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A Cup Of English

Friendly, everyday English to help the anxious language learner. Texts, grammar notes, and photos on the blog page. Another great podcast by LibSyn.com
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Feb 20, 2017
Starbucks Era.

They say that America runs on coffee. It is the drink that gets people awake and focused for another day of work. I personally have two cups each morning. Of course, most of the coffee consumed in the U.S is grown in  Columbia and Brazil. In recent years, coffee drinking has become fashionable amongst young people. Chains of coffee shops have sprung up(1) all over the country, each with their own style and marketing. One of the American chains that has gone global is Starbucks. I have seen it evolve from a Seattle based coffee shop to the largest coffeehouse company in the world. It seems almost unbelievable(2) that it is in 62 countries and is still growing. So why is it so popular? It's appeal lies in(3) its quality roast and its elegant surroundings. It is a place where it is pleasant to linger. The muted, earthy colors of its decor, and relaxing selection of music draw people to not only relax and chat over coffee, but also to do work on their laptops, or even to have small business meetings. This kind of cafe has existed in Europe since 17th century, with the first opening in Damscus in 1530. The U.S, it seems, lacked a casual, non-alcoholic meeting place, away from both the office and home. It was this concept that the creator of Starbucks applied to his business. Now, young people will regularly buy a Starbucks on their way to High School. I occasionally treat my children to one of their non-cafeinated drinks, or a pastry, but not too often as it has become very expensive. Their business still thrives, however, even though they are not cheap. And in this culture of the 'drive thru', coffee is quickly and conveniently available. There are, though, other companies springing up that are providing competition for this coffeehouse giant. 'Dutch Bro's' is a company that the High Schoolers flock to. It is drive through only, so the sales are quick, and it appeals to teenagers as it always has very loud dance music playing while the young servers dance around inside the building preparing the coffee. And I'm sure that there will be other companies with other marketing strategies, all competing for people's money, and offering our favorite drug in a variety of ways.

1. 'To spring up' is a way of saying that something has suddenly appeared or been developed. It can be used figuratively.

a. Mushrooms sprang up all over the garden after the previous day of rain.

b. Complaints sprang up all over the restaurant when the new chef started working there.

2. 'Unbelievable' is an effective word to use in conversation every now and then. It means surprising, baffling, ridiculous, and not-credible.

a. Did you see goal that he just scored? It was unbelievable!

b. It is unbelievable how he continues to lie even when we all know the truth.

3. 'It's appeal lies in ...' is like saying that an attractiveness is found in...

a. The building's appeal lies in its modern lines and open style.

b. His appeal lies in his humility.

Feb 16, 2017

Liz: Hi Mum.

Mother: Hello darling, how are you?

Liz: Fine thanks, and you?

Mother: Oh, really well thanks. How is your class selection going?

Liz: Fine. I met with my school counselor, and he showed me which classes I have to complete by the end of the year, and which ones I can choose as electives.

Mother: Anything interesting?

(1)Liz: Well, yes. Even though I'm in a psychology program, I can still take an elective or two. (2)History of art really appeals to me; it might even help with my major.

Mother: Yes, it'll help you understand how thoughts and attitudes have developed in society. It'll also give you a break from so much heavy thinking! I would certainly do it. You'll probably learn a lot more from it than you realize.

Liz: Yes, that's how I feel about it too. I still have a week to make my final choices. I'll let you know once I've made them.

 1a. Subject 'he' + 'a business man', + verb 'to continue' + with his hobbies.

b. Subject 'they' + past + science, + time to paint.

2.  'Nursing', 'family's medical problems.

b. 'Traveling' + 'them', 'their Youtube channel'. 

Feb 14, 2017
A Spring Princess.

It's the time of year when everyone is thinking about the Spring. As the big machines pile up the remaining snow into huge piles in the parking areas, we find ourselves longing for(1) a more pleasant season, and greenery and flowers. Preparations are being made for life beyond the snow. Bulbs and seeds can be found again in the home centers, new Spring fashions are appearing in the shops, and soccer clubs are starting their practices in whichever gyms are available(2). Even though we still have a couple of months of winter weather, we know what is coming next, and we are waiting anxiously for it to come. As we celebrate the blossoming of apple trees in Spring, we also choose three young ladies to represent the Wenatchee Valley. They are from High School, and have to compete to be voted for. It is like an election campaign. They are judged on their character, intellect, community involvement, and future goals. It is quite different from a beauty contest, thankfully. It isn't just the(3) prettiest girls who become Apple Blossom Princesses. The selection process is quite rigorous, as the girls really need to show what they know, and communicate what they care about. This year's ladies have just been chosen. They will receive scholarships for college, and opportunities to visit businesses and organizations in the town. And they get the opportunity to dress up and look beautiful for a season. It's an American thing, and these ladies are our princesses for a year. 

1. 'To long for' is 'to yearn for' or 'to wait impatiently for'.

a. He longed for a reunion with his family; he hadn't seen them in so many years.

b. She longed for him to hold her hand.

c. We longed for rain; the crops wouldn't grow if the rain didn't come.

2. Use of 'whichever'.

a. You can take your food to whichever till is available, and then pay there.

b. I will have to take whichever plane is available, as mine has been cancelled.

3. 'It isn't just the ...' can be followed by a singular or plural subject.

a. It isn't just the ice that's a problem for traffic, it's the freezing temperatures also that affect the vehicles.

b. It isn't just the students who need new computers; it's the teachers and staff as well.

 

Feb 9, 2017
Online Math.

Mathematics is one of the foundations of education, with some people being inclined towards(1) it, and others finding it quite difficult. My sons seem to have a natural ability, including my youngest, Robert, who is in middle school. He has just started an online Algebra 1 course. Even though they do offer Algebra 1 in his school, he missed the admittance grade by one point. He was so disappointed, as he knew that he was capable of learning Algebra. As he had expressed his disappointment to me several times, I asked him if he would like to sign up for a course. "You will have to do the work at home, right? You do realize(2) that it's your responsibility?" I asked him. He answered "yes" to all of my questions, so before I knew it, I had found a recommended site, paid, and received the curriculum. "Things are certainly different nowadays," I thought to myself. And it's true; our children have so many options that weren't available when I was young(3). At the High School meeting I went to recently, the principal showed us that many new and exciting classes have been added to those that are offered. For half the day, if Robert qualifies, he could actually go to a technical center to study robotics. In this place, called The Tech Center, students can also do cooking, mechanics, crime science, and even work towards becoming a firefighter! Back at the regular High School, they have added classes like mixing electronic music, and 20th century pop culture. It seems like school could actually be a lot of fun. I suppose the world has changed radically, and in this era of technology and entertainment, the next generation needs to be prepared to qualify for many of the jobs that will be available.

1. 'To be inclined to/towards' meaning to lean towards, to have a tendency, or a willingness to.

a. I am inclined to agree with what you say.

b. As she criticizes him all the time, he is inclined to stay quiet.

c. He inclined his head towards the people sitting at the table next to him so he could hear what they were saying.

 2. 'You do realize...?" in English we emphasize the word 'do' as a way of looking for affirmation or a response. It is similar to saying, "I hope you realize that...". It sounds like a statement, but it can end with a question mark.

a. They do realize that they have to pay for their food and lodging if they stay?

b. You do realize that we will miss the bus if we don't leave now?

 3. Our children have so many options that weren't available when I was young.  What a sentence! Anyone could use a sentence like this, and if you happen to be young, you could slightly adjust it to fit what you want to say.

a. Our university has so many class choices that weren't available for my parents.

b. There are so many civil rights now that weren't in place when my grandparents were young.

c. There are so many laws that protect the environment that didn't exist when I was young.

