. All of those instruments have a hollow; the strings are not right up against the wood. Perhaps a hollow will help to create a sound. He considered other materials that were lying around that he could use for a stringed instrument. He came up with a cardboard box from the recycling bin. He removed one side, making it into a triangle. Taped it all together, made the measurements, cut little notches at each measurement, and put the elastic bands in each notch. Surely, this would work.....He ran his fingers along the line of elastic bands, and to his delight heard a 'drrriiing!' Yes, he had found a hollow big enough to make it all work. Happily, to complete his creation, he spray painted it gold. He admired it for a while. "It's like a cross between a guitar and a harp. I'll call it, The Garp." So, that is how it came to be, and that is how he got an 'A' in his Science class. Grammar notes. Related expressions: involving, to set to ..., to pace, to take steps. 1. Exs: I'm considering involving Peter in our discussion. They were in an incident involving a gun and a stolen car. 2. They set out on their journey. We set to work immediately because it would take hours to finish the project. 3. The lady paced up and down the hospital room; she would soon deliver her baby. 4. The council was going to cut down all of our neighborhood trees, but we took steps to stop them.…

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A Food Drive?

2011-05-17
Length: 4s

What does a food drive mean? It's nothing to do with driving a car, that's for sure. You could also have a clothes drive, or a drive of something else. It is a call for donations, to put it simply. I received a plastic bag in the mail, placed there by the local postman himself. He, and many others like him, do a yearly food drive to help hungry people in our community. Everybody gets their mail, so everybody will have received the same bag. All the information that you need is written right there on the bag. It tells you what the drive is for, and that the National Association of Letter Carriers and the local Food Bank are working together to collect for the poor. 'Stamp out hunger', it says. To stamp out something is when you finish it, or do away with it completely. You will probably have heard the expression in other contexts such as: 'stamp out violence', 'stamp out bullying', 'stamp out racism'. To stamp out gives you a good visual for the meaning of the expression. I think that this particular food drive was well organized, in that, the information comes straight to everyone's home, in a bag that will be used to carry the food to the mail boxes, where, the next day, the mail man will pick them up. Very smart. If it is easy for everyone, then it is likely to succeed. The only requirement for the donators was that the food be 'non-perishable', which means nothing that can go bad easily. Canned foods, dry food like rice, pasta, dry milk, or dry soups, and boxed food are just those kinds of non-perishables. So, you simply pop whatever appropriate food you have in the bag, take it out to your mail box, and leave it there. The plastic bag will protect the food if it rains, and the postmen or mail men will take it from there. Somehow, there always seems to be something that you can give. A community effort to stamp out hunger. What a good idea! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to stamp out, non-perishable, to drive. 1. We are trying to stamp out dangerous speeding, by putting warning signs along the roads. 2. Non-perishable food is the easiest to transport because nothing happens to it. 3. He drove me crazy with his constant talking in the car.…

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No podcast today.

2011-05-16
Length: 49s

Hello everyone, no podcast today, I'm afraid. For a few days I have a lot of appointments lined up. So, I will podcast again on Wednesday. I'll let you know what I've been up to then.…

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An up-to-date Morris Park.

2011-05-15
Length: 5s

Morris Park is loved by many people in Wenatchee. It is a little league baseball park that has been around for more than forty years. Up until recently, it was in desperate need of repair and renovation. There were electrical problems, no heating or air conditioning, and the toilets were unspeakable...so I won't say anything about them. The parking lot was also a disaster; people would park badly, taking up too much space. Everything needed to be changed and updated. Well, over the past few months, a team of very focused volunteers has managed to raise money, put in many hours of labor, and transform Morris Park. It is barely recognizable as the original little league park that has been used for so many years. But you know how it is; when a place changes completely, for the better, you soon get used to it, and even forget about its former appearance. That is the case now with Morris Park. Now, as you pull up in your car, you see a brand new parking lot, with freshly painted lines for each parking space. Then, you walk through an attractive, brick gateway which leads to a large, area that is roofed. People can shelter from the sun or rain in this area, and it is right next to the concession stand, so the queues of people lining up for food and drinks are also sheltered from the elements. The original building which housed the concession stand, toilets, and storage for equipment was pulled down. Now, in its place, stands a totally new, heated, air conditioned, safe, and larger facility. There is even an upstairs meeting room with an attached deck. Everyone is impressed at what a good job the team of volunteers did. We have all benefitted from it. You know, most of the people who got involved, already had full time jobs, but they donated their time over many weeks, for the sake of keeping little league in the area. Other people donated materials that they no longer needed for the construction. It's encouraging to think of what can be accomplished when people work together for a good cause. Grammar notes. Useful expressions: to be around for..+ time, to house, for the sake of, to be in desperate need of. 1. This brand of jeans has been around for about fifty years. 2. That storage facility houses expensive vintage cars. 3. Sometimes landscapes are ruined for the sake of economic progress. 4. The climbers were in desperate need of sleep, but they had to get down to base camp before nightfall.  …

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Native American Sculptures.

2011-05-12
Length: 5s

Art seems to be a very personal thing, as far as what a person does and doesn't like. You must have found that, at some point in time, you have been in a place where all of a sudden you come across a piece of art that you absolutely love. That happened to me on Saturday. When I was hanging around the ball park in Moses Lake, in between games, I noticed what looked like a statue outside one of the many non-descript buildings that were close by. I had nothing else to do, as the next baseball game wasn't going to start for another twenty minutes. So, I decided to walk over to the building and take a look. I'm glad that I brought my camera, and that the battery was charged, because I came across a beautiful work of art. It was a metal statue of a very defeated looking Native American Indian, on an exhausted looking horse. It was large, and very detailed. Partly, the surprise of finding such a soulful work in a really soulless collection of buildings drew me close to the sculpture. "Who on earth made this?" I thought to myself as I walked around the base of the statue, looking carefully for the name of the artist. There was no name, however, nothing on the base or the statue itself. The base of it was surrounded by weeds and gravel. It almost looked as if this piece of art had been thrown away. What a find! I lay down on the floor in various positions, just so I could get some good shots of all the details. Since leaving Moses Lake, I have been searching on the internet for the artist's name. So far, I have not come up with anything. I tried to phone the auto museum, infront of which the statue stood. Surely someone in the building would know something about it. I will keep on looking for the artist's name, and I'll let you know who it is. In this Northwest region there is actually a lot of Native American art of all kinds, from totem poles, to jewelery, to sculpture. If I were part of the council of Moses Lake, I would put the statue in the middle of town and have it lit up. It is a significant find, because Moses Lake is where Chief Moses comes from. He was a well known, very educated chief who advocated for his people and their land. The statue echos the history of this area, it's very identity. It's as beautiful as it is historical, and deserves a place in full view of residents and visitors. Grammar notes. Related expressions: to come across, a find, to come up with something. 1. I went for a walk, and came across a necklace in the leaves. 2. That car was a real find. It was in great condition, and a great price as well. 3. We are trying to solve the problem, but so far we haven't come up with any solutions.  …

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A Hole in Facebook.

2011-05-11
Length: 5s

You know, I'm getting better at learning about technology. I wouldn't say that I am totally ignorant about social media, but neither am I an expert. At least now I have a Twitter button on my blog page, in case anyone likes a blog and wants to send a Tweet about it. I also joined Facebook a while ago. For about a year I enjoyed my personal Facebook page; I reconnected with friends who I hadn't seen for a long time, and I quickly got up to date with what they had been up to over the years. That's the beauty of Facebook. Then, I thought, "Why don't I create a Facebook page for A Cup Of English?" So I did. It had a very positive reception, and many people joined it quickly. Someone then suggested that I create a group especially for my podcast followers. "Good idea!" I thought. That worked too. But then, everything went pear shaped (that's an English expression for things no longer being straight forward). I canceled my A Cup Of English page because some of my personal friends had joined, and I wanted to keep it strictly about the business of English. So, I canceled the page. Little did I know that the group continued, even though I, the administrator, had disappeared. I hope that some of you out there can come up with a suggestion for me. The problem that I have created is the following: the A Cup Of English group is an open group, so I can neither control it, nor become it's administrator again....Mmm, so what do I do? It is impossible to contact anyone from Facebook. I have tried to re-do my Facebook page, but that would mean using my acupofenglish@live.com email, and that was already used to set up the original page and group which I'm not allowed to do. I wrestled with the situation so much that I got totally frustrated. My only option is to create a different email address that is similar to my usual one, and join the group....I haven't tried that yet. At least it would give me the option of commenting on the page. There is a saying in English that applies here, "What you don't know can hurt you." It basically means: be careful and be informed before you take action! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: pear shaped, the beauty of, the business of. 1. We had organised the event for weeks, but half way through, everything went pear shaped. 2. The beauty of the Apple iPad is its speed. 3. She is a very busy woman; she doesn't want to sit around and gossip. She wants to get on with the business of baking exceptional cakes for her bakery. …

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Clouds Over Quincy.

2011-05-09
Length: 5s

 Clouds Over Quincy. We drove home Saturday evening from a town called Moses Lake after watching baseball games all day. The boys were tired and we were quiet in the car, looking forward to being at home and out of the wind and cold. It had been a great day, with three wins all in a row. We stopped in a town called Quincy because we were starving, and didn't want to wait until we got home to eat. We ordered food in a sandwich shop, ate quickly, and then continued on our journey home. Quincy is an agricultural town, very flat for miles and miles. Farming is the life of the town which, itself, is very small indeed. Because the landscape is flat, the sky seems like a huge expanse. As I gazed out of the window sleepily, I suddenly realized that I was looking straight at the most beautiful cloud. It was enormous, and in the darkening sky it was still lit up by the last rays of sun. There were only patches of cloud around, but for some reason this cloud was huge. Streams of rain were coming from the bottom, and were easy to see. It was awesome! I snapped away with my camera, hoping to get a good shot, but doubting very much that I would. The light was changing quickly, and so was the cloud, so I took as many photos as I could, on the off chance that one of them would come out well. When I got home, I took my SD card out of my camera and put it in my laptop to download the photos. After discarding the ones that were blurry, I found that four of them had come out okay. I immediately opened up my Picasa editing program, and got to work. The first thing that needed to be done, was to crop the photos, so there would be nothing unnecessary in them. Then I used the saturation option to add color. You have to be careful with that, because it is easy to make a photo look unnatural if you use too much color. After fiddling around until I was happy, I finished off by adding more definition. And I was finished. It's breathtaking, although it pales in comparison to the real thing. I love my Picasa photo editing program. Often, a photo won't capture the grandeur of a subject; however, with the right program, you can go a long way to achieving something wonderful.  Grammar notes. Useful expressions: all in a row, on the off chance that ..., to fiddle (around), to pale in comparison to... 1. I had three accidents all in a row today; what's going on? 2. I left the note under his front door, on the off chance that he would find and read it. 3. He fiddled around with his sculpture and really improved it. I fiddled with mine, and really messed it up. 4. That pianist is good, but he pales in comparison to that one over there who is amazing.…

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A Living Museum.

2011-05-08
Length: 4s

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from the part-time school that my oldest son attends. It was a reminder about a special evening presentation that they were going to have, 'a living museum'. At first, I actually ignored the email because I assumed that my son had nothing to do with it. It was a few days later that he asked me to help him get his costume ready for the event. Now, it just happens that we have been studying some ancient history at home: Roman, Greek, and Egyptian. At school, my son's History teacher had asked each student to choose a person from history to study. Hudson chose Emperor Augustus. His first choice was Alexander the Great, but someone else chose him before he had a chance to. So, he settled for his second choice, but someone equally influential and famous. Now, this is the sort of history that kids love to learn. What made this presentation even better was that they had to dress up. You could say that it was going to be a cross between drama and history. The night came. I had to drop Hudson off at the school early so he could help to set up the presentation tables with all of their work. I turned up about an hour earlier with my son, Robert, when everything was ready. We walked into the gymnasium where the event was taking place, and found that it was already packed with people. Everyone was milling around, looking at the presentations, and talking to the students who were all dressed up as different, famous people. There were about twenty students, all loaded with information about the people they were representing, answering questions, and trying to help the parents guess who they were. There were famous inventors, poets, composers, politicians, and royalty. I recognized only about half of the characters; the others I learned about for the first time. It was a great atmosphere, and, I think a great lesson plan for many kinds of classes in school. I can imagine English students doing the same thing, and having to explain who they are. Education doesn't have to be boring after all. Grammar notes. Related expressions: to settle for, a cross between ... and .., to mill around. 1. The restaurant didn't have any fresh fish, so I settle for a steak. 2. That dog looks like a cross between a fox and a small bear. 3. The evening was perfect; the square was full of people chatting in cafes, and milling around.  …

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A Doll's House.

