Tue, 21 July 2015
In June, I went to the U.S golf Open with my husband for two days. It was at a place called Chambers Bay in Seattle in a very interesting location that overlooked the beautiful Puget Sound. Let me explain: the Puget Sound is an area on the coast where there are many islands. The golf course was built on an old sand and gravel(1) quarry. It is unusually dry compared to most U.S golf courses, but it has its own unique charm, and what a fabulous view of the ocean and the islands. We traveled to the golf course from Wenatchee with friends, and then split up(2), and walked around from 'hole' to hole. It was a hot day, and quite humid. There were crowds of golfing fans(3) everywhere, and funnily enough, a lot of them looked the same. Most of them were big men, in shorts, wearing baseball hats. I'm not a golfer, but I could certainly appreciate their excitement. It must have been a thrill for many of them to get close to the professionals. At one point, I came close to Ryo Ishikawa of Japan (well, I think it was him). His ball had gone off the green and was on a steep hillside. There was a huge crowd of people, squashed together trying to get as close as possible to him. Just before he took a swing at the ball, everyone went quiet, out of respect, and the ball went flying gently in a perfect arc, over a road and back onto the green. You could see the people around gasp(4) at his skill; shaking their heads they said things like, "That's why he's a professional and I'm not!" I was amazed that the golfers could concentrate with so many fans around. They even had to hear trains going by the 16th and 17th greens: when the sand and gravel quarry was converted into the golf course, the very important train was not diverted. It still needs to go on its route along the coastline, carrying freight(5) and people. We sat down for a while and watched the golfers. Every now and then cheers and applause could be heard; it was quite relaxing, just looking out to sea, and hearing the sounds of the competition. We left the next day after buying some memorabilia, and decided on the way home, to definitely come back and visit the beautiful Puget Sound, with or without the golf.
1. 'Sand and gravel' usually both come from the same quarry, gravel being the very useful small, straight-edged rocks that are used for driveways and roads.
a. The car was speeding along the road, making the gravel fly in all directions.
b. You can always find sand and gravel at construction sites.
2. 'To split up' is used to mean 'to separate' temporarily and also permanently.
a. The couple argued all the time, and finally split up.
b. The hunters split up: two went up the hill to look for bears, and the other two went into the forest to hunt for deer.
3. 'Golfing fans'. In the podcast I said, "There were crowds of golfing fans every where'. However, I could have said, "golf fans". The reason I didn't is that "golf fans" is less clear because the two words become one orally. Similarly, 'to golf', 'golfing', and 'golf' can all be used correctly in sentences.
a. Do you like golf? to golf? golfing?
b. He is such a golf fan/ a fan of golf/ a golfing fan.
4. 'To gasp', 'a gasp'. It's a fabulous word. It's the noise someone makes when they suddenly breathe in out of surprize or shock.
a. She gasped in horror when she realized that she had left her passport in the taxi.
b. I gasped when I opened the door and found a huge bouquet of roses on the kitchen table.
5. 'Freight' is a noun and a verb. It refers to products, like metal, minerals, and even food that need to be transported by train, truck, ship, or plane. It has a similar meaning to 'cargo', 'merchandise', and 'goods', or as a verb, 'the sending of the goods.'
a. That is a freight train; today it is carrying sugar.
b. I ordered a table online, but the freight was so expensive.
Fri, 17 July 2015
A few weeks ago, I had just answered an email from one of my listeners. "When are you going to write another podcast?" was her question. And it was a good question, as I have been absent for some time. My plan was to write one the next day. In the afternoon, however, as I drove my kids to the swimming pool, I looked to my right, across the river and up to the hills, and saw a huge column of dark smoke. "Oh, no!" I said to myself, and my heart sank(1). "Not again!" This dry, windy climate is prone to fires in the summer, and there are often more than one. I swam briefly in the swimming pool, and then sat on a lawn chair and tried to read, but I was preoccupied with the smoke. As I turned the pages of my Harry Potter, I noticed some flakes of ash(2) on my black swimming suit. "Ok kids, we're going home," I announced. I had a bad feeling; the wind was picking up(3), and that only meant one thing: a big fire.