Feb 1, 2017
Ending Polio.

There is so much good news around that we often don't hear. Very soon, for only the second time in history, a human infectious disease will be eradicated: Polio. I remember receiving my oral vaccination for this disease when I was in secondary school, but, at the time, I had no idea what it was, nor(1) had I ever been around anyone who had suffered from it's symptoms. Being infected with this disease at a young age can result in paralysis, and it is also highly contagious. However, without most of us knowing, 155 countries have been working together in a monumental effort(2) to vaccinate all children. They have done such a good job that over the past 30 years, the cases have dropped 99.9%, with the actual number last year being about 40. There is a risk of recontamination, however, if some children are not immunized and left undetected in rural communities. Therefore, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, Unicef, and their partners have mobilized an army of volunteers, supervisors, laboratory workers, and surveillance experts, to stamp out this disease once and for all. All children must be vaccinated as soon as possible by taking a liquid orally, starting at two months of age, and having a total of four doses at different times. The vaccination has changed from three strains of the virus to two, as one has already been eradicated. Here in the U.S, every dollar spent on vaccinations saves three dollars in direct healthcare, and ten dollars in societal(3) costs. You can imagine how this can multiply! The billions of dollars in savings each year are mainly experienced by low-income countries. And that means money can be spent on other areas of preventative healthcare, or better infrastructure. It should be this year that we will hear on the news the announcement about the eradication of Polio. And when it happens, we will need to celebrate. One of the great legacies of this movement is that after each unvaccinated child has been vaccinated, the structure will be in place to continue vaccinating new children each year. What a collaborative effort! If you wish to donate, or read about the End Polio Now movement, simply click here.

1. 'Nor' can be used by itself (without 'neither') if you are continuing with a second sentence and speaking negatively in some way.

a. I didn't wake up until noon. Nor did I have energy to get  out of bed!

b. They didn't attend the history lectures; nor did they turn up for the field trip!

2. 'Monumental' and 'effort' go really well together in English, with 'monumental' being one of the expressions of a large size that is impressive or even historical. It is also a great word for insults and exaggeration.

a. Taking care of all the refugees will be a monumental effort that must be shared by many.

b. I made a monumental mistake when I called my ex-boyfriend's mother, instead of my own!

c. We could have a decent conversation if he wasn't so monumentally silly.

3. 'Societal' is an adjective which means 'of society'.

a. Many future societal problems can be prevented in elementary schools.

b. There is a lot of societal pressure to be rich.

Try iTalki to improve your pronunciation and fluency!

Jan 27, 2017

Emilie: Liz, this packing is exhausting!

Liz: I know. I didn't realize that I had so much stuff! Look at all of these boxes. Those over there are so heavy. I'm getting quite thirsty with all of this packing and lifting, my thigh muscles are getting a good workout!

Emilie: This will be the third time that we've loaded up the car. It was so thoughtful of Peter to give us all of these cardboard boxes.

Liz: I know. Hopefully there'll be just one more trip.

Emilie: This box is really heavy. Do you need all of these books? They're nothing to do with your course. What do we have here? There's a book on the theater, one on theology, and a thin one on therapies of different kinds.

Liz: You know, I'm such a hoarder. I don't like to get rid of anything! Thinking about it, I could donate those three because I'll never read them again.

Emilie: Alright! Liz is becoming a minimalist, finally!

Liz: Oh no, think again lady; I definitely like my stuff. Hey, after we load up the car, I'll invite you to a drink. My throat is so dry; I feel like I've just run a marathon!

Practice 'th' now with help from Effortless English Club.

Try online lessons with iTalki for more pronunciation practice with native English teachers. 

Jan 26, 2017

When I first came to live in Wenatchee, the town was very small. That was 25 years ago. I had just moved over here, and I was in shock, as I had lived in London for 3 years and was totally comfortable there. You could describe me at that time as being 'a fish out of water'. I experienced a major culture shock. Although I found the people here friendly, they seemed to be unaware of a lot of the world. Not many people from this town traveled anywhere else, unless they had to. As the town had started with fruit orchards, the people here had been tied to(1) the land, and as a result had stayed locally for the most part(2). London, on the other hand, was and still is(3) the vast, multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan hub of England, with a constant flow of people into and out of the city. I remember walking along one of the streets in Wenatchee feeling stripped of everything that was comfortable: architecture, history, greenery, and a mix of ethnicities. In fact, people were staring at me from their cars because most people here don't walk; they drive. The town was built around cars, not pedestrians. It was a very strange experience. When I think of the students who listen to my podcasts, I do realize that many of them will live in an English speaking country in order to improve their fluency. This can be a challenge. All over the world people are stepping out, moving abroad for education or other reasons, and they too feel like 'fish out of water'. The process of getting used to a new culture while living in a new country is 'acculturation'. It basically means 'to get used to a new culture/ to assimilate into a new culture.' From my experience, and what I've heard from other immigrants, is that acculturating is a process that involves gains and losses, high points and low points. It would be even more of a challenge if you have to learn a new language as well; surely that could potentially hold you back from feeling comfortable and with any sense of being 'at home'. I remember once seeing a young lady sitting on the floor against the wall in King's Cross Station crying. I went up to her and asked what was wrong. She told me that she was from Spain, had come over for a nannying job, but didn't know which platform she needed for her train. She felt lost. I was able to speak Spanish to her, get her to the correct train, and also call her new boss. She was actually fine, but she didn't realize that she was. Sometimes a person simply needs some encouragement to keep going in the right direction. I was lucky that I had encouragement when I first came here. Those of you who will live abroad must be brave, and surround yourselves with encouraging people. Reward yourselves for every step forward you make, and realize that you are making progress, and that that is to be celebrated.

1. 'To be tied to' is a great way of expressing how a person  cannot escape their responsibilities, or how they cannot deny an emotional link to someone or something. It can also mean that something is related to or depends on something.

a. He is tied to his contract; he won't be free until it finishes next year.

b. She couldn't imagine leaving town; all her family and friends were there, and she was tied to them.

c. The success of the apple trees is tied to the health of the bees.

2. 'For the most part' is another way of saying 'mainly'. It is good to have this sort of phrase in your repertoire so you can add variety to your sentences.

a. The youth center is sponsored, for the most part, by the local shoe factory.

b. For the most part she is even tempered, but when she talks about politics, she gets furious.

3. 'Was and still is' is self explanatory, but a wonderful phrase. Simply by using the verb to be it indicates that a person or thing still has the characteristics that it had in the past.

a. She was and still is the best singer in the choir.

b. The best way to stimulate the economy has been studied and debated for decades. It was and still is the biggest issue of the government agenda.

Try iTalki now English practice online with a native teacher!

Jan 25, 2017
Visitors from all continents.

A market that is in the center of Wenatchee and that is popular with both locals and tourists is Pybus Market. It is open 362 days a year, and is an indoor mixture of open fresh fruit and meet stalls, gift shops, and restaurants. There is also regular musical entertainment, and even dance lessons! During the nice weather, it has an open market in the parking area, where local growers sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, and baked goods. It is a great place to go to in the winter as well, as you can walk around inside, keep warm, eat, and get some entertainment. I had no idea, however, how well known it actually is. You know when you live somewhere, in a way, you take it for granted(1). I have my perspective about Wenatchee, but I am a local(2) (and a foreign transplant). I am not aware of the numbers of tourists who come here each year. There is a display area(3) in Pybus Market that has large maps of each continent. Each map has many different colored pins in various places that have been put there by tourists in order to show which towns and countries they come from. I was really surprised to see how many hundreds of people have come here, and from all over the globe! There were pins from every continent! I suppose Wenatchee can be considered a tourist destination as it is close to Leavenworth, has a large ski resort, and also has hot summers when you can enjoy both water and land sports. I have certainly met foreigners like myself who live here, but the few times that I have met a tourist from another country, that person usually knows more about this town than I do.