2011-05-05
Length: 5s

There's something in my daughter's bedroom that takes center stage when her friends come around to play. It's her doll's house. It's a typical girls' toy, but one of the best and most interesting. She got it as a birthday present a couple of years ago, and squealed with delight when she opened the box. I would have liked to have to got her a wooden one; they seem better designed, more traditional, and the type that you keep as an heirloom. However, the only decent one that was available was the plastic one from Walmart. So, that was the one that was chosen for her. The outside looks ornate, with Victorian style architectural elements. However, the fun starts when you open it. One side of the house is split in two, like a double door fridge. Inside the two parts that open up, are two rooms. A patio folds out, and there are three floors revealed in the main area of the house. Of course, you have to furnish the house. The manufacturers are very smart; they sell sets of furniture separately from the house itself. So, for example, you have a kitchen set that you can buy, or a living room, or a bedroom set. My mother and mother-in-law got several sets of furniture as their presents, so by the end of her birthday, Domini had the house totally furnished, and ready for a doll to move in. It's a toy that really stimulates the imagination. Even her brothers have played with it. I think that that is great, but I can tell that they pretend that they're not interested in it, when they actually are. The doll's house is up in her bedroom, in a corner where it is safe; you know how these plastic toys can get damaged easily. I clean and pick up in her bedroom during the week, and often I find myself in that corner where the house is. I start by picking up furniture that has been left all over the floor, and before I know it, I have spent fifteen minutes arranging everything nicely in the house. It's a brief playtime for me when nobody is around, and it's a lot easier to tidy that house, than to tidy my own! Unlike the doll's house that I used to have, it has an eclectic mix of traditional furniture, and modern appliances. It even has a computer desk with a laptop! Those lucky dolls have the internet at their fingertips, and I'm sure they listen to podcasts whenever they can..... Grammar notes. Related expressions: to take center stage, an heirloom, before you know it, to have something at your fingertips. 1. To take center stage is to be at the center of everyone's attention, or to be the most important in a performance. 2. I bought an heirloom tomato. These seeds have been kept and replanted for generations! 3. It was icy when I went outside for my walk. I locked the front door and headed towards the street, when, before you know it, I had slipped and fallen. 4. To have something at your fingertips is to have convenient access to something, like technology, or the use of transportation.  …

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A Championship Game.

2011-05-02
Length: 5s

It was a perfect Sunday. We had two games, one at eleven and one at three. We didn't have to worry about the wind coming down from the mountains today because the weather was calm. Sunscreen would have benefitted a lot of people who, by the end of the day, must have been a bit red and sore. I had brought my broad brimmed black hat and sunglasses because I wanted to focus on the games, and not have to squint and shield my eyes. The first baseball team that we faced was Wenatchee. Our team is called the River Cats. We usually get beaten by this team, but somehow, the River Cats played well as a team and beat them by four points. That was a confidence booster! And, when you go into the finals against a team from Seattle, you need all the confidence you can get. And so, the game began. Seattle quickly got into the lead. The team members were all good hitters. They had obviously practiced hard. Even so, our fielders did a good job of running and catching some of their balls. We cheered loudly whenever that happened. When enough of their team have either been caught out or struck out, the inning changes, and it's our turn to hit. I don't recall us having any home runs, as we had had the previous day. In fact, on Saturday, we had about seven all together; for this age group, that is quite rare, and very exciting when it happens. I've been watching baseball games for a few years now, and have picked up on some of the strategies used. For example, if the bases are loaded (which means: if you have a team member on each base), the next batsman can sacrifice his ability to get to the first base after hitting the ball, in order to allow the team member who is at third base, to run to fourth base. This gets the team a point. Only when you have run to all four bases without being tagged out, does the team get a point. Sometimes, the next hitter will do a 'bunt'. This is when he holds the bat at each end horizontally, and the ball hits the middle of the bat. The ball doesn't go very far, and the pitcher has to run in and get it. The man at third base, therefore, has more time to run to fourth. It sounds complicated, I know, but when you watch the game, it really makes sense. Well, there was bunting, and regular hitting from our team, but it wasn't quite enough to win. We got second place. However, we didn't lose by very much, and the River Cats received an impressive trophy. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to squint, a booster, an inning, to strike out. 1. You squint on a sunny day if you have no hat or sunglasses, and the sun is too strong for your eyes. 2. He was exhausted after his marathon. He drank an energy drink as an energy booster. 3. An inning is like a round. It is a team's turn to hit the ball in baseball. 4. A team member strikes out when the pitcher throws well to the catcher, and the batsman cannot hit the ball.…

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A Tour of Homes: The Tool Shed.

2011-05-02
Length: 5s

A Tour of Homes: The Tool Shed. For the first time in about six months, I creaked open the tool shed that is at the bottom of our garden. Yesterday happened to be a beautiful Spring day, so I couldn't avoid getting into the garden. Everything is green again, and the blossoms on the trees are just about to fully open. I had been at baseball games all morning, until about three in the afternoon, so there was still plenty of daylight left for gardening. When I opened the shed, it was like saying hello to an old friend. I've been in and out of it so many times for years, that it is a very familiar place to be. It was actually too hot to do a lot of work, so I chose to transplant a perennial from one shady area to another. It's the kind of hardy plant that comes back each year, no matter what. It is a low growing plant with delicate leaves and white, spiral-shaped flowers. And it is already out, and almost fully on display. I hacked it in two, and dug up one half which I carried over to a path. I then continued to chop it into sections with a spade, until I had enough clumps to line a little path on each side. I was careful to cover the roots, and gently press it down, and water it, of course. When it recovers from the transplant, and grows a little, it will really compliment the pathway. That's the sort of thing I like to do: use what I have, and either move it around, or change it's look. It's what we call 'pottering around' in the garden, or 'to potter'; it's not heavy work, but rather, it's fiddling around here and there, but still making a small difference. Ah, the tool shed. I needed a spade, but there are many kinds of tools in our shed. Here's a list of them: shovels (basically a big spade), forks, rakes, trowels (a small, hand-held spade), loppers (huge scissors for cutting a hedge), a lawn mower, bags of fertilizer, sprinkler parts to fix ours when they break, stakes (for holding ropes that in turn hold new trees in place), gloves, watering cans, and electric equipment. And there are plenty of mice and spiders as well..... I was happy with my little job, and pleased to make the first step back into the garden this year. I've got a mental list of projects that I have to get done, starting with pruning my roses and raspberries. But, you don't have to be an expert; you can google the 'how to's' of all of your projects, and find out exactly what to do. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary and expressions: a mental list, to potter, a fork, a rake. 1. Keep your mental list of projects short, so you don't drive yourself crazy trying to get them done. 2. I pottered around in the garden, pulled out some weeds, pruned a bush, and basically tidied up. 3. A garden fork is like a shovel, but it's three prongs help to separate, and break up hard clumps of soil. 4. We use a rake to gather up the leaves from the lawn. It's like a broom for the garden.…

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Batting practice.

2011-04-28
Length: 5s

Once a week, as part of his practice schedule, my son Cass has batting practice for baseball. It takes place in a sports complex called Sportsplex. The building actually used to be an ice skating rink, but has been converted into a place where you can play sports that don't involve ice. It is an old building that has a comfortable, used feeling about it. Cass usually has to go on Wednesday's for a an hour and a half. A small corner of the building has been reserved for any team that wishes to book in advance, and perfect the batters' swings. The boys put on their helmets, and face the pitcher. Thankfully, the pitcher is usually the coach, so the pitching is good and accurate. However, because the coach is an adult, there is no mercy when it comes to the speed. The boys have to be ready, with their eyes on the ball. Another piece of protection that the boys wear is the 'cup'. It's to protect their genitals, or as we say, their privates. It's a very necessary piece of equipment that older boys won't play without. In fact, if you can't find your cup, you'd better not play. It could be used as an excuse to get out of playing... "Your son not playing today, Bill?" "Nope. The poor boy couldn't find his cup." "Oh, gees. He'd better not be out there without it. Nope. No way!" I don't see what all the fuss is about, really. I thought that sportsmen were supposed to be tough. Anyway, I digress. Batting practice is essential. The kids acquire what's called 'muscle memory', when their correct response to the approaching ball is automatic. Practice makes perfect; it's the same with anything, isn't it? Another good thing about batting practice is that it can take place any day of the year. If it is snowing heavily, or blowing a gale, it doesn't matter. You don't have to miss out on your practice time, because you have the Sportsplex. In a town where the longest seasons are cold Winter, and very hot Summer, it's a relief to have a place where the temperature is a consistent seventyish degrees. There is a full weekend of games coming up, and we'll see how the practices pay off. So cameras and cups at the ready! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: ...doesn't involve, reserved, the pitcher, converted. 1. I'd like to see a movie that doesn't involve shooting and police for a change! 2. Our table was reserved for six thirty, but we were an hour late, so the table was taken. 3. The pitcher stared fixedly at the catcher, as if the batter wasn't even there. 4. We converted our garage into a playroom, and our basement into a wine cellar.  …

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A rocket launch.

2011-04-27
Length: 5s

It was a windy, sunny day. You certainly needed to have a jacket on, as the wind was blowing down from the snow-capped hills. The crowd had gathered in the park, as scheduled. Everyone was excited, and waiting for the teacher to appear. A few passersby looked over and wondered why this group of people was standing and waiting for something. Finally, a car pulled up, parked, and out stepped the teacher, with a big box in his arms. There were all sorts of smaller boxes and pointy things protruding from the larger box. Anyone watching would wonder what he was up to. A couple of the kids ran up to him, "Hey, Mr. Mugg. Do you want some help?" After putting the box down, the teacher set up two launch pads, or rather launch sticks, for the morning's event. Some of the younger kids jumped up and down with excitement, and giggled nervously. It was time for the first student to see what he could do. He got his rocket, that he had spent the last few weeks building, from the box, put it on the launch pad, and started the count down, "Five, four, three, two, one, blast off!" And with that, the student pressed the button and there was a sudden, loud, "woosh" noise. Smoke blasted out of the bottom of his rocket, and up it went at great speed, high into the sky. Loud cheers sounded out from the crowd, and even people jogging in the park stopped to take a look at the disappearing and then reappearing rocket. This was the special rocket launching morning that the students had worked hard for. They had spent weeks learning all about how they work, why they work, and building them. Today, it was time to show off their knowledge. Some of the rockets had plastic soldiers with parachutes attached, and others had folded up glider planes tucked inside which out of the rocket and down to earth. There were so many cheers and squeals of excitement from one of the youngest students, that an older classmate said to him, "Hey dude, could you quit yelling!" You couldn't blame the little kid, though. It's not exactly an ordinary day in class. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: passersby, snow-capped, to protrude, to launch. 1. The street entertainer amused the passersby with his mime. 2. The snow-capped mountains contrast with the green forests that are further down. 3. The robber's gun was protruding from underneath his long coat. 4. We all stood back while my father launched firework rockets into the sky.…

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A bleating baby.

2011-04-22
Length: 5s

Those of you who follow my podcast probably remember that I live in a rural area. Our house is located towards the outskirts of a small community. Our neighbors tend to have lots of trees, vegetable gardens, and animals. Across the road from us is a horse. Around the corner are two mules (which are like donkeys), and right next door we have chickens and goats. So, you can imagine that in this neighborhood there are lots of interesting noises and smells. There is a new set of noises and smells now, to add to those that we are used to. A baby goat was born a few weeks ago, right next door. Cheri, the lady who breeds them, invited us over to take a look. She has always kept animals and bred them for shows, and as a general hobby. The goats live in a triangular shelter that has a heat lamp, and they have an area to run around in. They are black and white, plump and playful. We were all very excited to see this newborn. The children desperately wanted to hold it, but it was still a bit too young. It was the size of a very small dog, and bleated beautifully. I was surprised how agile and strong it was for its age. The family next door also has bred doves and wiener dogs. Animal shows take place throughout the spring and summer months, so our neighbors travel a lot to different towns to show off their animals. And we have the advantage of seeing the newborns, as we live so close. Until recently, they also had a miniature pony, but they sold it to someone who has more land. An animal like that needs room to run around. Sometimes I feel like we have a bit of a farmyard here, with our dogs, fish, and bearded dragon. Animal breeding is taken quite seriously around here. I know of many people who have farms of different types. My husbands cousin has a large cattle farm, and requires good quality horses and cattle dogs. Goats, of course, are great waste disposal machines for a large vegetable garden. And, after consuming the waste vegetable matter, they produce wonderful manure. For a gardener like myself, that stuff is priceless. I'm planning on beginning work in my vegetable area, and I could really do with some manure. Once I take out the weeds, and airate the soil, that precious stuff needs to be mixed in. I might just ask my neighbors if they have any that they can spare. Grammar notes. Using 'used to' and 'to get used to': 1. We used to go to the beach every weekend; now we only go once a month. 2. She used to sing, but now she prefers to dance. 3. I used to have to get up really early. Now, with my new job, I can get up at eight o'clock. 4. I can't get used to the time difference; when we reset our clocks, it takes me days to adjust. 5. We got used to our new car quickly because it was more comfortable than our last. 6. You have to get used to practicing, otherwise you won't improve.…

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Borrowing and returning.