Within a few hours the view from our house was all smoke. Our dogs wouldn't stay outside because of the huge helicopters that thundered(4) overhead. A firefighter rang our doorbell and announced that we were on evacuation level number two: soon we would have to leave. It was the first time that we had been so close to a disaster. My in-laws' houses were right where the fire was blowing. We knew that they had left their homes, but we had no idea what would happen next. We each packed a bag, and waited. The hours ticked by slowly, and one by one we fell asleep in our chairs.
The next morning, I woke up early to the sound of a thunder storm. I walked outside into a warm, smoky rain. The fire had stopped. Our neighborhood was safe. But as I looked up to where my in-laws' houses were, I could see that many were no longer there. The hill was black, and in some places, only chimneys were left. I couldn't believe that it was over. And as I sipped my coffee, I realized that some people no longer had a coffee machine, or a kitchen, or even a house. It was later that I found out just how big(5) the fire had been.
1. 'My heart sank' is a wonderful expression of a feeling of hopelessness or sadness. The verb 'to sink' implies that the heart is heavy like a stone.
a. When I received his letter my heart sank; I knew that the wedding was cancelled.
b. The lost hiker's heart sank as the search helicopter flew over him and disappeared.
2. 'Flakes of ash'. The word 'flake' is used in many contexts. It really means a light mass, or a thin piece. As ash is so soft and powdery, 'a flake' is a good way to describe one thin piece of it.
a. The paint on the door was coming off in flakes.
b. The snow flakes were so light and fluffy.
3. 'The wind was picking up.' In this instance, I could have said, 'the wind was beginning to blow hard'. We use 'picking up' often when talking about the wind. It is short for 'picking up speed', just as a car or a horse will also pick up speed and get faster.
a. The train picked up speed as it went downhill.
b. The runner picked up speed in the last few meters.
4. 'The helicopters thundered overhead.' 'Overhead' is a convenient way of saying 'over our heads', and it is a bit more interesting than saying 'above'. I used the word 'thundered' here to describe the noise of the helicopters. 'Thunder' is of course a noun, but it is also a verb.
a. The children thundered down the stairs like a herd of elephants!
b. When we lived in an apartment next to the motorway, the lorries would thunder right by my window.
5. '...just how big the fire had been.' The word just is quite a powerful word. It can mean 'slight' or 'only', but in this sentence, it is emphatic. Together with the word 'how', it emphasizes the adjective.
a. We had no idea just how beautiful the statue was going to be.
b. They complained about just how rude the employees were.
c. He talked all evening about just how successful he is!
Thu, 26 February 2015
I remember when the internet became available in the 1990's. It was a revolution! It was, as they say, 'the next big thing'(1). Since then, different applications and social media have given us access(2) to huge amounts of information, ideas, and connections with people. One that I discovered recently was Pinterest. My mother had told me about it a year ago, but I didn't pay any attention until a couple of weeks ago. It is a collection of information, projects, photographs, and videos that you can select and collect. Selecting something that you like is called 'pinning' it. You pin what you have found onto what is called a board. It is just like in an office, when you pin a poster onto a notice board(3). You name your board, and you pin more items. My boards are: 'gardening', 'recipes', and 'fun projects'. Every day I add more pins to my boards. Two days ago I used one of the recipes: tender, juicy, barbecued chicken. I followed the instructions, and it turned out wonderfully tender. Later, my husband was shocked when he asked me what I was looking at on my phone, "Oh, I'm on Pinterest," I replied. "I'm looking at how to build a brick wall." "You're looking at 'how to build a brick wall'?" he repeated with a look of horror on his face. He probably imagines that he'll come home, and there'll be a big, brick wall in the middle of the lounge. Well, of course there won't be. It'll be for the garden, and maybe I'll grow some ivy on it. Let me check; there must be some pins about that.
1. 'The next big thing' is a phrase we use when a discovery or invention has taken place. It is one that will have a huge impact on our lives, such as the internet.
a. Probiotics are the new big thing in health.
b. Space exploration is the new big thing in travel.
c. Collaboration is the new big thing in politics.