1. 'To take for granted' means to not fully appreciate, especially when you are very used to something or someone. It can also mean that you assume that something is real or true without being 100% sure.

a. I was so used to him helping me, that I soon took him for granted. I realized that when he left.

b. I took for granted that he would pay for the meal, but then he asked me to!

2. 'Local' is understood as a person who lives in a town that is already mentioned. It's a very common adjective to describe really any noun. Also, the noun 'the local' or 'my local' can refer to a pub or bar that you go to on a regular basis (UK).

a. I bought the local newspaper and read it in the cafe.

b. Ask him where the post office is; he is probably a local.

c. Do you want to meet at our local and we'll celebrate your new job?

3. 'Display/ area' is where items are shown so the public can either buy them or get information.

a. The new dresses were displayed in the window.

b. The charities had a display area where they showed photos and essays of their work around the world.

Try iTalki now to get a discounted lesson with a native English teacher!

Jan 20, 2017
Trump's Inauguration.

Today was an important, historic day here in the U.S. Today the President-elect, Donald Trump, was inaugurated. This means that a ceremony was performed at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, where he took an oath (made a promise) to serve the country as its president. This ceremony is the beginning of his presidency, the beginning of his 4 year term in office. The word 'inauguration' comes from the Latin word 'inaugurare' which means to install or consecrate when omens are good. Omens, as you might know, are signs that we see in the natural world that are supposed to reflect luck or good fortune. So, the inauguration is a tradition of promises, rituals, and hope for the future. The person who leads the new President through his oath is the Chief Justice who is the head of the nine Supreme Justices or judges of the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the country. Among the people watching the ceremony are previous presidents, obviously Barack Obama, and also a few others. A huge crowd of thousands of people also gathers to hear the new President's speech. President Trump's speech focused on all the usual things: jobs, industry, tolerance, and greatness. Political speeches are not really my cup of tea; in fact, I think that most of them are a complete waste of time. Everybody hopes that a new president will bring great, positive changes, and be honest and reasonable. But, as we say in English, 'Time will tell'. We have to wait and see the actions of the individual; words, to a certain degree, are much less important. Today's inauguration involved some violent protests which is highly unusual for U.S inaugurations. Political divisions here between the Republicans and the Democrats have degenerated into hatred, unfortunately. Trump must realize, that his campaign did lead to a lot of anger and resentment because of his careless words of prejudice and bigotry. Perhaps that is why in his speech today he said, "Whether we are black, brown, or white, we bleed the same color of patriotism." So let's wait and see, as we do in any country with each change of political leader. There are, after all, 196 countries in the world. So let's wait with patience and hope to see which of the leaders are brave and honest, and can follow their words with intelligent actions.

Jan 19, 2017

Peter's cell phone rings:

"Hello."

"Peter, it's Liz"

"Oh, hi Liz, you don't usually call me. What's up?"

"Actually, I really need your help. My car broke down. Thankfully I'm in the parking lot of a highway cafe. I stopped to get gas, and when I tried to start the car, nothing happened."

"Have you asked anyone to jump the battery?"

"I would have but there's no one here! It's just me."

(1)"How about you text me your location. How far do you think you are from the college?"

"Only three miles. (2)I'm sorry to ask you, but I didn't know who else to call."

"No problem; never hesitate to call me if you need help."

"Thanks Peter, I really appreciate it. (3)I was beginning to worry as it's so late."

"Look, just stay in the car, keep warm, and I'll be there soon. I'm leaving right now."

Try iTalki now for live English practice with a native teacher.

Jan 17, 2017
A Vegan Option.

Vegetarianism is growing in the U.S at a dramatic rate. It is estimated that 16 million, out of the population of 320 million people, are now vegetarian, and the number is probably much higher as not all of them have been counted. Half of those vegetarians are vegans who eat no animal products whatsoever(1). This is an unusual, counter-culture trend(2) for this country, as so much  of the general culture's diet includes meat and animal products. As you probably know, there is a health crisis here in the States. Obesity, cancer, and diabetes are accepted as normal. Most of this stems from(3) a huge consumption of sugar and a stressed and sedentary lifestyle. However, there is also more information available to people, and many are taking control and making healthier choices. Even the schools are trying to reduce the amount of sugar that they serve the children, and are also including more vegetables in their lunches. There is much work to be done and a long way to go before the young generation experiences a healthy balance of exercise and diet. A type of vegetarianism that is being adopted particularly by women and young people is veganism. Studies have shown that vegans can expect much lower rates of cancer of all types compared to the general population. Veganism has also become fashionable which, I think, is a good thing, as it exposes young people to healthier options for a longer life. My oldest son, Hudson, has been a vegan for about eight months, and is now committed to his vegetable based diet. He says that he feels so much better. He used to have migraines and gastric problems, but they have completely stopped. He has lots of energy, and his skin is perfect! He has also become a good shopper! He will go to the supermarket and buy bags and bags of vegetables, beans, grains, and fruit. Then he will rush around the kitchen like a chef, chopping, mashing, and stirring, and produce colorful, healthy dishes. I tried his vegan burrito the other day, and I was totally surprised at how it tastes like a burrito but so much better. Instead of a flour tortilla, he used Swiss chard. Instead of meat he used spiced beans and onion; and instead of rice he used finely chopped cauliflower. It was like a revolution in thinking. My son's example certainly has me thinking about my diet. I could probably give up meat and milk, but giving up eggs and butter would be very difficult. Also, I love to bake, and how can you do that without those two ingredients? I'm not quite ready for that step.

1. 'Whatsoever' is emphatic after a negative and means ' at all'.

a. The newspaper made no mention whatsoever of the charity that made a generous gift to the homeless.

b. It will be no problem whatsoever to beat the other team.

c. The hospital didn't have clean water, bandages, medicine, or any other supplies whatsoever!

2. 'Trend' is like 'fashion' or 'temporary tendency'. We also use the word 'trendy' instead of 'fashionable'.

a. She likes to follow Japanese trends in fashion.

b. Economies change their trends every few years, it seems.

3. 'To stem from' is similar to 'to come from'. When observing plants, most of a plant comes from the stem, its base. It is supported by the stem and develops from it.

a. His problems stem from a lack of communication.

b. The regrowth of forests stems from regulation that protects them.

c. The growth in industry and jobs stems from a general cut in taxes.

Try iTalki for conversation practice!

Jan 13, 2017
An Awkward Phone Call.