2011-04-20
Length: 5s

Every now and then, I make a trip to the local library, sometimes by myself, and sometimes with my children. I love the quiet that you can experience there. It also reminds me of the fact that there is always something that you can learn; there is always something to read about. I've heard it said that it's good for children to become 'library rats'. That means that they should get used to going there; it should be familiar to them, as if they were rats who lived in its walls. Our local library has an upstairs children's section that has recently been renovated. It's a good idea to keep the kids separate from the rest of the place, so noise can be controlled. In their area, they have a castle-style entrance, all kinds of floor toys for youngsters, Legos and puzzles, puppets, and a fish tank. It's a really cozy place where kids can explore and do the things they enjoy. I also use another library that is in the part-time school that my two homeschooled children go to. It has some amazing resources. I was there today, and found that I didn't have enough time to see all that they have to offer. You can choose whichever book, video, game, or manipulative, and check it out for the whole year. You don't even have to show your identity card to a librarian. Most of the time there is nobody in charge. Everything works by an 'honor' system. That means, that once your children are registered, you have a right to use the library, and you simply have to write down the number of each item on a piece of paper, and sign. They trust that you will bring everything back when you are supposed to. I left the place with armfuls of items. They even have interactive writing systems that you can borrow, which you would normally have to buy for about fifty dollars. All of this borrowing and returning is great, because I can keep my house full of great educational materials that are specifically targeted to what my children need. As I write this, I have in front of me, a pile of books that need to go back. I've got books in the kitchen, books in the lounge and in the bedrooms. Ahh! There are too many of them, but they're all so good. Another good thing that we are encouraged to do during the summer, is the summer reading program. You sign your kids up, and every two weeks you visit the library, get books for them to read in two weeks, and then keep coming back. The children get a small toy when they have read a month's worth of books. The summer holidays are so long here, that kids need an incentive to keep reading and not fall behind! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: puppets, registered, to borrow, an incentive. 1. There was a puppet show in town that taught children not to bully. 2. You have to be registered as a resident before you can use the local library. 3. If you can't find the book in the shop, maybe you can borrow it from the library. 4. We all need incentives to get our work done; sometimes a treat or a break will work.…

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Questions tags.

2011-04-19
Length: 5s

As you study English, you will become familiar with question tags. A tag is a little something that is added on, just like the tag on your shirt that tells you the size and type of material. We use question tags all the time in English to add a brief question to the end of a sentence. Some examples are:   It isn't raining, is it?       He works in real estate, doesn't he?   You're okay, aren't you? You might have noticed already, that there is a pattern that is followed when using question tags. Usually, when the sentence is positive, the tag is negative. And vice versa. Also, the same auxiliary verb should be used, though there are some exceptions to this rule. Listen to the following that use the verb to be:  This dress is too tight for me, isn't it? The film is going to start, isn't it? They're late, aren't they? We're on time, aren't we? She's our tour guide, isn't she? You can see the pattern quite easily here. In the tag, the subject comes at the very end. Before that, you simply put the verb 'to do' or 'to be' in its correct form, and contract it into a negative. So, 'we are' becomes 'aren't we', 'she is' becomes 'isn't she', 'they did' becomes 'didn't they', and 'he does' becomes 'doesn't he' etc. There are a few exceptions to the rule that I will cover at the end of the podcast. Let's try the opposite way around, negative to positive. When I read these examples, listen closely to the verb form: It isn't raining, is it? We're not in a hurry, are we? I'm not in the wrong building, am I? He doesn't have any spare change, does he? They don't sell hot coffee here, do they? Can you see the pattern? Once you get used to it, it's as easy as riding a bicycle, isn't it? Let's go over some of the exceptions. When we are using the verb to be with the 'I' form, we end up using 'are' or 'aren't' as the tag, instead of 'am'. Let's listen to some examples: I'm picking you up at 3pm, aren't I? I'm ordering the cake tomorrow, aren't I? * Note, this second sentence is more like a confirmation, rather than a question. Now let's look at the 'you' form with the verb 'to have to'. You have to study for your exam, don't you?  We have to cook the fish while it is fresh, don't we? She had to wash the car, didn't she?              We use, as you can see, the verb 'to do' in the tag, after we use 'to have to' in the main part of the sentence. Likewise, with a negative statement using 'to have to', we would use 'to do' in the positive. You don't have to drive tonight, do you? They didn't have to pay again, did they? He didn't have to go to the office for more paper, did he? So, there you have it. Like most things, it's a question of practice. But, you are all very clever, aren't you? You didn't have much of a problem with regular questions, did you? And, I know that you will practice and learn tags very well, won't you?                                             …

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A Cougar in Town!

2011-04-18
Length: 5s

The local news the other day was just the kind of news that I don't want to hear. A cougar had wandered down from the nearby mountains and was found in a residential area of town. Now, I know that we live in an area that is close to wilderness. You don't have to travel far from here to encounter bears, cougars, coyotes, and now increasingly, wolves. I remember having a conversation with my brother about the wildernesses around here. He is in love with wild, out of the way places. I, on the other hand, quite like towns and cities, though I do appreciate the beauty of the wild. As he is a photographer, he tries to find a way to wildernesses whenever he can, to have encounters with wild animals, and take photos whenever possible. I, on the other hand, came here to marry my man who is only slightly wild. I have deep respect for all the predatory animals that surround us, and I enjoy the fact that they are up in the hills, and we are down in the towns. I hope it stays that way. But, instances of both worlds colliding are bound to happen. The cougar in question turned out to be a young, starving orphan who had come to the town in desperate search of food. The police managed to find it. They had to scramble to find it. They brought in dogs to help them. They had very little time, as it was early morning, and children from the residential area would soon be walking to school. There was another incidence a year ago in a town nearby, this time with a full grown female. A man had fallen asleep in his lounge, and woke up to the sound of his dogs barking and growling outside. He went out sleepily, and in the half light saw what seemed to be a huge dog attacking one of his dogs. He ran up to it and swung his fist to punch it. When his fist hit the animal's head, he said, it felt like punching steel. It was an immensely strong cougar who, thankfully, was frightened by the man approaching it. It sprang up in the air, like cats do, and ran off. My husband laughed when he told me about the cougar news the other day. He knows that I am quite fearful of cougars, more for my children's sake than mine. He always tells me how it's much easier to have a car accident, or seriously fall down the stairs, than to be attacked by a cougar. I'm still not comforted. Oh well, I'll keep my eyes peeled, and if I see anything bigger than a large dog, I'll certainly let you know! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to collide, to scramble, to keep your eyes peeled. 1. The plane collided with the mountainside; thankfully, no one was hurt. 2. We scrambled to get to the camp breakfast on time, where they were having scrambled eggs. 3. I've lost my iPod; keep your eyes peeled because it could be anywhere.  …

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Stereotypes.

2011-04-17
Length: 5s

Have you ever wondered what a stereotype is, and why we have them? Do you, culturally, have certain stereotypes about certain people? Of course, all countries do. I'm sure that, in the past, I have judged people according to stereotypes I had learned, and been completely wrong about those individuals. One definition of a stereotype is an assumption about someone based on his looks, dress, job, age, and ethnicity. When I first came over to the U.S., everything was quite new to me. I had, up until then, only experienced the U.S. culture through television, and through some American friends who I had met in London. But, as they say, 'there's nothing quite like being there.' One day, while I was visiting for the first time, I walked into the lounge and saw Tom, the man I later married, and his father sitting on the sofa watching baseball on television, both wearing baseball hats. My immediate reaction was to laugh. It seemed, to my ignorant eye, that they had put their hats on out of enthusiasm for the game. To me, because baseball is very much an American game, it seemed typical or stereotypical. Well, now that I live here, I realize that nearly everybody wears baseball hats because it is so sunny. Wenatchee receives about 300 days of sun a year, and a very strong sun at that. I wear baseball hats regularly to protect my eyes and skin. Some people wear cowboy hats for the same, practical purpose, or even because they are cowboys. So, my immediate assumption was wrong, and I had made that assumption by judging how two people looked. It's scary how easily, and quickly we can make an assumption like that. To widthhold judgement I think needs higher thinking skills and some wisdom. And I think the most important part of not living in judgment of others is to see them as absolute equals, so rather than fearing the unknown and forming ill informed judgments, we can perhaps respect and care about the individual, simply because he is our equal. Gosh, I'm getting philosophical! I have experienced a lot of assumptions from people about me because I am from England. They have assumed a lot about my knowledge, likes and dislikes, and even experiences. The U.S. is faced with a huge challenge, at the moment, of how to deal with a stereotype that came up ten years ago on September 11th, when the Twin Towers in New York were bombed. How do you control a stereotype that has developed through something so tragic and violent, so as not to make terrible wrong judgments? What do you think? Are we capable of withholding judgment? There is a saying here that you have to read to understand properly. It says, 'When you ass-u-me, you make an ass out of you and me.' Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to withhold, stereotypical, ethnicity. 1. My boss withheld my salary for two months until his tax troubles had been resolved. 2. A man in a bowler hat, drinking tea is a stereotypical view of an English man. 3. My ethnicity is English, though my blood is mixed.…

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Oh, so you don't like phonics?

2011-04-14
Length: 5s

Hands up any of you who don't like English phonics. I can't see your hands, but it certainly sounded like a lot of them went up. Do you think English phonics are a pain? Well, do you know what I think? I agree with you; they are a pain. Believe me, as an English person, learning my own language was not that easy. Of course, speaking it came easily because I'm a native, but the writing part was much more problematic. I'm reminded now of the struggle that it can be to come to understand and remember all the different rules to English phonics. My second grader, who I homeschool, is climbing up the hill of phonics knowledge. He has almost got to the top, but still has a little way to go. It's extremely satisfying, as a mum, to see a child make progress with reading or writing, and to see how, once they know a rule, they can apply it. I'm looking forward to the day when he can read for pleasure. Today, in an effort to help my son get to the top of that reading and writing hill, I went to The Academic Toolbox. It's an amazing shop that supplies teachers and homeschoolers with everything: books, DVDs, games, toys, maps, art supplies. You name it, they have it. I didn't have enough time to really look around, but I did manage to find an interesting series called 'Explode The Code' all about phonics. These books give very clear, simple practices of all the phonetic rules that we use in English: vowel combinations, double consonants, endings, beginnings, irregularities, and comprehension. I like the style of the series; the art is simple but cartoonish at the same time. Kids like that. Many of the sentences are funny, and some of the activities are simply to draw a line or a circle to identify a word or its meaning. I'll have to do a podcast some time on the history of English. I think then we can all understand why it is such a mix of different things. Remember, that England, being a small island, was invaded many times by people of many different languages, my ancestors. So, it makes sense that the language has its complexities. Hopefully, my son will like these books as I do. And I also hope that he will quickly learn from them, reach the top of the hill, and then discover what fun English books can be, Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: in an effort to, problematic, comprehension, cartoonish. 1. In an effort to clean the kitchen, he ended up making a real mess. 2. The situation is problematic; there are many possible solutions, but also many risks. 3. His reading is great, but his comprehension is not at the same level. 4. That expensive painting looks too cartoonish to take seriously.…

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A new career in the making.

2011-04-13
Length: 5s

Confidence, it seems, can get you a long way in life. Confidence around other people can actually make those around you feel comfortable. I'm talking about the kind of confidence that lets you just be yourself; you don't have to prove anything or impress anyone. When I took my daughter with me to the hair dressers so I could get a hair cut, she charmed everyone there and made herself at home. As the hair stylist wet and combed my hair, I heard Domini chatting to a lady in a wheel chair who was waiting to have her hair cut. She openly asked her questions about her lack of mobility, and talked about all sorts of things, until both of them were smiling and laughing. The woman obviously felt at ease. Then Domini moved to someone else and chatted for a while, asking questions, and talking about her school and her friends. Finally, she jumped up on a seat next to me and got the attention of my hair dresser. I had hair in my eyes, so I couldn't see very well. I was concerned that the stylist would lose concentration and chop a chunk of hair that she didn't mean to. Domini swung around in the chair, asked her what she was doing, and what all her equipment was for. I've taught my kids that if they start a conversation with people and are polite, then people will like it. But, while I sat in that chair and listened, I heard my daughter take her 'niceness' one step further. She called each woman in the room "pretty". You can guess what kind of response she got. They all thought that she was a sweet angel. She even told the ugly ladies that they were pretty. Perhaps she'll be interested in politics when she's older.....Well, the compliments came back in her direction. She was given a balloon, and finally, she was allowed to sweep up the hair that was on the floor, press a button that turned on a vacuum that sucked all the hair out through the wall. She thought that was the greatest thing. I thought about our little trip later, and realized that with a bit of initiative and confidence, she had managed to turned a potentially very boring half hour into a fun practice of using charm to get people on your side. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to charm, mobility, to feel at ease, to take something one step further. 1. He certainly knows how to charm; he always buys us chocolates and flowers, and is extremely polite. 2. After the accident, he lost some mobility in his hand. 3. After paying my bills, I always feel more at ease. 4. He took the conflict one step further and started punching and kicking.…

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A Manicure Fanatic.