2. 'Access' is a useful word taken from the verb 'to access'. We use it literally and figuratively. It means to be given a way, a path, an open door.
a. If you go through the gate, you will access the company office.
b. They accessed all of my personal information that was stored on my computer.
c. We accessed the files and found what we needed.
3. 'Board' is usually any rectangular or square piece of wood, cardboard, or similar material. You can put something on it, under it, use it in construction, or in crafts. There are multiple ways to use a board.
a. I stuck the new health pamphlet on the notice board.
b. He put a long, wooden board from one tree to the other and walked along it.
c. Let's use those old boards to fix the play house roof.
Mon, 16 February 2015
Chelan is a town here in Washington State that is famous for its huge lake. Its a forty five minute drive from where we live, and about 500 ft higher. To get to Chelan, we travel right along the Columbia river, and then wind up through some steep hills, before dropping down towards the lake. Many of these hills are wild, and still covered in snow. Last weekend I went up with my husband to one of these places, called Bear Mountain. As my husband is a hunter, he wanted to put out some apples and salt blocks for the deer. So, we loaded up(1) our little four wheeler, and headed up a dirt track. I drove while my husband looked around for deer, but for a while, there was no sign of them. What we did see was lots and lots of snow. It was like a Christmas scene from a chocolate box. We found the group of trees where we needed to dump(2) the apples and salt, and headed back. Well, that was the plan. We tried to head back. What we hadn't realized was that we had parked in deep snow. We were stuck. We tried reversing. That didn't work. We tried going to the left, and we tried going to the right. We pushed, and we pulled. By now, my husband was using some interesting words for the snow.
So, we sat and thought about our situation. I looked around for a solution. The snow was so soft and deep, and underneath, near the ground, it was compact and icy. The wheels just kept on slipping. What were we going to do? "That's it!" I said, "Let's put twigs under the wheels." There were large, dry bushes all around near the trees. So we snapped lots of twigs(3) and stuffed them under the wheels. It worked! The wheels turned without slipping, and we were able to get out of our deep, white trap. We drove back, slipping here and there, and getting sucked into deep patches of snow, but we managed to get back to our truck. As we left, the sun came out, and the snow shone brightly. I remembered hearing that the Eskimos have 50 words for snow. I'm not sure if that's true, but I certainly heard about ten to fifteen unusual words from my husband about it on our trip. As we came down the mountain, we laughed about getting stuck, and both decided that the only word we needed for the snow, at that point, was 'magnificent'.
1. 'To load up' is a verb that we often use, meaning to put or pack items onto a vehicle. It is a general verb that can be used with many different products: food, furniture, rocks, soil, supplies, or anything really. We also use it figuratively, especially to express filling a plate with food. Often you can miss out the 'up'.
a. We loaded up the truck with soil for our back garden project.
b. You can load up your plate with food; we have plenty.
c. We loaded our car with our neighbor's boxes to help him move to his new house.
2. 'To dump' is a verb that means several things: to throw away, to unload, and to finish a relationship.
a. Just dump that old bicycle. Its broken, so get rid of it.
b. We drove the truck full of soil to the back garden and dumped the soil.
c. She dumped her boyfriend after only one week!
3. 'We snapped lots of twigs'. Here 'to snap' means 'to break'; it is a verb that describes the sound of breaking something thin and wooden. So it is perfect to use with 'twig' which is a small branch.
a. I snapped my fingers and my dog stopped running and sat down.
b. I snapped off the extra twigs from the bottom of the tree.
c. He fell off the roof and snapped his wrist!