In your country, do you have many telemarketers? You know, the people you don't know who call you on the phone and try to convince you to buy something. Well, in this country they are like a plague (no offense intended if you are one!). Most people I know will tell me of difficult experiences that they've had with telemarketers who are pushy, or over enthusiastic to the point of being bizarre. It must be a difficult job, I think, to approach a stranger by phone, often while he's at home, and to try and sell him something. I'm not a natural salesperson, and being pushy is not me at all. I don't think I would be very good at it. I have, however, had a lot of experience of awkward telephone conversations with telemarketers. As an English person, I try to be polite. That's not to say(1) that all English are polite. But in general, our society does train us to offer politeness on a daily basis to strangers and to people we know. I think it comes from a general desire to avoid conflict and to get along. So, when I first found myself talking to telemarketers, I would always give them plenty of time to talk, even if they were talking so fast that I couldn't understand them. I would ask questions, make friendly comments, and then really apologize if I didn't want to buy the product they were offering. In fact, my first experience led me to(2) buy two dozen light bulbs for some reason or other. I had recently got married and moved to this country, and certainly wasn't used to telemarketers. When my husband found out, he shook his head and asked me why we needed so many light bulbs, and couldn't we just buy them in the shop when we needed them? The word 'naive' comes to mind. Yes, I was young and very naive. Well, not anymore. I'm older and wiser. So, yesterday as I was getting ready for work, the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but I answered anyway. Immediately, a high-pitched, giggly voice of a lady presented itself, and with breathy(3) enthusiasm told me that I had won a vacation somewhere. She spoke very fast, so fast that I wasn't sure if her voice was a recording or not. She raced through a list of details and values of the vacation while I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror, with only half of my makeup on my face, wondering why I was wasting my time. Would I listen to her and then politely respond with, "Oh really?" or "That's a generous offer!" or even, "I'm so sorry, but at the moment I don't think that spending X amount of dollars is in my budget." No, politeness didn't even occur to me, instead, I felt a definite instinct for survival rise inside me. I touched the red, round button on my phone, and welcomed the following silence. Then I went to 'recent calls' on my phone and blocked her number. That was it, done; it was over. My thought had been translated into action which had brought relief and success. It was thrilling, like I had just robbed a bank and driven away in a  Lamborghini. I continued putting on my makeup, and found that I looked prettier than usual. Well, they say that success makes a person glow. I look forward to another opportunity of hitting that adorable, little, red button.

1. 'That's not to say..' is used to balance a previous comment.

a. When I go to London, I visit my friend Sarah. That's not to say that I go there frequently.

b. The French are known for their cuisine. That's not to say that all French people love cooking.

2. 'Led me to' begins with the past participle of the verb 'to lead', and the general sense is that something has influenced you or guided you to a course of action or thought.

a. The salesperson led me to believe that my vacuum cleaner was the worst on the planet, that I should have never bought it, and that I should buy a new one from him immediately. 

b. The professor's lecture led the student to feel confident and hopeful about the next day's exam.

3. 'Breathy' is an adjective used to give a sense of the sound and 'windiness' of the lady's voice. Many nouns can be made into this kind of adjective by simply adding a 'y', like 'scratchy'.

a. She was nervous when she gave her speech; she stammered and sounded breathy like she had been running.

b. He had had a cough for a week, and his voice sounded scratchy.

Jan 10, 2017
What have you never experienced?

The title question for this podcast might seem unusual. A more normal question would be, "What have you experienced?" My choice of words was inspired by a conversation that I had with a friend of mine from Bangladesh, Suman. He told me that because his country is warm and tropical, that he and his countrymen have no experience of snow. A friend of his now lives in Japan, and was able to describe to him how amazing and beautiful this white phenomenon is. Having never experienced(1) it before, it was a surprising and pleasant shock. I searched online to find out how many people, similarly, have never experienced snow. Well, I only came up with(2) a rough estimate, as nobody can be absolutely sure of the number. About 40% of the world's population has never seen snow in person. The areas that get no snow are equatorial South America and Africa, and the desert areas of the Middle East. This made me think of natural phenomena that I have never experienced. Coming from England, a green, cool country, I have never experienced a vast desert. This might seem funny to those of you who come from drier countries. And even though I have traveled fairly extensively, I have only seen the desert briefly in Arizona, and also the semi-arid La Mancha in Spain. I am not familiar with miles of sand. And how about you? Which kind of climate or phenomenon have you never experienced? Would you feel comfortable, for example, in a very green, rainy country, or is it more normal for you to see sand and sun? I wonder what it would feel like for an Eskimo who has never been around greenery to experience a tropical forest, or rolling, green hills full of sheep. It would take some time to get used to it, for sure(3). Another thing that I haven't experienced is the Aurora Borealis. I'm sure that the sky full of shifting colors would hypnotize me, and it would take a while to realize that it is real. Let me know which phenomenon you have never experienced but would like to.

1. 'Having never experienced it before,..' having + a past participle, is a great way to make a sentence interesting and different, as the main clause has to come afterwards. 

a. Having gone shopping, she came back with ten bags and a big smile on her face.

b. Having never scuba dived before, he was nervous but excited.

c. Having studied non-stop for eight hours, he ate dinner and went straight to bed.

2. 'To come up with' is another interesting use of 'up' in English that adds to an idiomatic phrase. In this case, the phrase means to produce, discover, or to come to a conclusion.

a. The investigators examined the room for hours, but only came up with one fingerprint.

b. We brainstormed about how to fix the problem. It was our youngest child who came up with the solution!

3. 'For sure' is a little add-on that we often use to just confirm what we have stated. It can also be said to agree with what someone else has just stated.

a. If we want to avoid the traffic, we'll have to leave early, for sure.

b. "If she keeps practicing, she will be a proficient driver in a few months."

  "For sure!" 

Jan 4, 2017
Sleeping Lady Skating.

"Anna, do you want to go cross country skiing in Leavenworth tomorrow?" was the text I received from my friend Nataliya on Sunday. I thought about it for a few minutes. The lazy part of my brain thought, "Oh, just stay at home. It's cold, and you only have one day left of vacation." However, the better part of my brain thought, "You must go. It'll be fun, you'll spend time with your friend, and who knows when you will have another opportunity like this?" So I texted back, "Yes!" As Leavenworth is only twenty five minutes away, it's really not a hassle to get there. I had my skis, poles, boots, and warm clothes ready in the car when Nataliya turned up at seven the next morning. It was still dark. The neighborhood was perfectly silent, and my outside Christmas lights twinkled against the snow on the trees. I felt as though I was escaping! We arrived at The Sleeping Lady resort and parked in the skiing area. The pathways and ski tracks had been freshly groomed(1). I brought my skate skis, and Nataliya brought her cross country skis. The only difference between them, that I can tell, is that you use a different method to propel yourself forward. My skis require a sideways/ forward motion, whereas cross country skis need a simple forward and backward motion. Nataliya is quite good at the sport, but I am a complete beginner. She was very gracious, as I stumbled and slipped along next to her, she would wait patiently for me to catch up. We chatted the whole way, and stopped every now and then to photograph the amazing scenery. It was thick with snow, as Leavenworth is more mountainous and certainly gets more feet of snow than Wenatchee does. As I warmed up, several skate skiers came whizzing past me with the look of triumph on their faces. They really knew how to move! I studied their movements as they disappeared into the distance, and I mimicked(2)what they did. And it worked. I found myself more relaxed and moving quickly. When we got back to the car I was actually sweaty. I had been working much harder than I had realized, but I was content, and looking forward to a big breakfast. We will go again on Friday. The forecast is between -12 and -9 degrees C, so the conditions should be perfectly(3) snowy and cold, with hopefully some sun.

1. 'groomed' describes how the snow had been combed neatly in preparation for the skiers. 'To groom' is used mainly in reference to people and also animals.

a. I've never been really into grooming myself. Some of my friends spend hours doing their hair and makeup, but not me!

b. For the dog show, the owners spent a long time grooming their animals.

2. 'To mimic' is to copy the actions or expressions of someone or something.

a. My father can mimic the call of a lion perfectly.

b. The rude students were mimicking the teacher's instructions and making fun of him.

c. Some birds can mimic the voices of humans.