2011-04-12
Length: 5s

My daughter is obsessed with fashion. She is only six, and it comes as a surprize to me that she is so fashion conscious. She is not so concerned with the seasons' colors or styles, but she does like to know the 'pop' fashion. I think it comes from her being very musical. When she hears a pop song, or sees artists sing on television, she really takes notice of what they are wearing, and their general style. Also, she is influenced by her girl friends at school. If so'n'so has a pretty, new jacket, she will want one that is similar. She won't necessarily get the jacket, but she will certainly talk about it a lot, and try her hardest to get what she wants. So, she started to become interested in makeup. You know, you can find little girls makeup sets that they play with at home, and with their friends. I went along with this, thinking that, as long as she keeps it at home, but washes it off before going out, then it was okay. However, sometimes we would be going out, and without me realizing, she would have eye shadow on, or blusher. Once, she even got into my makeup and put on mascara which looked ghastly. So, I decided that I had to do something about the situation. My thinking was, if I could transfer her attention away from her face, and onto something else, it should help. So, I came up with nails. I bought her a collection of cute nail polishes, and she immediately took the bate! This now has developed into a habit. She'll paint her tiny nails, and go to school and show her friends. We're both happy. So, the other day, I took her to V-tech nail salon for a special, professional manicure. They didn't actually do much. Her nails were short anyway, and clean, so they only had to paint them. Plus, her nails are so small, that they hardly had to use any nail polish. She sat down at the table with the lady and picked out some nail stickers that would go on each nail. Then the lady set to work. She applied one coat of pink, carefully placed the stickers, and then applied a clear coat to keep the stickers on, and to add shine. Domini felt very special and grown up. She had to hold her nails over a dryer, and then place her hands in a UV machine that quickly sets the polish. The salon was packed, with nail technicians working away, beautifying ladies' nails and toe nails. It was warm and colorful, and there was a buzz of conversation from these happy females. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to take notice, so'n'so, to go along with something, eye shadow and blusher. 1. He was very angry, but I didn't take any notice. 2. So'n'so is an example of someone who you don't know, a nameless example. 3. The group played a joke on my friend; I went along with it to really trick her. 4. That eye shadow really brings out the color of your eyes, and the blusher makes your cheeks look healthy.…

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A Norman Conqueror at the bank.

2011-04-11
Length: 4s

You see the strangest people in the most unlikely places sometimes. I was at the bank the other day, making a deposit, when I heard a, "Clomp, clomp, clomp" to my side. I turned to look at the person next to me, and standing there was a Norman soldier. Yes, I'm not kidding! He was completely dressed and ready for battle. I recognized him as Norman because of his helmet which was very round, with a long nose piece. From his neck to the floor was a cloak of chain mail. He had a sword, a helmet, and long leather boots. I laughed, and said, "Well, you don't see that every day, do you?" The bank clerk who was serving the man also smiled. "Could I take your photo for my blogpage?" I asked. He was perfectly happy with my request, and even posed for me. "Actually," I said to him,"could you act like your just getting money out at the bank?" I wanted the photo of this Norman conqueror to be amusing. After having his photo taken, he handed me a flier. It was for the Renaissance fair at the local college. It will have historical characters from many different ages. I think calling it 'Renaissance' is a loose name. There will be archery, costumes of different times, knights fighting, and all that sort of thing. It'll be worth a visit. I'll have to take the kids there because they are obsessed with battles between knights. I'm sure the gentleman I met at the bank had no trouble handing out his fliers. He certainly got plenty of attention being dressed like that. I've seen some very interesting people around town. You can always find one or two people who are dressed outlandishly, or who are shouting at the traffic. A fascinating looking individual who I would love to interview was standing at the bus stop the other day. He was dressed like a wizard, exactly like Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings. Someone like that surely has some stories to tell. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: unlikely, to make a deposit, to kid, clerk. 1. He is the most unlikely man for the job; I don't know if he will have any success at all. 2. They made a huge deposit in the bank, and then, a week later, took all the money out. 3. She married the same man three times; I'm not kidding! 4. The bank clerk is so helpful, much more so than the others.…

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A Commercial for Crunch Pak.

2011-04-10
Length: 5s

My sister-in-law called me the other day and asked me if two of my children would be interested in taking part in a commercial. "I think so," I replied. I thought that it would be an exciting, new experience for them. One girl and one boy were needed. They would be brother and sister to my nephew in the commercial. We arranged the date and time. When we turned up at her house, I didn't know what to expect. There was only one camera man, and that was it. He has done work in the past for the company called Crunch Pak, so he was in charge of telling the kids what to do and say. I must say, he handled all of the kids really well. He has four children himself, the youngest of which is only a couple of weeks old, so he is used to lots of movement and distraction. Crunch Pak is a company that sells bags of sliced apples. They also have Mickey Mouse shaped plastic containers that have three sections for different, healthy food, including fruit. The filming started in the kitchen. One by one, the children had to walk to the fridge, open it, take out a packet of Crunch Pak, and put it in a brown paper bag, as if they were packing it as part of a home made lunch for school. That went well. They had to do a few retakes because the kids looked at the camera when they weren't supposed to. My daughter got quite excited about being on film, and started to show off a bit, but the camera man said that they could edit out anything they didn't want. Then it was time to go outside and play a little basketball. Cass was filmed shooting hoops and dribbling, so was my nephew Boone. Then Domini had to ask the boys if she could play. The story behind the commercial is that Domini ends up beating the two boys, dunks a basket, and is left hanging from the hoop, saying, "Can someone get me down from here?" Very cute. Two hours later, we were finished. The kids were very pleased with themselves, and are anxious to see the finished product. "I'll send each of your kids a little payment in the mail," said the camera man as we left. That made them doubly pleased. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: To take part in, to handle .../it, to dribble, to shoot hoops, to dunk. 1. My children took part in a play in the local theater. 2. It was a difficult situation, but he handled it very well. 3. In basketball you must dribble the ball. That is when you bounce the ball while you run. 4. To throw the basketball at the basket and get it in is to 'shoot hoops'. 5. If you get really good at basketball, you might be able to dunk the ball. That means to jump up, put the ball in the basket, and then hang on to the rim or the hoop.…

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Convenience food.

2011-04-07
Length: 5s

Oh, what will I make for dinner? There's nothing for dessert; what could I quickly make? It's a real pain when the evening has already begun, and my plans for dinner have been delayed for whatever reason. When that happens, I look around in the fridge, hoping to stumble across something substantial that can quickly be cooked. Or, sometimes, mid-afternoon at the weekend, if we are at home, everybody fancies something sweet, like cookies. Yes, of course, I could make some, and sometimes I do. However, it's becoming easier now to reach for a packet of this or a box of that, and whip up some convenience food. When I go to the supermarket, and read labels of different products, I find that I get a general view of the kinds of products out there. In the past, convenience food was made from very refined and artificial ingredients. However, I am finding that there are more and more healthier options on the market. People are beginning to get more of what they want: convenient real food. Let's take cookies for an example. The packets or tubes of cookie dough that were available usually had hydrogenated oils, super refined sugar, coloring, flavoring etc etc. Now, you have a choice. There are some convenience foods that have what we call 'whole' foods. I picked up a packet of ready-made cookie dough the other day, and was very pleased to read the ingredients:organic flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, oats. The list was short, and nothing on it annoyed me. Great! I'll keep that in the fridge this week, and when 'crunch time' comes, I can whip it out, throw it into the oven, and voila, please everyone. It's all about saving time, for me. And I'm sure that the marketers realize that. Making everything from scratch in the kitchen is ideal, but it can take away alot of time from other activities. Life is certainly different from when my mother was a child. You used to have to warm up your irons, and then iron almost every piece of clothing in the house. Nowadays, you can buy tumble dryers that have settings you can choose to avoid having to iron your clothes. And it's the same with cooking. Instead of having to gather eggs, and milk cows, and cook all the food, now we can cook if we want to, and supplement that with pre-bought, ready to eat food, that is actually food. It might cost a little extra, but it's great to have choices. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to fancy something, to whip up, to whip out, hydrogenated oil. 1. I fancy some extra rich chocolate cake. 2. Could you whip up some eggs for breakfast, please? 3. All of a sudden, the man whipped out a gun from inside his coat. A passer-by jumped on him and seized it. 4. Hydrogenated oil is oil that has had hydrogen pumped through it, which makes it thicker.…

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Build those muscles.

2011-04-06
Length: 4s

The other day, when I stopped to get some free firewood, I realized that I'm not as strong as I would like to be. The owner of the tree that was chopped down, had left huge chunks of wood to be taken away. But, when I say that they were huge, I mean really huge. I'm a fairly muscular female, but some of those pieces were far too heavy for me; I was glad that my brother was with me. He is huge, and very muscular, and not intimidated at all by heavy stuff. "Okay," I said, "we can lift some of these together." So we did. Now, I don't know why, but when I lift very heavy things, I get the giggles, especially if I'm with someone else. So, I only managed a few pieces with my brother, but then I started to get silly, so he had to finish loading up the car himself. "It's very handy having a big, strong guy around," I said to him. He seemed to enjoy the work, and tried to fit as many huge chunks as possible inside the car. I wish I was that strong! "I bet you can't hold that piece above your head," I said to him. Oh, it was an easy challenge. He immediately lifted the thing up, right over his head, and posed for a good photo. "Gosh, I hope he doesn't drop that thing on his head," I thought to myself. Of course, he didn't. He just swiftly put it in the car. He told me later that, back in Christchurch, he had to dismantle three tons of bricks from his house. They had formed the chimney sections, but the earthquakes had separated them from the rest of the house. "I had to take them down, one by one, and stack them in the garden." His muscles have certainly been working a lot. And you know what that means. His bones must be good and dense, full of calcium. They say that the best way to avoid osteoporosis is to lift weights. I don't think that that is a condition my brother will have to worry about. When we got back to the house, again, he did most of the work, lifting the chunks out of the car, and I simply cleaned up. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: muscular, to get the giggles, a challenge, dismantle. 1. After a year of lifting weights, he became very muscular. 2. She seems to get the giggles at the most inappropriate times. 3. Sudoku is a good game to play to challenge your mind. 4. The wall needs to be dismantled because it is unsafe.…

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Oh the olives!

2011-04-05
Length: 6s

On my recent trip to Nice, I was fortunate enough to go to an open market. Oh, the colors and smells were fantastic. I strolled around just taking everything in. It was February, but the weather was wonderful. It was very sunny, and you only needed to wear a light jacket. So walking around outside was very comfortable. Because my visit there was so short, my good friend Lorraine took me to as many places as possible near the coast. The market that we went to was a photographer's paradise. There were so many colors and textures there. Thankfully, I have a digital camera, so I didn't run out of film. There were all kinds of fruits and vegetables. There was a stand loaded with salamis of all shapes and sizes. Flowers, local honies, cheeses, and finally, olives. Oh the olives! Just looking at the photo makes my mouth water! Having a mother who is a Spaniard, means that I have had a lot of olives in my life. My favorites are green olives stuffed with anchovies. Mm, mm! I think also, olives represent a lot for me. They represent my experiences in Spain, and they remind me of sights, sounds, and smells that are typically Mediterranean. It's funny to think that when I was a teenager in the North of England, a lot of kids my age weren't familiar with olives at all. Delivery pizza was not yet a big thing. And the favorite foreign dishes in England were Indian. Since then, even the small, rural towns have become more exposed to the rest of the world, and more cosmopolitan. Thank goodness. In my 'A' level Spanish class, I remember my teacher bringing in a couple of small jars of Spanish olives to pass around to the students. Most of them had never tried them before. I was amazed. One by one, they smelled the olives, and slowly put them in their mouths. And when they chewed, they were really unsure about the taste. I, on the other hand, wolfed down most of the olives quite happily. I'm sure that now, all of those people who were in that class, are a lot more familiar with olives. I think that we humans have a special connection to foods that we have been brought up with, that also have an important traditional role in our particular cultures. The food might be good in and of itself, but it is the context in which we have experienced it that makes it important and familiar. My Mexican students in High School would tell me about a soup of their culture which they absolutely loved. It's called Menudo. Finally, one day I was able to try it. It turns out to be cow's stomach soup......Well, I just wasn't too sure about the taste, or smell, or texture...But I realize that if I had been brought up with it, I would probably love it too. That's the power of culture right there. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to stroll, to take it in, to make your mouth water, to wolf down. 1. Instead of rushing, it's nice to stroll down a street or in a park. 2. We took in the river boat cruise with delight; there was so much to see. 3. Just thinking about the summer fruits makes my mouth water. 4. The travelers had been walking all night in a storm. When they got to the inn, they wolfed down some hot stew and went to bed.…

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The cost of teeth is rising.