Mon, 29 December 2014
Parks are a breath of fresh air, especially when they are in cities. I found that when we visited London in the summer, we really needed to escape into the parks at least once a day. Children can only take a certain amount of (1)site seeing, and then they need to run and play, and be around trees and grass. The parks in London are wonderful, my favorite being St. James's which is central, right near Buckingham Palace. It is one of the oldest in the city, and has a lake, and many kinds of birds. These animals are used to being around people; they seemed quite tame. We fed the ducks, geese, and swans with some of the sandwiches from our picnics, and we soon found that we were surrounded by pigeons as well. Deeper into the park, we came across another surprisingly comfortable creature: a squirrel. In fact, there were lots of them all over the place. I spotted a man who was feeding one of them nuts from his hand. "Wow!" we all said, as we watched him. He had the right 'touch'(2) with these animals, and they accepted all of his food. He was kind, and gave us some of his peanuts, showing us how to call the squirrels. And, would you believe it, they came scurrying(3) from the trees over to us and ate out of our hands. It was magical. I had no idea that they were so tame! When I worked in central London, I used to relax in St. James's park on my breaks, so I am quite familiar with it. However, I had never taken the time to be around the animals, so I was surprised how close they got to people. Each day we made a point of(4) visiting the squirrels in St. James's park. We would have an ice cream, play frisbee, and then feed the little creatures. We spent quite a few pounds on peanuts, and not one of them went to waste. They would jump up on the fence, take a peanut from one of us, and then jump down and scamper(3) off. I'd like to think that they appreciated our company, but really they just wanted the nuts. Once our peanuts were all gone, they would disappear in a flash, and look for other friendly people with bags of good things to eat.
1. '...can only take a certain amount of' means that too much of something would be intolerable. In this case, site seeing has to be limited, otherwise it becomes exhausting.
a. I can only take a certain amount of country music, and then I've had enough.
b. The crowd was beginning to leave; they had been waiting in the cold to see the actors, but they could only take waiting for so long.
c. At Christmas time, I can only tolerate a certain amount of shopping. I can take a day or two, but then I've had enough of the crowds.
2. 'To have the right 'touch',' can apply to many situations.
a. The animal trainer has the right touch with the animals; he is very gentle and careful, and seems to understand what they want.
b. Gosh, you have the right touch with plants. You can make anything grow!
3. 'To scamper/ to scurry,' these are two fabulous verbs that describe how small animals (rodents) run. We use these verbs particularly with mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels. 'To scamper' implies a bounciness to its running, while 'to scurry' implies a scratching and grabbing while the animal runs.
a. It was fun to see the rabbits scamper all over the field, jumping around like they had springs on their feet.
b. The rat scurried away from the dog, up the metal pipe and onto the roof.
4. 'To make a point of,' means to deliberately do something; to be intentional.
a. My neighbor is an animal lover, and every day she makes a point of feeding a stray cat.
b. When we visited Amsterdam, we made a point of visiting a historical site each day.
Mon, 8 December 2014
It all started just before Thanksgiving. My daughter had a temperature of 103 and a bad cough. I had kept her home from school, and didn't plan on her going back for a while. The next day, as the twenty-two guests arrived for lunch, I noticed that one of the cousins had a similar cough, but I was really too busy to be thinking about illness. Well, Thanksgiving came and went; the plates and cutlery were washed, the tables were put away, and everything was back to normal. But then I noticed that one of the guests hadn't left. He had actually not even been invited. He was a most unwelcome(1) guest, and his name was 'The Flu'. I opened the front door and asked him to leave, but he he just smiled at me. He was comfortable, and obviously planned on staying.
Before I knew it, everyone was ill: coughs, temperatures, weakness, and stomach problems. Most of our relatives who had been with us were also miserably sick. I, at that point, wasn't. Usually, I take care of everyone else, and I'm fine. But it was my turn. I had looked into the face of The Flu too many times. After a few days of doing nothing, and feeling sorry for myself(2), I went to the shops. "Anna, is that you? You look terrible!" said a friend of mine I bumped into. "Oh, thanks," I said, not feeling very thankful, and not wanting to hear any more about how I looked. I made a few phone calls and wasn't recognized, "Anna, you sound awful!" was the comment I received. I'm not surprized. I sounded as if I had gravel in my throat(3).
After a few more days, I was much better, and so was everyone else. In fact, I have bounced back. My energy level is up to the roof. I'm studying for my classes, seeing friends, and rushing around preparing for Christmas while listening to a very loud version of Handel's 'Messiah'. Now that the gravel has disappeared from my throat, I can do a podcast. It's good to be back! And if you want any advice from me, be very careful which guests you invite to your house.
1. 'A most unwelcome guest' can also be expressed as 'a very unwelcome guest'. The word 'most' sounds more formal, and is good in stories. This use of 'a+most' can be used with all sorts of adjectives.
a. She was a most gracious relative, always giving and patient.
b. They were a most unbearable gang of young men, always causing conflicts and violence.