3. 'Perfectly' is a very useful adverb.

a. He painted every line and shadow of her face perfectly.

b. The contract was carried out perfectly.

c. Our customers are perfectly content with our services.

*We even use 'perfectly' ironically.

d. When we went camping, it poured with rain the whole time. I was perfectly miserable.

 

Help with pronunciation and fluency from iTalki.

Jan 4, 2017
The Best Santa Ever?

Every year, at about this time, I start to put away the Christmas decorations little by little. The whole process usually takes me about two months. Yes, two months. Why? Well, it's because I deliberately(1) delay it. I don't like saying goodbye to the Christmas period, nor do I like going back to a plain looking house that's no longer full of color and sparkle. Once I actually left our plastic tree up until March which was, admittedly, ridiculous. The winters are long and quite dark, and I try to compensate for(2) that by having cheerful lights and decorations for as long as possible. Also, I'm full of nostalgia during the winter months and so I try to extend that feeling of winter wonder for as long as possible. So I was sorting through my Christmas photos at the kitchen table, deciding which ones I should use for my podcasts, when I came across one of a happy, fat man dressed in red. Yes, you guessed, it was Santa. He was one of the hundreds of thousands of hired Santas that you find all over the world, but there was something special about him. I came across him as I was hurrying out of Walmart, pushing a shopping cart full of stuff, and trying to get through the crowds of Christmas shoppers. Normally, I would briefly glance at the Santa 'employee' and continue on my way. However, I looked once, then again, and then I stared. He was the quintessential Santa, the type you find on the lid of a Christmas box of chocolates. He had the perfect, friendly, grandfather features, a long white beard, he was plump but not disgusting, and his smile was warm but not overpowering. (Some Santas can be a little intense and scary). So, I had to say something. When I see something this perfect, I just have(3) to comment. "You are the most Santa-like Santa I've ever seen!" I said to him. "Why thank you, young lady," he replied. And then he promptly positioned himself just right for a photograph. I giggled to myself, "He is a confident model as well!" I thanked him, and said goodbye, and he replied with a "Ho-ho-ho!" which was so perfect that I had to shake my head, and wonder if there is such a thing as a Santa training course. If there is, he is one of the 'A' students.

 1. 'Deliberately' means on purpose. It is very useful in conversation, so it is worth practicing the pronunciation as it is a long word. Pronounced: del-ibrut-ly.

a. He deliberately parked in the middle of two parking spaces. How greedy!

b. I deliberately bought twenty pounds of meat, so I could cook and freeze some of it, and give away the rest.

2. 'To compensate for (that/it)'.

a. The lunches at work are very stodgy, so I compensate for that by having salads for dinner.

b. Our neighbor travels for work and is away from home a lot, so he compensates for that by several,lovely, family vacations each year. 

3. 'I just have to comment' this is an example of emphasis on 'have'. This is common in English on all forms of the verb 'to have' especially after the word 'just'. It gives a sense of obligation, encouragement, or opinion.

a. When I saw the chocolate cake in the window of the bakery I just had to have a piece.

b. You just had to drive too quickly around the corner, didn't you, even though I told you not to?

c. If you visit London, you just have to visit St. Paul's Cathedral.

Dec 14, 2016
A Sudden Freeze.

Recently the landscape here turned into a winter wonderland(1). It snowed for two days in a row, and transformed the whole area into a white fairytale. During my coffee break, I walked out of the school and found that the sun was shining brightly while the snow was still falling. How was that possible? Everybody seemed happy. The school children were excited, and even the teachers were more lively than usual. It was quite magical. Well, that lasted for a day. Today was a different situation altogether(2). It was dull and freezing, -5 degrees C. And what made it worse was that the wind was blowing. Ouch that felt icy on my face! Later I noticed in town that some people were well prepared for the weather. They were bundled up in winter clothes, lots of woolens, and their heads, necks, and hands were wrapped up. Some people, however, had been caught out(3). They were the ones who were walking quickly with their heads down trying to avoid the wind. Their skinny jackets offered no protection against the cold, and their hands didn't come out of their pockets. The only creatures who were fully prepared for this weather were the hundreds of geese that have not yet flown south for the winter. They are still resting and feeding in the school fields, and already fat enough to stay warm. It's surprising how many of them are still in the fields; they seem to be everywhere. Their black and grey bodies contrast with the snow, and look like freckles on a white face. Any day they will fly away and make their journey to a warmer part of the country, leaving us to shiver for a few more months.

1. 'A winter wonderland' is a set phrase that we always use when describing a very snowy scene that seems to be perfect.

a. The boy ran into his parents room early in the morning, "Mum, dad! Look out of the window! It's a winter wonderland!"

b. The town of Leavenworth relies on the snow to turn it into a winter wonderland for the tourists.

2. 'A different situation altogether.' Here, the 'altogether'  emphasizes the meaning of the first part of the sentence, as I am trying to emphasize that the weather totally changed from one day to the next. It can be substituted by 'completely'.

a. Mix the sugar and butter until the sugar has dissolved altogether.

b. His answer was not altogether surprising.

3. 'To be caught out' can mean to be discovered, to be proven wrong, but when it comes to weather it simply means that you were unprepared and suffered the consequences.

a. I had not checked the weather that day, and so when the downpour started, I was completely caught out.

b. In the card game BS, the other players will try to catch you out. They will judge if you are saying the truth or not.

Nov 24, 2016
An Unknown Artist.

'Never judge a book by its cover' is a saying that we have in English that you can apply to so many areas. If you think about it, in order to judge a book, you have to open it and read it, not just look at the cover. If you make an assumption about the book based on what it looks like, your judgment is likely(1) to be wrong. I was guilty of this when I went to an estate sale. First of all, let me explain that an estate sale is different from a yard sale. It is the selling of the entire contents of a house because either the owner is going to move, or has died. There was one of these sales last weekend very close to my house. I was in two minds about going; there always seems to be something else that I could be doing. But, I felt like looking for treasure for a few minutes, so I went. As I approached the house my expectations lowered. It was a small, run down place that had peeling paint, a rotten carpet on the porch steps, and a dingy(2) garage which, though it was open, was as dark as a cave. I assumed that I wouldn't find anything of any worth there. I walked into the garage and the man, who was about my age, greeted me. He showed me some items that he called 'brand new' and others that he said had not even been taken out of their original box. He wasn't a good salesman. So as I ignored his attempts to get my attention, I wandered towards the back of the garage and came upon a table that was covered in art. When I say art, I'm actually talking about pottery. The whole table was covered in gorgeous, shapely pots of all different sizes and colors, some with lids, others with delicate, thin openings. "Those are my mom's," he said. "She's got a ton of them downstairs too. Help yourself." "Your mother made these?" I asked with a mixture of surprise and admiration. "Oh yeah," he said dismissively. "She's always been into her hobbies." I gathered three pots that I absolutely had to have, put them to one side, and went downstairs. Two dusty, concrete rooms were filled with pots, bowls, and vases. There were patinas that shimmered(3), paint that was crackled, and enamels that were dabbed and mixed and swirled like the colors at a geological site. As I went upstairs I bumped into a local art teacher who is herself a very good artist. "Hello Anna," she said as she held up one of the cream colored crackled pots that rounded perfectly up to an opening that looked like a small flower. "Oh, that's just beautiful," she said. And she was right. This dark, dingy place was full of beauty. A lady had been working away for years with care and thought about her craft. I took my treasures home, examined them, and realized that the artist hadn't put her name on them. The sale is over now; the lady has gone, and the house is empty. But I have three blue pots that shimmer and wink at me, as if to say, "You can expect good things even from dark places."