2011-04-04
Length: 5s

We've had teeth all over the house recently. My children just happen to be at the ages where they are all losing teeth. For my oldest boys, it's no longer a novelty. They have gaps here and there where teeth are growing in. And the contrast between their new, big, adult teeth, and their baby teeth is quite amusing. My third son still gets excited about losing teeth because of the prospect of getting money. In his mind, each dollar he gets is a step closer to him obtaining a Star Wars Lego kit. My daughter, on the other hand, is still taken up by the mystery around the Tooth Fairy. Does she exist? How does she sneak into the bedroom and take the tooth away without waking anybody up? Is she beautiful? Surely Mom isn't the Tooth Fairy. And Dad certainly can't be. So, fairies do exist, right? And is what the older brothers say true, or are they just being old meanies, as usual. The big boys laugh about the idea of believing in fairies. But, you know, I don't think that upsets Domini very much. She has a natural resistance to anything her brothers say or do anyway, so what they say might actually encourage her to believe in fairies even more. I personally believe in garden fairies. I admit it. I haven't seen them, but I'm sure that they live at the bottom of the garden, are tiny, have wings, and are very quick, and very smart. All inteligent people know that.... The Tooth Fairy must be a cousin of some sort. There, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. One thing that I have noticed about fairies is that they keep up with the cost of living. They no longer leave coins; they leave paper money. They know a good commodity when they see one. I suspect that they know more about the value of teeth than we do. They have their bills, and we have ours, so they need a good quality tooth in exchange for a dollar.  After all, food, clothes, wing maintenance services, and babysitters, are all more expensive than they used to be. So, with the fall out of teeth in this house, I find that a couple of quarters just isn't enough. The nice sound of two coins clinking together is not acceptable anymore. It's the lonely, silent dollar that is wanted. It's dangerous to mess around with fairy tales. And it's wise to keep the children and the fairies happy. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: novelty, the prospect of, mean, commodity. 1. That novelty shop sells the most unusual items. 2. I'm excited at the prospect of winning the marathon. 3. That person is mean. Perhaps, he doesn't have any friends and that's why he's like that. 4. Wood is a commodity that is globally more in demand.…

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A Starbucks Revolution.

2011-04-03
Length: 5s

"Hello, we have a special triple grande caramel mocha with whipped cream for only three ninety-nine. Can I take your order?" That's the kind of information-loaded question that you get asked when you pull up to a Starbucks drive-thru. Just as you are about to speak, the lady inside the building beats you to it. And there is always a special of the day, a huge, sugar-filled, creamy thing that costs fifty cents less than it normally does. And, because Starbucks opens early, the people who use the drive-thru to get a coffee on the way to work, also get asked the same question. I doubt if many would buy a triple grande caramel mocha with whipped cream first thing in the morning. Whose stomach would be ready for that? But, as far as drive-thrus go, they have one of the best. There are drive-thrus all over town, and in every town. There are even drive-thru banks. The service of Starbucks, though, is probably the best. Firstly, the speaker system is loud, clear, and effective. Generally, the person taking your order is articulate, and doesn't speak too quickly. I've been through some drive-thrus where the person taking my order has spoken so fast, that I haven't understood a word. Saying, "I beg your pardon," just adds to the confusion in a situation like that. What is needed, quite simply, is a "What?" So, at Starbucks, you can relax and not worry about not understanding the employee. You can spend a few seconds looking at the list of drinks and pastries before ordering. All of this takes place, of course, with the smell of fresh coffee wafting your way, encouraging you to buy more. You pull the car up to the second window, where you pay for your drink, and everybody is happy. That's what it is; it's a happy place. Think about it. The people who work there are instantly pleasing each customer. That can't be bad. Compared to other businesses, like, say for example, clinics, insurance companies, or even banks, you don't always have happy customers. Then, as you drive off, sipping your not-too-hot coffee, you quickly glimpse the happy customers who are sitting inside Starbucks chatting, or on their laptops, all getting a creative caffeine high, writing lists of how to improve the world, or at least, cause a local revolution. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to beat someone to it, articulate, to waft, say for example. 1. I was going to buy the last pair of silver high-heels, but someone beat me to it. 2. She is so articulate for a young person; talking to her is like talking to a college literature professor. 3. The smell of fresh baked bread wafted from her house all over the neighborhood. 4. You might need an umbrella in the rain. Another instance is, say for example, to hit someone who is trying to steal your purse.  …

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I'm on Facebook.

2011-03-31
Length: 5s

Well, everyone, I've taken the plunge and joined Facebook. I signed up months ago, but didn't really start communicating properly with people until a couple of days ago. You can find me under, believe it or not, Acupof English. I had to put in Acupof as my first name, and English as my last. I couldn't figure out how else to do it. So, I've jumped on board with the millions of people who chat and network on this social media. At first, I was a bit baffled by how Facebook worked, and I was a bit concerned about the privacy settings. However, the recent update to Facebook has, I think, given us users better and more specific options to keep our network as private as we want, or the opposite. Everybody I know has a Facebook page. Infact, my brother showed me that his High School students back in New Zealand had created a page dedicated to him, and they did this without him knowing anything about it. It all started when he decided to grow out a beard. Well, this hairy mass on his face got bigger, and bushier, and longer by the day. It became quite an eccentric looking feature. He liked it because it kept his face warm in the winter. His students, however, formed a plan to take a photo of him in class and sneak it onto a Facebook page. So, one of them secretly took a photo during class with his cell phone, and the rest is history. I think it is quite a compliment that students would make the effort to do that about a teacher. I wonder, how many of you are on Facebook? Do you find it useful? What have been the major benefits from using it? For me, catching up with old friends has been wonderful. I have a few really good friends in Europe who I hadn't seen for many years. Facebook allowed us to catch up on eachothers' news, and photos, by sending both public and private messages, and really soon, it seemed as if all those years of not seeing eachother disappeared. Getting to know new people as well is a prospect that I find exciting. So, if you're interested in a bit more English, and want to network with others that are posting on my wall, feel free to look up Acupof English. I hope to hear from you soon! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to take the plunge, believe it or not, network, an update. 1. I took the plunge the other day and paid for a sky-diving lesson! 2. He is very skinny but, believe it or not, he is incredibly strong! 3. It's good to have a social network. We all need friends and support. 4. There are constant updates to some of my computer program(m)es. These updates are downloaded directly, and make the program(m)es more efficient, or give them more features.…

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A shell from Hawaii.

2011-03-30
Length: 5s

I have something pretty that sits on my windowsill in my kitchen. It's a shell from Hawaii. I'm not sure what kind of shell it is, or what it is called, but it certainly is something that I love to look at. My mother brought it back from her recent trip there. She went during the Winter, which apparently is one of the best times to go, with it not being too hot. I would like to say that she went scuba diving and found the shell, but then again, you would never find a shell that looks like this underwater. It has been processed, in a way. The outer most layer of the shell has been ground off. Underneath, a pearly white layer is revealed. It's stunning. There must have been a creature like a crab that lived inside it, because there is plenty of room for a little animal in its cavity. I'm not really into jewels, ornaments, and decorations around my house, but I do love shells. I think it's because there is usually a story that comes with them about when they were found, or how a person found them. I still have a tiny shell in my handbag that I found on one of the beaches in Mallorca, Spain, last summer when I went with the kids. When I'm rummaging around, looking for my cell phone or my check book, I will stumble across it. It gives me an unexpected reminder of our vacation. My sister also brought me a beautiful shell from New Zealand. It's called a Paua shell, and has the coloration of a bluish, greenish rainbow. Again, the outside has been ground off, revealing the unexpectedly beautiful layer underneath. When I started to write this podcast, I remembered that up in our storage area, we have a collection of large, conch-type shells from Mexico. My husband and I found them years ago while we were snorkelling. We used to have them placed around our bath in our previous house, but when we moved, we boxed them up and forgot about them. I'll have to fish them out today, to add to our growing collection of shells around the house. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: recent, to grind, cavity, to rummage. 1. His recent illness has left him tired and thin. 2. He uses a metal file to grind down the piece of stone. He ground off enough stone yesterday to make the basic shape of the statue. 3. When they knocked down the old, rock house, they found a large cavity in one of the walls where the owners stored stolen paintings. 4. The table in the shop was covered in clothes. You had to rummage around to find what you wanted.…

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Guinness.

2011-03-29
Length: 5s

Ah Guinness! We have lots of it in our house at the moment. My brother loves it. I'm not unfamiliar with it either. Back in London, I used to drink it mixed with 7Up. I found it too bitter to drink neat. If you've never tried it, you should. It is a black, thick, creamy alcoholic drink that is served by the pint. It has a rich, cream colored head of bubbles that is one of its main features. The head is produced by the use of nitrogen when the beer is poured. It's actually considered a dry stout. A stout isn't a regular, cold beer. It is a strong, dark beer that is made from roasted barley. 'Stout' as you might know, is another word for strong, or proud. Guinness, in particular, is known for its slight burnt taste, or what we call its 'bite'. You might have noticed that I spelled burnt b-u-r-n-t. This word isn't used in the U.S. They use the past participle 'burned'. Anyway, Guinness is produced in Dublin, Ireland, but is sold all over the world to stout-lovers. It is actually quite nutritious as well. My ex-stepfather's mother drinks half a pint of Guinness every night to get her daily dose of iron. That was recommended to her by her doctor. So there! When I was researching Guinness, I came across a very interesting fact about it. One of its ingredients is the collagen from fishes' swim bladders. Yuck! Apparently, it helps to clarify the beer, and is also used in some wines. I'll think of that the next time I have a glass....Mind you, it's not as bad as some drinks. There is a famous cider from the south of England called Scrumpy. Traditionally, when it is being made, or so they say, a sheeps head is thrown into the mix. The fermentation process kills anything harmful, and, I suppose, the quite scary ingredient adds a special flavor. I don't know who the genius was who came up with that idea, or what inspired him to do it. It's not the usual thing to do when you are making up a drink. If I'm making a punch for a special occasion, it doesn't occur to me to throw in an animal's head. But, there you go; maybe I'm not a natural drinks mixer. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary:neat, stout, collagen, to occur to someone. 1. I cannot drink neat alcohol. I have to have it mixed with something else. 2. That farmer is really stout. He is big, and strong, and impressive in stature. 3. They say that collagen is the protein that keeps skin smooth. 4. I turned on the vacuum cleaner, but it never occurred to me to plug it in!  …

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Oh, you filthy princess!

2011-03-28
Length: 5s

 Oh, you filthy princess. I'm afraid that I'm going to talk about one of my dogs. The reason for my apologetic tone is that some dog lovers go on and on about their animals, and often the people listening have no interest in their little beasties. Well, I'm actually not a dog lover, but I do love my dogs. There is a difference. You could say that I love my dogs because I know them so well, we have a history together, and they form part of our family. One of my responsibilities as a mum, is to make sure that the family members stay clean. One member, in particular, has a real problem with this, Rosie. I don't think she consciously likes to be dirty, but when the good Lord designed her, he gave her the rattiest, wiriest, dirt-holding coat of any dog. I remember taking her for her one and only haircut last year. What a performance that was! The dog stylist patted Rosie lovingly when she first met her, and about a handful of dirt fell out of her coat and onto the counter top. Well, I'm not going to let that happen again. The poor dog was so embarrassed; she looked up at me with her big brown eyes for comfort, by I had already turned and looked away. So, I made it my oldest son's job to give her a bath. The hardest part was getting her in it, and keeping her there. Once that was accomplished, the rest was easy. He used a huge jug to pour gallons of warm water over her while rubbing her hair. I'm sure after her bath, she was half a kilo lighter. These dogs that dig and go down holes, just accumulate layers of dirt and dust while they are busy sniffing out mice and rats. Anyway, Rosie came out of the bath and gave a tremendous shake. She was as shiny as a penny, and the bath looked as dirty as a sewer. Now, our little princess just needs a pink bow on her head to look like one of the royal family. Um, maybe that's not the best comparison....., to look like a movie star. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: apologetic, in particular, consciously, sewer.  The man who bumped into me on the street the other day was so apologetic. He didn't need to be. It is so important to learn good grammar, and in particular, expressions using prepositions. I'm sure his strange habits are unconscious; he doesn't do them consciously. The local council is mending the sewer lines before there is a huge, smelly disaster.  …

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A blasting experiment.

2011-03-27
Length: 4s

It's always fun when my brother comes to visit from New Zealand. Because he is a math and science teacher, he often thinks of interesting things to do that fascinate the children. When he heard that one of my sons does experiments in the kitchen for his science homework, he had the idea of making a list of fun experiments. "The next time you go to the supermarket, could you get three large bottles of diet Pepsi, and some Mentos mints?" he asked. I had a sneaking suspicion that the experiment he was thinking of would involve either a mess, or an explosion of some kind. By the time I got back from the supermarket, the three boys and my brother were ready to start mixing things together. We took the ingredients outside to the back garden. I have a wooden planter pot that is upside down that we used as a base. Each boy took turns holding the top of the bottle, with five mints lined up in his hand, ready to drop them in when told to. The camera was set up, and then the count down came, "Three, two, one, put them in!" As soon as they were dropped in, the boys had to jump back, out of the way. A brown column of fizzy Pepsi came shooting out of the bottle, going five to six feet in the air. "Wow!" they all cheered, with smiles on their faces. The Pepsi splashed on their jeans and got all over the deck. Their uncle Richard is the coolest, according to them. Who else would encourage them to make a big mess? The next experiment is, apparently, one that is powerful enough to launch a Pepsi bottle over the roof of the house. I think a little supervision by me will be necessary. I don't want to upset the neighbors by knocking out one of their pets. That wouldn't do much for neighborly relations.......As they say, "Boys with toys..." it could get a little dangerous. Grammar notes. Expressions: to take turns, a sneaking suspicion, out of the way. 1. When we play this game, we have to take turns. 2. You have a sneaking suspicion when you suspect something, but you are not yet convinced about it. 3. Move out of the way; the delivery truck is coming.…

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Crocuses: a first sign of Spring!