2. 'To feel sorry for oneself' is like feeling sad about your situation. You feel pity for yourself.
a. The dog is feeling sorry for himself because he's lost his bone.
b. We all feel sorry for ourselves sometimes, but it is healthier to try and be thankful.
3. 'Gravel' is a noun that is used in the expression of having a bad voice because of illness. We often use the term, 'a gravely voice,' which describes a rough voice that is not clear, as if something is stuck in the throat. Some people might have this without being ill.
a. The old fisherman had rough, wrinkly skin, and a gravely voice.
b. My throat was feeling better; it wasn't sore any more, but my voice was gravely.
Mon, 10 November 2014
I love to learn, especially when what I'm learning is practical and meaningful. And, also, being from England, I love Indian food. Most people who are not from England think of English food as boring, or that we only eat fish and chips, or roast beef. Tut-tut. Oh, those stereotypes can be so wrong. For a very long time, our national dish in England has been curry, which, yes, is absolutely Indian. In fact, there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants in England. We're crazy about the spicy, rich food. And if you know your history(1), you will know that the English-Indian connection comes from the days when India was a British colony. Well, a few weeks ago, when I was having dinner in the only Indian restaurant in Wenatchee, I saw a poster there advertising Indian cooking classes. I quickly signed up. So, yesterday, I and about fifteen other people turned up at the house of the restaurant owners. We were each given a booklet(2) of recipes. Deedee, the master chef, did all of the cooking while we stood around and took notes. Her house filled with the smells of garlic, ginger, coriander, and masala. One by one(3), we had samples of each dish. The four hour class went by fast, and I drove home imagining myself producing these dishes for my family. The first thing that I'm going to make for them will be chicken curry, with cream and coconut milk. I can already smell it!
1. 'If you know your history'. This is an interesting phrase because of the word 'your'. The phrase doesn't mean 'your own' history at all. What it means is 'the history that you should have learned', or 'the history that you should remember.'
a. If you know your history, you'll remember that the West of the United States was settled only about 150 years ago.
2. 'A booklet' is a small, paper book that is usually only a few pages long. The suffix 'let' indicates that it is small.
a. My new vacuum cleaner came with a booklet of instructions.
b. The local council produced a booklet about the statues in the local parks.
3. 'One by one' is like saying 'one at a time', but its use is more 'storybookish'. 'One at a time' is also used as a command, when you're telling people to take turns.
a. One by one the children stepped into the dark, abandoned building.
b. We let the balloons go, and one by one they floated up into the sky, their colors shining brightly against the blue.
Sat, 8 November 2014
I'm sure that many of you who are listening to this podcast have been to Trafalgar Square. It is one of the most famous places in downtown London. In fact, if you visit London, you will find that all the major landmarks(1) are concentrated in the central area of the city. When I went there this summer with my children, we caught the bus every day to Trafalgar Square. The bus terminated(2) there which was perfect for us. So, the first day that we were there, we got off the bus and proceded to sightsee. My children were quite impressed when they looked around: the statues, the fountains, the great circle of architecture around the square, and of course, the lions. Everybody climbs on the lions to have their photo taken; it's a tradition. Another great thing about the square is the street entertainment. There is always someone doing something, either dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or doing something extraordinary(3). On this particular day, we found a man dressed in a silver suit, being extraordinary. He was sitting up in the air on what looked like nothing. He was suspended above the ground with nothing but a walking stick touching the floor. Was he magic? Or was his floating just a clever trick? My youngest children were fascinated. With smiles on their faces, they gave him some money and said, "How do you do that?" Of course the mysterious silver man couldn't talk; that would have destroyed the mystery. He simply lifted his hat as if to say "Hello, and thank you" and continued looking shiny and magical. I wonder how long he sat like that. And I also wonder if anyone saw him get down from his invisible chair.
1. 'Landmark' is a building or structure that is historically or culturally important.
a. Stone Henge is one of the oldest and most famous landmarks in England.
b. Look! There's some kind of landmark. Let's head in that direction.