1. The use of 'likely'. In this podcast it is used in a similar way to 'will probably'. It is an adjective, but can be used in front of a verb.

a. Storms have closed the roads; he is likely to arrive late.

   Storms have close the roads; he will probably arrive late.

b. What is the likely outcome of the boxing match?

    What is the expected/ forecast/ probable outcome of the boxing match?

c. The government is likely to lower taxes next year.

    The government will probably lower taxes next year.

2. 'Dingy' is another word for dull and dark. It has negative connotations, implying that a place is old and worn out.

a. The man went down to a dingy room and handed over the suitcase of money to a man with a gun.

b. I could not buy that house; it is far too dingy and needs total renovation.

3. 'To shimmer' is a mild shine; it is similar to glimmer.

a. The sunshine shimmered on her silk dress.

b. The gold pot shone brightly, but the bronze pot shimmered.

italki for practice with native English teachers.

Nov 23, 2016
London, The Lovers' Statue.

On my recent trip to London, I met up with a dear friend of mine who I hadn't seen for at least three years, Sarah. We met in university and have been close ever since. Since she lives in London, and I was passing through on my way to Spain, we decided to meet up at King's Cross station and find a place to have dinner. The weather had turned really cold that day, and I wound my scarf around my neck to keep out the cold while I waited for her outside of the station. There were the usual London crowds of all sizes, shapes, colors, and humors which I love to be part of, so I lost myself in 'people watching'(1) when suddenly I heard a voice say, "Anna!" We threw our arms around each other and giggled like college girls again. It was so good to see her. She suggested that we eat in St. Pancras station. I had actually not been there since the big renovation 9 years ago. It is a massive place that is used by 50 million travelers each year. There is a lower floor that is filled with elegant shops and cafes, and then upstairs, looking like strong, young horses all in a row are the Eurostar trains, ready to gallop into Europe. We ate at a restaurant on the upper floor in the shadow of the Lover's Statue. Well, alright, it's not really called that; its real name is The Meeting Place, and it was created by Paul Day. It is a 20 ton, 30 ft bronze statue of a man and woman in an affectionate embrace, touching foreheads. Significantly, the artist is married to a French lady, and the sculpture reflects the two of them. Just as England has a port to France and the rest of Europe through train travel, so the two figures, each from a different country are connected. Paul Day said, "I wanted to create a statue that showed a meeting of minds as well as a physical connection." And I think, for me, that is the hope of international travel: to meet the minds of others. Sarah and I certainly made up for lost time(2). The poor waitress kept coming to our table to see if we were ready to order, "Just a few more minutes," we would say, and then continue talking. Three hours later we finished our meal, but we were not even half way through our conversation. It had been a perfect encounter: a dear friend who I hadn't seen for a long time, meaningful conversation, and a beautiful, cosmopolitan setting filled with art.

1. 'People watching' is self explanatory, and an activity that many people enjoy in busy areas.

a. I had a four hour layover at Los Angeles International, so I bought a coffee and people watched.

b. The very best people watchers are babies; they are so curious and fascinated by human activity.

2. 'To make up for lost time,' is a common expression used often when talking about conversing with someone you haven't seen for a long time, or getting work done that you have delayed for a long time.

a. She got out the sheet music from storage and played the piano, making up for a lot of lost time.

b. My cousin and I have been so busy for the past ten years, but at my aunt's wedding we talked for hours and made up for lost time.

 

Nov 7, 2016
Sue's Creative Cooking.

"I love to cook," said Sue as she passed me my plate. It was early evening, and the Scottish farmhouse kitchen was filled with delicious smells of fresh seafood with a hint(1) of spice. We were warm, tired, but content after a day spent walking on a hidden beach with the colors of Autumn looking over us from the adjacent forest. I was ready for this meal, and I knew that it would be good. What I hadn't expected was its presentation. "What?" I exclaimed as I saw the huge oyster shell stuffed with shrimp and mussels in a creamy sauce, with garden herbs and a flower on top. "Good grief, this is gormet," I commented, a little unsure of whether or not(2) I should actually eat it; it looked too pretty. Sue does love to cook, and every time I come and visit my father and step-mother, she quickly throws together flavors and textures of food that are satisfying, memorable, and as colorful as her oil paintings. "I always cook what I like," she said, emphasizing the "I". "And it's just as well(3) that your father likes what I cook," she smiled. "Dad, you're a lucky man," I said as I heaped shrimp onto a large piece of potato. Even the vegetable side dish was unusual: raw zucchini in thin curls, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Well, my plate was empty in only a few minutes. I resisted the temptation to eat my dad's baked creation: an Eve's pudding which is a dish of baked apple with vanilla cake on top. I'm trying to avoid dessert for health reasons, and because I have too much of a sweet tooth. It wasn't difficult though to resist this time, as I wanted to savor the flavors Sue's seafood work of art.

1. 'A hint' is like a little clue, or a small taste. It is also a verb.

a. I don't know what the answer is; give me a hint.

b. He hinted that there might be a wedding in a few months.

c. The dessert had a hint of sherry which gave it a small kick.

2. The position of 'whether or not' should be practiced as it is a very native-sounding expression.

a. He was trying to decide whether or not he should study abroad for a few months.

He was trying to decide whether he should study abroad for a few months or not.

b. She couldn't remember whether or not she had paid her phone bill.

She couldn't remember whether she'd paid her phone bill or not.

c. They discussed whether or not to invest.

They discussed whether to invest or not.

3. 'It's just as well' means 'it's a lucky thing that...'

a. It's just as well that you brought your umbrella because it's started pouring with rain!

b. It's just as well we caught a taxi. We would have never got to the train station on time by walking!

Oct 28, 2016
Do you tangle with Zen?

Have you ever wondered around Youtube, looking for inspiration? I did a few years ago, and I stumbled upon(1) an activity called Zentangle. It is an art form that really suits everybody. Let me explain. A 'tangle' is a pattern that doesn't have to look like anything in particular(2); it is a simple pattern, repeated over the paper. It's similar to 'doodling' which is when a person draws any random shapes, connected or not, as a way of relaxing. There are no expectations of drawing a particular object or scene, just shapes. Well, a Zentangle is a collection of several different patterns on a small paper (usually 3.5 inches squared). The 'Zen' part of this practice is that a person is completely free to choose the patterns, style, and combinations, and to simply enjoy the process. There is no stress involved, no expectations of artistry or perfection. In fact, it has been proven that tangling reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases focus and happiness. Amazing! It seems to work with the human brain in a similar way to yoga: relaxation, freedom from competition, and focus. It has actually surprised me how this kind of organized doodling improves my mood. A booklet called 'Beginning Zentangle' lists why it is so popular:

1. It is unplanned, so its results surprise you.

2. Without up or down - can be viewed and drawn from any orientation.

3. Abstract nonrepresentative art, a collection of patterns - not a drawing of something.

4. Can be drawn with either hand.

5. Small enough to be drawn in 15 minutes.

6. Portable.

7. Not limited by technology. All you need is a paper and a pencil or pen. (3)

So, if you think about it, you can tangle in most places in order to relax and enjoy the moment. I'm going to slip a pad of paper and some fine black pens into my handbag so I can tangle with Zen whenever I feel like it.