2011-03-24
Length: 4s

The official first day of Spring came and went on 20th of the month. We've had a few very spring-like days, but usually the next day, it has returned to wintry weather. That's okay, though. There are signs that Spring is on its way. The birds are beginning to get noisy in the mornings. And, little patches of colors are appearing here and there; the Spring flowers are coming out. The ones that I have noticed in my garden are the crocuses. They are one of my favorites; they are purple with yellow-orange stamens, and only about eight or nine pointed petals. They are a simple reminder that Winter is long gone. I have been meaning to buy some bulbs and quickly pop them in the ground. The most popular ones around here are tulips and daffodils. Its a cheap way to fill in an empty or boring area of your garden with color that returns each year. I don't know if you remember when I changed the entry way to my house. I transplanted five big bushes last year, planted perennials, and eventually found a Japanese maple tree to shade the walkway that leads up to the front door. Well, that red barked tree has gone bananas. It is about a foot taller than when I planted it. It will very soon been arching over the walkway, which is exactly what I want it to do. I've noticed that as the weather has improved, people have been coming out of the woodwork. That means that, like insects, people have been coming out of their homes where they have been avoiding the cold, and now they are walking around and enjoying the change of weather. Woodwork is actually the various wood panelling that you have on the walls in a house. The shops are doing their part, getting ready for the hoards of shoppers who will want plants, seeds, and gardening equipment. I'll be doing my best to find bargains, and to focus, I think on growing vegetables. If I want flowers, I will go for either seeds or bulbs. That will force me to be patient, and have to wait for the final outcome. Grammar notes. Vocabulary: a patch, stamen, to arch, woodwork. 1. After painting the kitchen, I realised that I had patches of paint on my jeans. 2. The stamen is the center of the flower where the pollen is. 3. The trees leading up to the manor house, arch over the driveway. 4. We pulled out the old woodwork in the lounge and just plastered and painted the walls.…

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Firewood for free.

2011-03-22
Length: 4s

I was driving down the road the other day, to go to Walmart, when I saw something that really caught my eye. On the left hand side of the road, infront of a house, a huge tree had been cut down. It was so big that it took up all of the house owner's front garden. I was really surprised at first, because this tree, that I drive past every day, had not appeared to have any problems at all. It hadn't looked diseased or weak, infact, quite the opposite. It had been one of the biggest and oldest in the neighborhood, so much so that it dwarfed the house that was near it. That might be the reason that the owner doesn't want it anymore. Perhaps it was just too big. Well, the workmen started out the project of bringing down the tree, by hacking off the limbs, one by one. It's the only safe way to do it when the tree is right next to a busy road. Over the course of a day, all the limbs came off, and only the massive trunk was left standing. Then the next day, that too was cut down. I would be interested to measure the diameter of the tree, or at least count the rings inside the trunk to calculate its age, because it really is quite thick. As I drove home yesterday, I noticed a sign that had been put next to the trunk, "Free firewood." A great idea. It would be hard to get rid of all that tree from your front yard if you didn't have any help. Our firewood supply has dwindled because we've had quite a few fires this winter. We need to stock up again, chop some wood, and let it dry out for next winter. I hope that the big tree will be replaced by something tasteful and pretty, not just a two foot little twig that takes years and years to grow. There seems to be a gap now, where the big tree had stood. Let's hope it gets filled with something worth looking at. Grammar notes. Expressions: quite the opposite, to hack off, to dwindle, tasteful. 1. He's not noisy at all, quite the opposite. He's as quiet as a mouse. 2. The arms of all the statues got hacked off during the rebellion. 3. The survivors' supplies had dwindled to almost nothing; they had to go and search for more. 4. The decor of this shop is so tasteful; it is well coordinated and quite soothing.…

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I'm back, with details of a yucky cold.

2011-03-21
Length: 6s

I'm sorry that I missed a couple of podcasts last week; I was really sick. When I spoke to you last, I was beginning to lose my voice and feel achy with a sore throat. I assumed, however, that with some good food, and a good night's rest, that I would be fine the next day. Wrong! I went downhill from there. I had originally caught the cold from my son, and then my daughter and I both got really ill. So, it's been a miserable week, with no energy, coughs, fevers, chills, and not a lot of fun in the house. Thankfully, my brother has been visiting from New Zealand, so he has been able to entertain the children more than me. What does a person have to do to get over this kind of sickness? One thing I have found to be very helpful, is to drink lots of fluid. That is something that doctors always say, and, at times, I haven't really paid much attention. But, you will find that if you have a cough or a blocked nose, drinking lots of water and juices makes you feel much better. Your mucus isn't so thick, so you can cough or blow your nose more effectively. I know, these details are a bit gross, but it's all common English that's useful. We normally use the word 'snot' for mucus, or we say that we are 'snotty'.  However, in the U.S.A the word 'snotty' is very commonly used to describe a person as proud or unfriendly. So, when you use this word, make sure that your listeners know exactly what you mean. Anyway, another thing that helps when you are experiencing a bad cold, is to use an extra pillow at night, so your head and chest are elevated. This helps you breathe more easily, and it helps your nose and sinuses drain more easily. You might wish to take spoonfulls of medicine to help relieve some of they symptoms you are living with. Nasal decongestant unclogs your nose; an expectorant loosens the mucus in your chest so you can cough well; cough suppressant reduces coughing; and anti-histamine reduces the kind of allergy symptoms we get such as itchy eyes and throat. Most people have these medicines in their bathroom cabinet somewhere. It is useful to keep them handy, just in case. I'm so glad that I'm over the worst of my cold; I'm about one day away from being fully recovered. Our routines will get back to normal: the kids in school, some at home for homeschooling, and me back to podcasting. So, don't make the mistake I made of over-extending yourself and getting ill; it's not worth it. Sometimes we need to baby ourselves to avoid these yucky colds. Grammar notes. Cold related vocabulary: expectorant, to baby oneself, sinuses, decongestant. 1. Expectorant is great for loosening mucus in the chest so you can cough well. However, you must drink lots of water so your mucus doesn't get thick and choke you! 2. Relax, keep warm, take vitamins and chicken soup, and basically baby yourself. That way you can avoid getting ill. 3. When you have a sinus infection, you get pain and tightness across your forehead. 4. Decongestant unblocks or unclogs your nose.…

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Mythology looking at me.

2011-03-14
Length: 5s

Mythology seems to be all the rage these days. There have been films released recently, like 'Percy Jackson and the lightening thief', and 'Clash of the Titans', that have had a lot of people talking about mythology and what it means to us today. Other books and their subsequent films, like the Harry Potter series, have also used mythological figures. Children, teenagers, and adults have, therefore, had mythology as a subject to be discussed, or at least commented on. Video games seem to have followed suit. Heroes battling hideous mythological beasts, and the powers of good against the powers of evil, are very common, and advertised on television often. I don't remember it being that way ten years ago. This interest in mythology has come about as a new kind of fashion, brought on by book sales. Mind you, I love it. Myth is a fascinating world. When I was in Vienna a few weeks ago, I came face to face with some colossal reminders of a mythological figure who has been portrayed on many buildings and in many paintings, Hercules. I found myself wandering around Michaelerplatz, when I was drawn to the huge statues. I didn't recognize the characters, but I photographed them anyway, and planned on googling who they were later. Hercules apparently had 12 labors, or things to do. I spotted three of them in the square, the most impressive of which was when he kills the Lernaean Hydra which is a nine headed sea serpent that has poisonous breath. I'm sure that beast kept him busy for a while...The statues are located on a wing of the imperial palace, the massive Hofburg. They are in keeping with its neo-Baroque design of the 1200's. Gosh, if I had had the time, I would have explored the Hofburg; apparently it has 2000 rooms! And there is a feast of classical mythology to be found inside the palace as well.  Grammar notes.  Expressions: all the rage, to follow suit, a reminder.  Low-cut jeans are all the rage now-a-days; everyone is wearing them.  The groom took the bride out to dance, and everyone followed suit.  The flowers in Spring are a good reminder of new beginnings.…

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Cross Sport Training.

2011-03-09
Length: 4s

 Cross Sport Training. You know, being a mother is an interesting job. I sit back sometimes and consider the influence that I have over my children; it's quite a responsibility. My likes and dislikes are obviously reflected in how I run the home, in what I do, in places we go, and even in the things that we eat. Because I am homeschooling two of my sons at the moment, I have decided to exert my influence over them for their physical good. Cross training! I first heard about it through my other son, Cass, who goes to a cross sport training facility to get in top shape for baseball. It is a total body workout. When I spoke to one of the trainers, he told me that, unlike other gyms, they do not isolate muscle groups in cross sport. The whole body moves in each of the activities. Because of that, the workouts are intense but short. So, Hudson and Robert have started to go twice a week for a hard and fast muscle building experience. The first time they went, I sat and observed. The workouts are never the same. They started by raising and throwing to the ground an eight pound ball. They did this about ten times. Then they had to jump up with both feet at the same time onto and off of a huge wheel. Next, they climbed a net up to the ceiling. Finally, they had to run around the track a couple of times. They repeated all of this three times. The whole thing only took about fifteen minutes. Another thing to take into consideration is that you don't get any breaks at all, not even one minute of rest! So, when the boys had finished working out, they came and collapsed on the sofa that I was sitting on. They were all red faced, but happy. I chatted to the trainer a little, and the next thing I knew, the boys were up and pulling weights on a sled. Kids recuperate so quickly! They wanted some more action. I'll take them again tomorrow, and see what other whole body work outs the trainer has planned for them. Grammar notes.  Expressions and vocabulary: to sit back and …., to recuperate, to isolate.  It is important to sit back and reflect on one's day, don't you think?  It took the marathon runner three days to recuperate from the race.  He had to be isolated because of the virus he was carrying.…

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Hot pasties.

2011-03-09
Length: 4s

 Hot Pasties. If you've never had a pasty, you've never lived. That means that eating one is an experience you must have because they are so good. I actually haven't had a pasty for years and years, though I did eat them up until I was a late teenager. So, do you have any idea of what a pasty is? It's a bit like a pie; it's usually meat and vegetables in a pastry shell that is the shape of the letter D. It has a thick crust that is twisted which you hold the pasty by. It originated in Cornwall, in the south west of England. Records of pasties in Cornwall date back as far as the 12th century. It is said that the tin miners in the south would take them to work. They are a whole meal in themselves, and the crusts are perfect for holding on to the pasties without getting them dirty. If you are a miner, that's a good thing, especially if your dirty hands have traces of arsenic on them. A tradition was to leave the crusts for the spirits of the mine to keep them happy, to stop bad things from happening. Well, I'm not a miner, and most of the time I have clean hands, but I came across a pasty shop in the York train station when I was visiting my sister. I had just said goodbye to my sister, and was waiting in the chilly station for the next train to King's Cross in London. I suddenly smelled the most wonderful smell; it was familiar. I followed it until I came to the West Cornwall Pasty company, where there were hot steak and vegetable, and chicken and mushroom pasties lined up, warm and crispy. We had had a huge lunch, so I didn't have one, but for old times' sake I took several photos. They even had some steak and stilton pasties which I had never heard of before. Stilton is a very strong blue cheese that melts deliciously, so I should imagine that that combination would be worth a try, especially on a cold, wintry day.   Grammar notes. Crust, to come across, lined up. Cut the crust off of the pie, would you? It is overcooked and too hard. Whilst looking through my papers, I came across a war medal that belonged to my grandfather. The children were lined up, waiting for their chance to talk to Santa Clause.…

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Stars on ice.