2. 'Terminated/ to terminate' simply means 'to finish' but it sounds more official or not so every-day.
a. My contract was terminated suddenly.
b. This train terminates in New York at 7pm.
3. 'Extraordinary' is a wonderful word for 'out of the ordinary', 'amazing' or 'odd'. Notice that we don't pronounce the 'a'.
a. His photographic memory is extraordinary.
b. What an extraordinary creature! It is so strange that it's actually a bit scary.
Fri, 24 October 2014
This summer we went to visit my father in Scotland. He lives about 3 hours from Glasgow, but had arranged for us to meet him in the Highlands, a little place called Acharacle, near Fort William. We drove up from Yorkshire where I had visited my sister, spent the night in Glasgow, and continued our journey the following day. Acharacle is a very remote, beautiful area. It's a tiny village, with houses hidden all around it in the trees. It is very close to the sea, so that is where we spent most of our time. Several beaches there are unspoilt(1), and all of them are so clean. I took Robert and Domini with me to one of the smaller beaches to play in the white sand. As soon as we got there, they ran over to a rock pool and discovered a school(2) of trapped fish. It was as if they had discovered treasure. They could scoop up(3) handfuls of them with delight. I even did. They stayed in this rock pool for what seemed like ages, until their sleeves were wet and they started to get cold. Then we walked along the beach, collecting shells which we now have at home. Catching fish in Scotland is fun, especially when you can do it with your hands.
1. 'Unspoilt' when we talk about a beach or other geographic area means untouched by humans. The ending of 't' is the English spelling. In the U.S, they spell it with an -ed, 'unspoiled'.
a. I'm glad to say that area is unspoilt by tourism.
b. The forest used to be unspoilt, but now there are shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions here.
2. 'School' is the noun we use to describe a group of fish.
a. We saw an enormous school of silver herring from the boat.
b. We say 'a pack of dogs', but 'a school of fish'.
3. 'To scoop (up)' means to collect in a container of some sort. It can even be done by the hands. The word 'up' shows that you are collecting something from ground level and bringing it up level with yourself. 'A scoop' is usually a rounded quantity of the item you have just 'scooped'.
a. Shall I scoop the icecream? Would you like vanilla or chocolate?
b. The lady scooped up water from the river in her bucket.
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Mon, 20 October 2014
I appologize for not releasing a podcast last week. There was good reason for my absence. I have started a university course which teaches and qualifies me to instruct English language learners. I have been buried in books(1) for a week! I started the course late, actually, as there was some sort of mix up(2) in my application. Well, that was all sorted out, and I was accepted as a student. Thankfully, all of the classes are online, which makes it very convenient for me. I have to keep track of(3) the reading requirements and the homework. The professor from Central Washington University is very friendly and knowledgeable. We have even had a live, online session where we have met everyone in the course, and have given presentations. I love it! I thought at first, that the lessons might be a little dry and boring. But, I'm happy to say that they are not at all. We are learning at the moment about educational theories and the psychologists that created them, and also what works best in a classroom. It's very stimulating. So, now that I am back on track(4), I will bring you more podcasts, and some of them will include the things I'm studying.
1. 'To be buried in books' means to have lots of reading to do. Students are usually 'buried in books'. Of course it is figurative, not literal. I think it is a great idiomatic phrase, and really gives a good visual of someone being covered in books.
a. My poor son is buried in books at the moment, as he has a science exam tomorrow.
b. I am swamped! I'm buried in books, and I need a break!
2. 'A mix up' really means a confusion and a problem. It can be used in any context.
a. There was a mix up at the airport, and I ended up with someone else's luggage.
b. There was a mix up at the restaurant, and I received the bill for the party of 30 people!
3. 'I have to keep track of the reading requirements'. To keep track means to pay attention, to stay on the correct path, to remember.
a. It's your responsibility to keep track of what you spend.
b. Let's keep track of her illness to see if she improves or not.
4. 'To be back on track' is related to 'to keep track of'. We use this phrase when we have returned to a desired routine.
a. I'm back on track with my running; I jog with my friend three times a week.
b. Now that I am over the flu, I'm getting back on track with the household chores.