1. 'To stumble upon' means 'to come upon' or 'to find by chance'. The verb stumble means to trip (over), so the phrase implies that a person finds something by actually falling over it. What a great picture! We often use this phrase when we explain that we have found something interesting in a book or a newspaper.

a. In a medical journal, I stumbled upon a remedy for my skin problem.

b. In the park, we stumbled upon a hidden path that led to a cottage next to the river.

2. I use the word 'particular' twice in this podcast. Once as an adjective 'a particular object', and once in the phrase 'in particular. This can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, but is most commonly placed at the end. It singles out a noun as being special or focused on rather than others.

a. They loved to meet in cafes on Saturday mornings, in Cafe Mela in particular.

b. The theme of literature in schools in the month of October is Autumn, and Halloween in particular.

3. The list quoted from 'Beginning Zentangle' is written in incomplete sentences. This is fine to do when you are writing a list of basic information, or sharing facts; sometimes we will omit the verb or the article.

a. The advantages of exercising regularly:

1. Improves mood.

2. Speeds metabolism.

3. Less need to diet.

4. Body repairs itself more quickly.

b. Math class supply list:

1. Large eraser.

2. Packet of #2 pencils

3. Protractor and ruler.

4. No need to buy graph paper, - supplied by teacher.

 

Oct 20, 2016
Photos by the river.

The Riverfront Park is a great asset(1)that we enjoy in our community. It opened about the same year that I came to live here. It’s focus, as you can tell by the name, is the Columbia river. This wide and deep body of water starts in Canada, at the base of the Rocky Mountains. It travels about 1,200 miles, through to Washington State and Oregon and then it flows into the Pacific Ocean. So, Wenatchee is actually one of the many towns that it flows through. It is very pleasant to walk or bike next to the river, especially during the Autumn. Often in the morning, there is a slight mist rising from the surface of the water before the day heats up. The leaves on the deciduous trees have changed to yellow, orange, red, pink, or brown. You could say that it’s a perfect spot for photography. And that is probably why I received a phone call two weeks ago from the High School Photography teacher, asking if I could accompany a group of students to the Riverfront Park. Their field trip(2) was planned to encourage their photography of textures and colors. There are a few wooden buildings, benches, and winding(3) pathways in the park, as well as all the natural surroundings that you can take pictures of. I was there for the safety of the students, but as they were all mature and well behaved, I didn’t have much to do. I took some photos myself, and also observed what they were doing. Many of them got down on the ground to find the perfect angle of tree roots or a bench. There was also a lot of reflection on the water that was very bright and danced up the tree trunks, so the students took videos and pictures of that. They seemed to know exactly what to do. The teacher really only facilitated by adjusting camera settings every now and then. And I felt a bit like a spare part, but it was such a perfect day that I was glad to be in the park taking photos. This link shows a few more photos I took that day.
1. An ‘asset’ means a positive resource, a benefit, blessing, or beauty.
a. A helpful citizen is an asset to a community.
b. She has a million dollars in assets.
c. His greatest asset was his sharp mind.
2. ‘Field trip’ is another way of saying an outing that is organized by the school.
a. I will volunteer on the school field trip to the chocolate factory.
b. Museums are the perfect place for a field trip.
3. ‘Winding’ and ‘winding’. Ok 2 verbs that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. The most familiar is ‘to wind/ winding’ like the Beatles’ song ‘The Long and Winding Road’. It means to move in a snake-like manner, and also to tighten the main spring of a clock or watch so it functions. A very common British phrasal verb is ‘to wind up’ followed by another verb, meaning ‘to end up’ or ‘to irritate someone’. The meanings are quite different from each other.
The other verb ‘to wind’ simply means to physically cause someone to temporarily stop breathing by either kicking or punching them below the ribs. Let’s see examples of all of these:
a. I forgot to wind my clock, so my alarm didn’t go off in the morning.
b.That path winds through the forest and out to a main road.
c. It is so easy to wind him up; he gets angry so fast that it’s funny!

d. While we were practicing our Karate moves, I accidentally kicked my partner in the stomach and winded him!

Oct 3, 2016
Rules and expectations.

As I work in the schools in Wenatchee, I notice lots of things about the school culture. Each school here has its own mascot. Foothills Middle School, for example, has the Falcons. Any child who represents the school in any way, whether in sports, mathematics, art or anything else, is called a Falcon. Other mascots in the area are: The Wenatchee High School Panthers, the Eastmont Wild Cats, and the Pioneer Middle School Bears. Mascots help to create a sense of belonging to a group in each school. Another thing that helps children feel like they belong to a school is a set of guidelines, or rules. Recently, the school district has adopted(1) a framework of positive ideas about behavior at school. Each school uses this framework to make up its own expectations in the form of a mnemonic. An example from Foothills is:

S - solve problems

O - opt for excellence

A - always make good decisions

R - respect self, others, and environment

 So, I suppose, you could say that each school tries to establish the expectations of attitude. Then, in each classroom, guidelines of noise levels and steps in learning are also put on the walls and talked about. 'Restaurant voice' and 'spy talk' were two volume levels I saw the other day. The teacher uses these to describe how loudly the children can talk in a given situation. So while they are busy writing, they might have to use 'spy talk' or whisper, whereas(2), when they are working in groups they could use a 'restaurant voice'. These expectations are described and practiced at the beginning of the school year, and then referred to whenever necessary. I thought it was a very creative way of guiding the students to control the noise. Another element of this system of behavior management is capturing the imagination of the students by rewarding them for positive behavior. If a student has been particularly helpful, caring, or a good example in a class, the teacher can give him a blue note called a 'soar' ticket. The word 'soar' relates to the Falcon mascot. Two tickets can be traded in for a cookie which is handed out by the vice principal at lunchtime. Education has certainly changed since I was young. We had rules and expectations, but, as far as I can remember(3), there was no creativity involved, and certainly no cookies.

1. 'To adopt' is used in this podcast to mean 'to take on' when speaking about the 'framework'. So, ideas can be adopted, philosophies, behaviors, and, of course, people and animals.

a. The behavior management of schools used to be based on punishment. Now a more positive approach has been adopted.

b. We went to the animal shelter just to have a look. Of course, we ended up adopting two cats.

2. 'Whereas' is used in a similar way to 'but' to show contrast.

a. You would use this shoe in tap dance, whereas in jazz a completely different shoe must be worn.

b. The color black absorbs heat, whereas white reflects it. (borrowed from useinasentence.com).

3. 'As far as I can remember' is a wonderful way to inject some personality into a statement about remembering something. It can be used with short or long-term memories.

a. Did you put the hammer back in the toolbox?

    As far as I can remember, yes.

b. He was an honest man, as far as I can remember.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Sep 20, 2016
Yoga please!