2011-03-08
Length: 3s

 Stars on ice. I have never really been much of an ice skater. When I was a teenager, I would go indoor skating with friends, mainly to have a good laugh. When people are wobbling and falling down on a regular basis, it can be amusing! My friends and I never practiced enough to get really good. And that, I'm sure, makes all the difference. When you see someone who really skates well, it is like looking at good art. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to see world class skating. A friend of mine had bought tickets to see 'Stars on ice'. Well, I had heard of the show, but didn't really know any details about who would be performing. I assumed that it would be a group of ice dancers, so to speak, but not anyone you could consider a champion. How wrong I was! The whole group of dancers were Olympic and World gold and silver champions! I couldn't believe it! They had come all the way to little old Wenatchee! You might recognize some of the names: Kurt Browning (4 times World Champion from Canada), Evan Lysaceck (Olympic gold medalist from U.S), and Ekaterina Gordeeva ( 2 times Olympic gold medalist). The performance lasted about 2 hours, with a short intermission. I took my little girl, who was mesmerized by the acrobatics and the beautiful dresses. And the stadium was packed, as you can imagine. There were cheers and claps all the way through as the stars spun in the air and landed flawlessly. I'm sure that young people in the audience were inspired to rent some skates, and go to the next public ice skating session, to wobble around and imagine themselves as stars.   Grammar notes. So to speak, mesmerized, flawless. The wedding cake she made was a triumph, so to speak. The ladies were mesmerized by the diamond rings in the shop window. This antique vase is flawless; it doesn't have any cracks, or even one scratch.…

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The Alps from the plane.

2011-03-01
Length: 4s

 The Alps from the plane.  Many of you have seen some part of the Alps, I suppose. They're spectacular, aren't they? I saw a small part of them recently from a plane. I was traveling from the south of France up to Germany. Luckily, I was sitting next to a window, so I could look at every detail as we flew over. Now, typically, when you take a photo from a plane, it won't come out very well at all. The plane windows aren't the clearest, for sure. And it is impossible to control the light. Add to that the fact that my camera is a little cheapo. I certainly didn't expect to get a good result from any of my pictures taken on the plane. So, I snapped away when I could. When I got home, I looked at what I had taken, deleted most of them and then edited a couple that had come out well. I use an editing software by Google called Picasa. You can do all sorts of things with it. You can crop the photos, which means to cut them. Then you can add color, texture, shadow, and definition. You can even add text, which means writing. One of my photos was taken at a strange angle, so I used the straightening option to give it a better perspective. A couple of years ago I decided to create nice portraits of my children. I looked through our collection of different school photos, and those taken at home. I scanned them into my computer, edited them, saved them onto an SD card, and then printed large versions of them in a sepia tone. Sepia is a lovely dark beige or light brown color that gives the photo a soft, sometimes older look. These photos now hang formally in frames going up the stairs. I'm so thrilled that this software can improve photos. Now I have a beautiful snap shot of the alps that I otherwise would have deleted.  Grammar notes.  Expressions: typically, text, formal.  Typically, this shopping center is packed with people on Saturday mornings. You must edit that text; it is full of errors. That dress is too formal for our casual get-together.  …

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The York Minster.

2011-02-28
Length: 5s

 The York Minster. I couldn't visit York Minster without telling you about it. What is a minster? It's the name of a major cathedral that used to be associated with a monastery, and considered the most important building representing the church in a large area. So, okay, it's a cathedral. But, you know what, it's a treat to visit. The city of York is what I call 'the complete package', which means that it has everything that you could want. If you check out york.com, you will see what I mean. It is about as historical as anywhere could ever be, it's a thriving center of education, it has all the facilities and entertainment of a city, but is clean and rural at the same time. York was a strategic political center for hundreds of years. It was founded by the Romans; they called it Eboracum. They used this point as a stepping stone on the way to Scotland. Well, as you know, they didn't manage much in Scotland, but York became fortified and busy. Then, after the Roman Empire fell, Vikings took over. York didn't avoid the Norman invasion either, but became a center of prosperity and trade from then on. When you are there, you can sense the history. It is all around you. The well preserved wall around the center of the city is a great reminder of the Roman presence. In fact there are even remains of Roman shrines to Jupiter and Mars. The cathedral started as far back as the Romans, but obviously not as a cathedral. The Roman buildings which were recently uncovered under the cathedral were stations for some of the 5000 legionaries. With each invasion and different people groups taking over, it was added to. It has survived fires, destruction through invasion, and the civil war. Oh, and you should see it now. It is a Gothic beauty. I walked around it with my sister, and we silently soaked it all in. I know that you don't need to know all of the vocabulary about cathedrals, but a few words are common in conversation. The nave is the large, often central part of the church. There are towers on some, spires on others, with spires looking like cones with a point. In the York Minster there is a crypt, underground, where tombs are kept. You can't go to York without admiring the Rose Window either, which is a spectacular circular stained glass window in the cathedral. I have seen a lot of cathedrals during my travels, but I would say that this should be in the top three of 'must sees' when traveling in Europe.  Grammar notes.  Expressions: a must-see, to soak it in, as far back as.  The 'must-see' in that town is the central park; you shouldn't miss it. We stayed at the gallery, and silently soaked in the art. My grandmother can remember as far back as the Second World War.…

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Vienna by chance.

2011-02-22
Length: 5s

 Vienna by chance. Have you ever been to Vienna? I was lucky enough to get there by chance during my trip to Europe. How can anyone go to Vienna by chance? Any person with a brain would go there deliberately, right? Well, because I didn't have a lot of time, I had to fly to a different place each day. After visiting a friend in Frankfurt, I flew the next morning to Nice to visit my friend Lorraine. Now, when I had organized my flights back at home, I had chosen the cheapest flights possible. My reasoning was, well, I would be by myself, having an adventure, so I could easily put up with a bit of discomfort, or a few extra airports. My flight from Frankfurt to Nice was not direct. I booked it through Expedia.com, which I have used before. There was to be a short change of plane in Vienna, and then the journey would continue. So, Thursday morning came, and my friend, Blanca, dropped me off at the airport. I noticed that it was quite foggy, but I really didn't pay much attention. I got to the gate just when the announcer told us that the flight would be delayed by about one hour. Mmm, I would be in a big hurry to catch my connecting flight. And, as you can guess, when I arrived at Vienna, my connecting flight had already left, and I was put on a later flight, five hours later. It just so happens that there is a bullet train from the airport into the city. So, before you could blink an eye, I found myself in Stephensplatz, the center of Vienna, gazing at the cathedral wide-eyed and open-mouthed. I say open-mouthed because the architecture is stunning. I walked through the maze of cobbled streets and squares taking pictures and video clips. I rushed into a bakery and bought a pastry; well, everyone was walking around eating pastries! I wanted to fit in! It was a beautiful, sunny day, but very cold. So, I had a good excuse to buy myself a scarf. By the time my four hours in Vienna were up, my feet ached because I had walked non-stop. I would have loved to have stayed longer, of course. But, I contented myself on the plane by resting my feet and having a good look at the photos of my day's adventure.   Grammar notes.   Expressions: to put up with, it just so happens, in the blink of an eye, to fit in. Our neighbors are very noisy. We have to put up with it; we have no other choice. Do you need some nail clippers? It just so happens that I have some in my pocket. Someone let the dogs out of the front door, and in the blink of an eye, they had disappeared. Teenagers try so hard to fit in at school. They often change their style to look like everyone else.…

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Breakfast in Nice.

2011-02-21
Length: 4s

A double treat for me during my week's vacation, was to visit my dear friend, Lorraine, in Nice. I hadn't seen her for eleven years, which, of course is far too long. But, as you probably know, when you get together with a great friend, even if you haven't seen her for a long time, it is as if you haven't been apart for very long. We stayed up until late, catching up on eachothers' news. Since I had seen her, she had had a little girl, started her own business, and moved several times. We chatted late into the night, and it felt like old times. The next day, although I only had a few hours, she took me out for breakfast. She chose a patisserie that just about blew my socks off. It's display case was so attractive that I asked the owner if I could take a video. Everything was presented so beautifully. And there was just about everything you could imagine, when it comes to baked goods. Believe it or not, I actually didn't have a pastry with my coffee! I know, I know, it was an opportunity that I shouldn't have missed, but I like savory in the morning. So, I had a delicious ham and cheese baguette instead. This time of year in Nice is perfect; it's sunny but not hot, so we sat out and enjoyed the view while we chatted. Afterwards, Lorraine drove along the coastal road, pointing out famous landmarks, and showing me the different areas where she used to live. Nice is so clean and pretty. For someone coming from the cold and dark, it was like a large dose of medicine. We went down to the port, where lots of yachts are moored. She showed me where the Microsoft yacht is. It's massive of course. Lorraine took my photo next to it, just so I can show off and tell people about it. I actually don't know what I would do with a huge yacht like that. It would be a nightmare to clean! I would probably sell it, and with a small portion of the money I'd make, I would fly all of my friends and family to Nice for a two week tour of all the patisseries. Grammar notes. Expressions: When it comes to, to show off, to get together. 1. She is a master at arranging flowers. When it comes to decorating entryways, she is the most creative. 2. He is such a show-off! He is always talking about his latest purchases and how much they cost. 3. The reunion was a real success. It was a get together that we will all remember.…

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Free hugs in London.

2011-02-15
Length: 6s

Hello everyone. I'm so pleased to be back, podcasting to you again after my week of fun in Europe.I have lots to tell, as you can imagine. I saw some amazing places on my trip, and had a very meaningful and inspirational time. So, where should I start? I'm a fairly emotional person, deep down,so I'll startthis podcast by telling you about something that I love to do, and found myself doing right in the middleof London. It was on Saturday, a lovely sunny but chilly 12th of February, when I had arrived in Londonwith my husband from Berlin. We immediately went to our hotel in Leicester square, put our luggage in ourroom, and met up with my father and his wife. They had come down to see family in London, so it was a perfectcoincidence that I was going to be there. As you might know, central London is very 'walker friendly', meaning that basically it's great to walk around, and you can easily get from one major, famous spot to the next. We walked to Trafalgar square. I snapped away with my camera as we all chatted. There was quite a crowd in the square. Amnesty International had a big, peaceful rally going on, which is similar to a demonstration. There was a lot of music, and different groups representing their causes. The group that caught my eye, however, was a tiny one of only two people. Their signs said 'Free Hugs'. Well, how could I refuse? A free hug, and from perfect strangers, .....what better way to make world peace? So I dove in and gave the two lovely guys a good old hug. In retrospect, I should have asked their names. They might start a hugging revolution, right there in Trafalgar square. Can you imagine, with all the different people from every corner of the world, hugging? That would be absolutely fantastic. Perhaps it would spread throughout London and into the Houses of Parliament...; imagine the changes that could take place there if people started to hug. I'm sure the MPs would make better decisions, and pass better laws. They could start each parliamentary meeting by doing the conga, and having a big hugging session. I think those two fellas giving free hugs in London are a couple of geniuses. Expressions To do the Conga, what better way to..., fella/ fellow, a good old .... 1. The Conga is a dance where you line up, holding eachother's waists, and kick your legs to the side as you move forward to the music. 2. 'What better way' is like saying 'There is no better way'. Ex: What better way to relax than in a warm bath. 3. 'Fella' is English for 'guy'. It is the short form of 'fellow', and is similar to 'chap' which is more antiquated.          Ex: He's a nice fella, isn't he? 4. 'A good old hug; a good old arm wrestle; a good old pot of stew; a good old roaring fire.' Good old can be added to give a sense of endearment to a thing or an activity. It is also used sarcastically when you mean the opposite of something being good. Ex: Nothing like a good old invasion to mess everything up!…

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I'm off to Europe, so no podcasts this week.

2011-02-06
Length: 47s

Hello everyone, just a quick note to let you know that there will not be any podcasts this week, as I am going to visit friends and family in Germany, France, and England. I will have lots to tell when I get back.                  Take care, Anna.…

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A Sixth Grade Experiment.

2011-02-02

Before I start today's podcast, I would like to mention a little something about the title of yesterday's podcast. One of my listeners, called Bahareh, asked me to explain the expression Super Duper Slither Scooter. First of all, the scooter is just the thing that you ride. Slither is the brand name of it; you could call it 'The Slither'. Super Duper is a silly phrase that we use to say that something is wonderful. We also use it sarcastically. Most often, super duper indicates that something is brand new, or of good quality, or just quite special. And, of course, the two words rhyme, which makes it a little more playful in speech. "My father bought a super duper car" is less serious or formal than "my father bought an elegant, expensive car". I hope that is clear. Anyway, the sixth grade science experiment found its way into my kitchen. I discovered it sitting on the counter top. There was a strange smell in the air, something unpleasant and sharp smelling. So I looked around, and there it was. It was a glass with an egg floating in white vinegar. Okay, that makes sense. My son, Hudson, has started to learn about the Periodic table, the different elements, the molecules, and how they interact. I remember many years ago doing the same thing in science class. If my dim memory serves me well, the experiment showed how the calcium carbonate of the egg shell dissolves in the vinegar. I think that's right. So, my son is bringing home all sorts of instructions for kitchen experiments. He has to carry them out, and then write down his observations. He loves it. It reminds me of a story my husband told me about when his cousins were young. They made a concoction in the kitchen that ended up blowing up. They were very lucky that they didn't get seriously hurt. They charred the kitchen ceiling, and singed off their eyebrows. Unsupervised kids are a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, Hudsons' eyebrows are safely on his face, and I am keeping a close eye on his experiments. Grammar notes. Expressions: to singe, concoction, someone's memory serves them well, to char. 1. The coal fell out of the fireplace and singed the carpet. 2. What kind of concoction is this drink; it's disgusting! 3. I remember that day; my memory serves me well. 4. The walls had been charred black by the fire.…

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A Super Duper Slither Scooter.

2011-02-01
Length: 4s

It's time to rock and roll. Glide, wobble, balance, and slither. Let's try something new to get ourselves moving. Did you know that the part of the brain that deals with balance, also deals with focus? Isn't that interesting. An educational specialist told me that the other day. One of my sons is going to see her each week to increase his reading abilities. I am really intrigued to see what she will do, and what the effects will be. I would like to pick her brains. One of the things that she recommends for children who need to control their focus, are balancing exercises. So, another trip to Walmart, and we have a Slither scooter. It's a super duper one. It's actually a combination of two things: a regular scooter, and a rip stick. I won't go into detail about what a rip stick is because it will actually take too long, but I think you get the gist. If you check out one of my previous podcast, 'A Refreshing Park', you will get more of an idea about what a rip stick is. So, we have the box in the kitchen, and my two oldest pounce on it like a couple of cougars. They immediately tear the box open, and start putting the thing together. "Shouldn't you read the instructions?" I ask them. My experience is that males will often put something together, and then later have to take it apart and start all over again, this time reading the instructions. I could be wrong though, ....... I shouldn't generalize, so you men out there, please don't get offended. But of course, mothers are always wrong, right? So, I let them get stuck at one point, and then intervened, pushing the instruction manual under their noses. And guess what happened? They followed the instructions, and put it together correctly! Mmm, am I making my point clearly? Anyway, they all tried the super dooper Slither scooter on our driveway. They described it as "cool", "difficult", "awesome", and "tricky". That means that they like it. I'm going to try it tomorrow to see if it will help me to super duper up my focus. Grammar notes. Expressions and vocabulary: to pick someone's brains, the gist, to pounce. 1. He knows so much about history; I should pick his brains about the First World War. 2. The gist of his speech was that the company needs to expand into new territories. 3. If the rabbit doesn't run and hide, the fox will pounce on it.…

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Entertainment at half time.

2011-01-31
Length: 5s

Entertainment at half-time is a big deal over here. Whenever you go to a college level or professional level sporting event, there is entertainment half way through the game. I saw some interesting half-time performances the other day in Spokane. My family and I had gone with my in-laws to see Whitworth's men's basketball against Lewis and Clark. Three of my husband's second cousins actually play on the Whitworth team, so there was an added incentive to go.  At the moment, Whitworth's team is second place in the nation, as far as college level goes. And Lewis and Clark have only been defeated by them. The rivalry was quite intense. I actually have never seen players play so hard. Both teams were really trying to win. Someone made a good point, that at the college level, you often see a better game because the players are so intense. At the professional level, often there is a lot of showmanship, and playing for the crowd. Anyway, half time came, and there were two performances. One was a modern dance troup who performed to rap music. The other was a group of little girls who looked like fairies. They danced in a fairly modern style to a song entitled 'It's all about me'. It was perfect for the age of the girls who were dancing, because, after all, they are really into themselves. It would have been great if my daughter had been there. I'm sure that she would have come home, dressed herself up, and danced to the same song. Mind you, it's a good job that she didn't because we didn't get home until after 1am. Spokane is three hours away from Wenatchee, so all together, its a long trip. And, on top of the distance that we had to drive, there were thick patches of fog on the highway, so getting to the game was an ordeal! But, when there is a good game going on, you have to find a way to get there. And when you do, there is not just a great game, but also some half-time entertainment. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: intense, fairy, ordeal. 1. This chocolate is 90% cocoa; the taste is intense. 2. My daughter said that she thinks there are fairies in our garden. 3. The flight was a real ordeal. First it was delayed by three hours. Then the plane was grounded because of technical difficulties.…

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The Reptile Man.

2011-01-27
Length: 5s

On Wednesday, the Reptile Man came to visit my kids' elementary school. It is a very worthwhile show to watch. The owner of the Reptile Man business, and the Washington Serpentarium is Scott Peterson. You could say that he is an advocate for reptiles of all kinds. He is based in Monroe, in the Seattle area. His business is open 365 days a year, and speaking at schools is part of his commitment to spreading the word about how necessary and wonderful reptiles are. He is very informative, having studied zoology in college. And he has a very calm, soothing voice. And that's just as well, because when he is holding up a venomous snake, or an alligator in a room full of people, he has to keep everyone calm. I have seen him before, and I've also visited his serpentarium. However, each time I see his show, I learn something new. At one point, for example, he held up Lucy the alligator, telling us many facts about the animal. I didn't know that alligators never stop growing, and can reach up to 1000 lbs in weight. Lucy is just a baby, and was raised as a new born by Mr. Peterson. In fact, he raises all his animals from newborns or eggs; he doesn't keep any wild-born animals. All of his venomous snakes have had their venom sacks removed, obviously for the safety of everyone around them. And, talking about snakes, he has many, many kinds, including the deadly black mamba, cobras, and rattle snakes, and the non-venomous pythons, anacondas, and boas. I also didn't realize just how important snakes are because of their diet. They mainly eat rodents, and that saves us all from diseases and a lack of crops. One of the animals that I liked best was the African tortoise. They can live up to 200 years. I was able to pet the one he brought. It was amazing. It's shell was thick and hard like rock. In fact, you can drive a car over one and it won't be crushed; it is that strong! Lions try to eat them, and have to give up, because they cannot penetrate the touch shells. It really was quite a show. The children and parents loved it. I recommend his website too, at : reptileman.com. Enjoy! Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: an advocate, venomous, rodents. 1. He is an advocate for abandoned animals, and works hard to protect them. 2. The black mamba is the most dangerous venomous snake in the world. 3. Rats and mice breed very quickly, and spread diseases if uncontrolled.…

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Progress at Walmart.

2011-01-25
Length: 5s

I'm so used to going to Walmart, that I could probably get there with my eyes closed. It's two blocks away from our house, so it's the perfect place for a quick shop stop. There have been renovations going on there for several months now. It started out with heavy machinery digging up a large section of the parking lot, then scaffolding on the outside, and lots of building noises. I happened to pop in the other day to buy some basic essentials, like milk and bread, when I realized that things had progressed somewhat. Where I usually walk in, was locked. It looked derelict actually, as the entryway sign had been taken down. And where there had been covered scaffolding, a new entryway was on display. It isn't quite finished yet; the sign is actually just a hanging sign. However, the entryway is usable; people were walking in and out, there were several drink dispensing machines there, and a lot more room. In true 'buy some stuff' style, the entryway was full of tasty, unhealthy treats like chips and coke, stacked like a tunnel that you had to walk through to get to the rest of the store. I'm actually excited about the rest of walmart being finished, because it will cut my shopping experience in half. After I shop at walmart, I always have to go somewhere else for fresh fruit and vegetables. Poor me! I always seem to be in a hurry, so shopping in one place will be convenient. I'm not sure what the other shops in town will do when Walmart becomes a 'super store'. Competition is healthy, but that is easy to say if you don't own a shop in the same town as Walmart. The reason I'm talking for the second time about Walmart is because it's a 'big deal' over here; it is a monstrous business that keeps its customers because of its unbeatable prices. Its slogan is "Save money. Live better." That is simple and straight to the point, isn't it! So, let's see if, in the near future, their grand re-opening lives up to their tremendous reputation. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: scaffolding, basic essentials, no big deal. 1. The cathedral is being cleaned, and has scaffolding all over it. 2. We have run out of some basic essentials, so I will run to the store and get them. 3. The cinema is full, so we have to wait an hour until the next showing. No big deal!…

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A nocturnal visit by deer.

2011-01-24
Length: 5s

Wow! What a shot! I have been hoping to get a photo or a video of deer to show all of you. This time of year is crazy with the deer coming down from the nearby mountains. They are all over the place, and obviously very comfortable in town. I think the fact that there are orchards here and there in town help. They sleep in the orchards, and have plenty to eat there. Then at night they walk around the neighborhoods, looking for more tasty treats. It just so happens that a favorite spot for some of them is our property! A few years ago, we found three of them sleeping on our back porch! Now, however, we have dogs, so they keep away. The two dogs that we have live in the back garden. It is a large area that is fenced in, ideal for dogs. So now, we don't have any deer visitors in the back garden. Our dogs do, however, alert us as soon as they smell them approach. Infact, they bark like crazy and drive everybody nuts. It doesn't happen during the day, because the deer only come around at night. We have often had to put the dogs in the garage at 3am because of the noise. We don't want to make enemies of our neighbors. I can see that deer have been hanging out in our front yard because there are hoof prints and droppings everywhere. One of my neighbor friends told me that she saw a large herd of deer walk up the road, and settle in my front garden where we have alpine trees. When I was pulling up to the house the other night, my headlights flashed in the eyes of three deer who were happily munching away at the plants near my entryway. The dogs were barking, of course, but the deer seemed to know that the noisey want-to-be-wolves couldn't get out. I drove towards the deer very slowly, illuminating them. Their ears pricked up and they turned to face me. Then, they gracefully turned and walked into the darkness. It doesn't happen very much, but when it does, it is so worth watching. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to alert, to drive ...nuts, hoof/ paw prints, a herd. 1. The alarm alerted us to the fire that had started in the kitchen. 2. That music is driving me nuts; can you please turn it down, or off! 3. A good hunter can track an animal by its prints: paw prints for wild cats and bears, and hoof prints for deer, elk, and moose. 4. There are so many names for groups of animals: a herd of cows, a school of fish, a pack of wolves, and a swarm of bees are just a few.…

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Shooting skeet.

2011-01-19
Length: 5s

Have you heard of skeet shooting, or perhaps clay pigeon shooting? Well, we are beginning to do it. Having  been inspired by his grandfather in Scotland, my son Cass caught the bug. Doing it once when we went to stay with my father last summer just wasn't enough for him. When we returned to Wenatchee, he brought with him two of 'Grandad's' shooting magazines. I, at first, tried not to think about guns; I don't know much about them, and quite frankly, they scare me. However, my dad has been a hunter all of his life, and is an example of using guns responsibly, and only for hunting or clay pigeon shooting. My husband decided to try skeet shooting recently. He bought a couple of shot guns, ammunition, and a skeet thrower. So we are set. We have everything that we need. It just so happens that guns are very popular in this part of the country. Many men hunt deer, wild turkey, or even bear and cougar. A lot of them are very skilled, and even become bow hunters. There are several gun shops in town, gun sections in major stores, and all sorts of clubs to join. Having seen my father shoot birds while I was young, I feel that that would be a reasonable kind of hunting. You can eat the birds as well. Bringing down a larger animal, however, doesn't appeal to me at all. I'm certainly not an expert, nor do I intend to be. I'll leave that to the people who know what they're doing. For now, starting out skeet shooting, learning all about safety issues, the equipment, and how to aim, are enough for me. We went to a shooting range at the weekend. It is a simple place, a couple of miles from our house, up towards the mountains. You have to have a club key to unlock the gate and get in, and then you drive to either a pistol range, a rifle range, or a shotgun range. The place was empty when we went. It is still very cold outside, so I'm sure a lot of the regular shooters were staying at home. And yes, I actually had a go. It was funny though. Looking back now, I realise that I was standing in the wrong position, my head was uncomfortably leaning on the gun, and I barely knew which eye to close in order to look down the barrel. I must have looked ridiculous! However, my husband and my son gave me all the advice I needed to stand and aim properly, and that made a difference. I didn't manage to hit any skeets, but at least I feel that I'm a step closer to aiming and firing. Grammar notes. Related vocabulary: to catch the bug, ammunition, issue. 1. After travelling to Australia, he caught the travel bug. 2. They found some old World War II ammunition in their back yard. 3. We have to play the game fairly, so it doesn't become an issue.…

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Stuck in traffic.

2011-01-18
Length: 4s

I hope that this never happens to you. You're driving along, minding your own business, when suddenly your car stops. It could be because of engine trouble, or because of something in the road that is preventing the car from moving. I spotted this poor man the other day as I was pulling onto the main road. He was digging the snow out from around his tires. The trouble was, he wasn't parked on the side of the road. He was right in the middle of the main road, with two lanes of traffic on either side of him. He was in the turn lane. That is where the snow plows pile up the snow from the rest of the road. And that is where, if your wheels aren't  big enough, and your engine isn't strong enough, you get stuck. I was relieved to see that there was another man with him who was also digging around the wheels of the little truck. Lucky for them, they had shovels. Who ever carries shovels in the car when you drive? If I got stuck like that, I would have to dig myself out with my shoe, or the cup holder of the car. It must have been something to do with their job. They were both dressed in the same uniform, and I could make out that there was a company name on the vehicle. I had to drive off before I saw them dig themselves free. They're not there now, so their efforts paid off. I remember getting 'stranded' on a road once. It wasn't because of snow, either. It was years ago. I was driving my husband's Chevy truck across the large, main bridge. It was a great day, I was listening to music, I had the window down; everything was perfect. Then, suddenly, the truck started to slow down. Before I knew it, I had pulled over to the hard