Oh yoga, yoga, yoga! It's such a passion of mine. And I started doing yoga only recently. I have found it to be so beneficial in so many ways: it gets rid of my stress, it loosens my joints, and it strengthens me, but gently. Why didn't I start it years ago? I sometimes turn on Youtube and do yoga in my lounge. However, my favorite place to do yoga, so far, is the WRAC, which stands for Wenatchee Racket and Athletic Club. It's a friendly gym with a host of different classes, and very experienced teachers. You can do anything from tennis, squash, swimming, and aerobics, to yoga, dance, and tai chi(1). I love it. Sometimes I will use some exercise equipment like a treadmill for an aerobic exercise, and then I'll finish my session by lifting weights. My favorite activity though is yoga. Now, for a few weeks, there have been renovations taking place throughout the building. A whole new exercise equipment room has been built, and the construction continues. When I walked into the yoga room and chose my mat, blanket, and towel, the room was nice and quiet. I chatted quietly with some of the ladies while we waited for the session to begin. The teacher dimmed the lights, put on some very relaxing music, and we began the deep breathing exercises. I thought of nothing. All obligations and plans for the day were instantly forgotten as I focused on my breath.Quietly the teacher guided us to, "Let go" of the day and to relax. I did, well, for a while. I suddenly realized that next door there was an aerobics class. It sounded very serious, and it was getting louder. Michael Jackson was playing on their sound system 'Beat it' which didn't help much with my relaxation, and it drowned out (2)the Indian meditative music. "Make it burn!" yelled the aerobics teacher suddenly while his class was bang, bang, banging on the floor. "Breathe in your positive desires," said my yoga teacher, "and breathe out any stress and tension." My empty mind was unfortunately starting to jump around, going back and forth between the tranquility of my class, and the commotion and pain of the aerobics class. I tried to block it out(3) but because I know the lyrics of 'Beat it' by heart, I couldn't help but follow the words, 'it doesn't matter who's wrong or right, just beat it!'. I brought myself mentally back to yoga and tried to focus on the 'Downward dog' position with big belly breaths and a good stretch of the spine. "Hold it! Squeeze, harder! Don't stop 'till I say so!" was the next instruction yelled out by the aerobics teacher. I found myself holding my breath, but then I realized that I shouldn't. I was supposed to be doing 'Pigeon pose', stretching my hips and releasing any tension. This was beginning to be a mental challenge. A few seconds past and I heard, "Wow! Awesome, good job everyone!" and some hand clapping. "Oh good," I thought to myself, "the class must have finished." I settled into the last few poses, thinking that I wouldn't have any more distractions. This time I was in 'Happy baby': legs in the air, knees bent, holding on to my feet, and rolling my spine  from side to side. I was back in the zone, at last! The teacher turned the lights down even more, and turned the music up. It was time to cool down and lay quietly. "Imagine yourself leaving your body and floating up to the top of the building..." she was saying when suddenly, "Bang! Bang! Bang!" The construction men had moved in next door. I giggled. The teacher jokingly said, "Come in!"

1. 'Anything from .....to .....' demonstrates a variety available.

a. The clothes shop has everything from cheap shoes to Gucci hand bags.

b. The university offers everything from philosophy to engineering.

2. 'To drown out' is an expression we use that refers to one sound covering another.

a. My son's rap music drowned out my classical music.

b. Your loud talking is drowning out the film!

3. 'To block out' is similar to 'to drown out', but it's a mental effort to not hear, see, or think about something.

 a. I blocked out her negativity by being positive.

b. I raised my hand to block out the sun.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Sep 13, 2016
A Country Party.

The end of summer is one of the best times to have a party, especially if it's in the evening. The hot summer days give way to slightly cooler but long summer nights. You can linger(1) outside, barbecue, or even dance. And if you want to do what a friend of mine did, you can have a big country party. Kim and her boyfriend Casey both turned(2) 50 this year, so they decided to have a big 'bash'. They have a house with a large front garden where they usually ride a 4-wheeler for fun. They converted this place over a two week period into a cowboy-style venue for their celebration. Kim bought hay bales to put here and there for people to sit on. They built a dance floor out of apple pallets (which are strong, flat wooden boxes used in the apple industry). They strung lights all over the dance floor, the trees, and the fence. And then, they hired some caterers(3) to cook and serve a barbecue style meal, plus a birthday cake. The band they hired was actually very good; they played a lot of American rock and some country music too. The place gradually filled up with people wearing cowboy hats and boots, and there was lots of singing and beer drinking. There was even a trampoline! I took my daughter, Domini, as she is friends with Kim's daughter. They jumped on the trampoline and ran barefoot over the dance floor to the dessert table and back again. It was very casual. Even the smell of a nearby forest fire added to the atmosphere. "Anna, Domini's staying the night," Kim said to me, "and you should too! We could sit by the fire, drink wine and talk all night," she beamed at me enthusiastically. "Oh Kim, I turn into a pumpkin at midnight," I replied. This is one lady who both loves and needs her sleep! Before I knew it, it was midnight. I had really enjoyed myself, but it was time for this cinderella to pick up both of her shoes and go home.

1. 'To linger' is a fabulous verb which means to spend time in one spot because you choose to, or to be the last remaining ....

a. The sunset on the beach was stunning. We didn't want to leave, so we lingered and just took it all in.

b. The ceramic industry still lingers in the town, though most of the businesses have closed or moved to the bigger cities.

2. When it comes to having a birthday, we use the verb 'to turn' followed by the number of years.

a. Her baby turned one last week, and we were invited to the party.

b. When children in the U.S turn 16, it is legal for them to drive.

3. A 'caterer'/'catering company' is a person or company that is hired to make food for a special occasion. Another type of company that is used to help with the arrangements of a party is a 'rental company' which rents equipment or furniture.

a. The wedding planner advised us to hire a caterer, but I didn't realize how expensive it would be.

b. Robert's Rentals has all you need for your next big 'bash': tables, chairs, plates, cutlery, and even a chocolate fountain!

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Sep 5, 2016
WSU Vet Hospital.

Washington State University veterinary hospital is a place that is renowned throughout the state for being the best place to treat animals who have diseases. It is located in a small town called Pullman, in rolling, tree covered hills. All around it, however, are miles and miles of dry wheat fields, and so the town forms a kind of oasis. We went to Pullman two weeks ago because our rottweiler needed an operation. It was a first experience for me in many ways. First of all, I had no idea that Pullman was so famous, or that it was a three hour drive. Secondly, I am not used to having rottweilers. I love our dog, Chucho. He is well behaved and getting well trained. However, I was not prepared for his reaction to the hospital or the staff. We arrived at about 10:30, having left at 6am. Chucho didn't sleep all the way; he just panted, and wanted to put his head out of the window. He wasn't allowed to eat anything either, so by the time we arrived, he was obviously feeling anxious. He went in for a preliminary examination, before having an MRI. After only ten minutes, the veterinary student came back to me, looking a little out of breath, "We can't do anything with him; we can't even touch him, and he's really strong. Could you help us by holding him down?" When I went back into the examining room, I found him on guard, with a muzzle on his snout(1), and totally non-cooperative. The vet was surprised that she couldn't touch him. "He is a very intelligent dog," I said, "and you are a complete stranger who is trying to manipulate his body. Of course he is not cooperating!" I suggested that they put him to sleep and then examine him(2). She nodded in agreement. Well, we didn't see him for the rest of the day, or the following day. He had to spend the night and then have the operation the next day. When we finally picked him up, he looked like a real invalid; his front legs were shaved and he had a plastic cone around his neck. And he was on some serious medication! So Chucho is on the mend. Rottweilers are certainly not too much for the university hospital to handle. In fact, he is considered a 'small' animal. They have a part of the hospital reserved for large animals like horses and bears!

1. 'Snout' is the word we use for the nose and mouth of an animal, particularly of mammals like pigs or dogs, but others as well.

a. My dog buried his bone. He dug a hole with his front paws, and then covered the bone with soil using his snout.

b. At the farm, the pigs would stick their snouts through the bars of the fence.

2. The use of the subjunctive in English is quite simple. It is written like the indicative, especially after verbs like: advise, ask, command, demand, desire, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest, and urge.

a. I recommended that they stay the night instead of traveling in bad weather. I recommended that they should stay the night instead of traveling in bad weather.

b. The doctor insisted that she take the medicine until she feels better. The doctor insisted that she should take the medicine until she feels better.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

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