Thu, 24 April 2014
1. Peter: Hi Liz, hey great jacket.
2. Liz: Thanks Peter. It's new. What do you think? Does it suit me?
3. Peter: Yes, its the perfect color for you.
4. Liz: I decided that it's time for a new coat. My other clothes are for the winter, and I end up getting too hot, now that it is spring.
5. Peter: I know what you mean. The weather changes a lot; sometimes the wind is quite cold, and then the next thing you know, it's sunny.
6. Liz: Exactly. That's why I bought this jacket. It's a wind blocker, and it's light. I can have more layers of clothing underneath.
Peter: I didn't know you were so fashionable, Liz!
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Mon, 21 April 2014
On Saturday, I scrambled(1) to buy as much chocolate as I could. It had to be really good chocolate, Swiss. I had a project in mind(2), and I only had a few hours to finish it. I had decided to make an English style chocolate Easter egg for my children. Traditionally, in England, that is the gift that we give on Easter Sunday. The egg represents new life, and new hope; it's one of the main symbols of Easter. And you wouldn't believe the sizes of some of the chocolate eggs that you can find in the shops in the U.K. Over here, a very different tradition takes place. People boil eggs, and then color them. They will then hide them all over the garden, or in a park, and children have to find them. The Easter bunny is also a well-loved(3) Easter character, but really a commercial one. It has taken me a very long time to get used to boiled eggs instead of chocolate ones. Honestly, I still haven't got used to that. So, I set about(4) making the Easter egg. I unwrapped several bars of chocolate and a couple of bags of wrapped chocolate pieces. I put them all in a bowl, melted them over hot water, and then coated the inside of a plastic mold(5). I did this four times, each time putting(6) the egg in the fridge to make the chocolate hard. Everything went well, until I had to remove the chocolate egg from the plastic. I had to bang, and squeeze, tap and shake it. The bottom piece actually broke into several pieces; however, the large top part of the egg came out in one piece. I was so happy. Instead of an egg, it was more like a dome, but at least it had worked. The kids loved it. I aim to improve the technique, so next year I can make excellent Easter eggs. They're a sweet way to celebrate new life.
1. 'To scramble' has a few meanings. We scramble eggs when we beat them. A radio message can be 'scrambled' if it is mixed up. And finally, to scramble to do something means to rush or hurry.
a. We scrambled to pack our bags and get to the airport on time.
b. We scrambled to clean the house before the guests arrived.
2. 'To have something in mind' is to have a plan or an idea. Once the idea is expressed, the speaker can say ,"I have ....." in mind (to add further detail) or a listener can ask 'What do you have in mind?' to get further details.
a. I'd like to buy a book. I have a horror story in mind.
b. I plan on going on vacation.
Oh really, where?
I have somewhere exotic in mind.
a. Their pets are well-loved.
b. Those kids are well-loved by their grandparents.
4. 'To set about doing something' is to get on with, or to start doing a project. 'To set about' indicates that the project has several steps, needs equipment, ingredients, or stages, whereas 'to start' is very simple and can be used for 'one step' projects, like writing an essay.
a. I set about organizing all of my packets of seeds for my vegetable garden.
b. We set about painting the house; there was a lot to prepare.
5. 'Mold' is a growth of fungus, but it can also be a shape or frame that is used to create other similar shapes from different substances. Note that in England, both words are spelled 'mould'.
a. The plastic mold that I used for the Easter egg was too hard.
b. There is mold growing on the bread; throw it away.
6. 'I did this four times, each time putting the egg in the fridge.' The second part of this sentence (with the gerund) is a quick and fluid way of adding detail to a sentence. I could have said, 'I did this four times, and each time I put the egg in the fridge' which is correct, of course. But the first sentence flows better.
a. She vacuumed every room, each time making sure she got the corners really well.
b. He sent the invitations, writing each one by hand.
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Tue, 15 April 2014
There is a bird in my back garden that has a special meaning for me. Here they call it a dove; in England its name is a wood pigeon. It isn't spectacular to look at, in fact it's quite difficult to see because it is mainly grey. Its looks vary from country to country. Here it is totally light grey, whereas in England, it has a blue-green head, and some pink on its belly. Both, however, make a haunting(1) sound that takes me back to my childhood. As I grew up in a small, rural town, surrounded by farms and woods, I heard the call of the wood pigeon most of the year. I used to climb trees a lot, and sit and daydream(2) in them, so I became familiar with the sounds of all the different birds. The wood pigeon sounds like an owl; it hoots or coos(3) five times in a row. The sound is soothing(4). Now that I live in the country, after spending years in cities, I have found wood pigeons again, and it feels like I'm back, as a little girl, sitting in my tree daydreaming. They are a strong bird that eats a variety of things: young shoots(5), seedlings, pine nuts, worms and ants. They actually produce a thick milk, so their babies get fat quickly. They pair(6) for life, and each year both the mother and father sit on the eggs to keep them warm. The wood pigeons that live in cold, northern areas migrate, whereas those in warmer countries don't need to. I have two pairs in my garden who disappear in the winter, but return in early spring. They are always welcome here, my garden companions.
1. 'Haunting' comes from the verb 'to haunt'. Though the verb is related to ghosts, and their scary presence, the word haunting is used quite poetically and beautifully. A piece of music, a memory, or a sound can all be haunting. They leave a strong impression, an echo of some kind, often deep and emotional.
a. His words still haunt me.
b. Some of Mozart's music is haunting; I keep thinking about it.
2. 'To daydream' is simply to dream during the day.
a. Children need time to daydream; it's good to let their imaginations be free.
b. Sorry! I wasn't listening; I was daydreaming!
3. 'Hoot and coo'. Both are sounds. An owl hoots, other birds coo. Both sounds have the long 'oooo' in them. 'Coo' is often used to describe the noise that a happy, young baby makes when it is making an 'oo' sound.
a. I couldn't sleep. There was an owl on my roof hooting all night.
b. I love baby noises, especially the cooing.
4. 'Soothing' comes from the verb to soothe. It means to give relief, to ease pain or discomfort. It can be figurative as well.
a. The cold water on my hot forehead was very soothing.
b. After a stressful day, violin music can be very soothing.
5. 'Young shoots' refers to very new plants that are just emerging from the ground. Animals and birds like to eat these because they are sweet.
a. I will keep the pea shoots covered otherwise the birds will eat them.
b. I can tell its Spring; there are shoots all over the garden.
6. 'To pair' means to join together as a couple.
a. Pair (up) with a partner to practice the conversation.
b. Those monkeys pair for life; they stay with the same partner.
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Tue, 8 April 2014
Today, as I drove my oldest son to High School, we got stuck in traffic. The road where we were stuck isn't usually a busy one. It is a windy road that goes through a residential area. The people in the traffic jam were not adults going to work; they were highschoolers. Here in the U.S, most students who are 16 years old or older have cars. Often they work after school to pay for the gas and insurance, and perhaps also to make the monthly car payment(1). They spend a lot of time working, so they can afford to have a car. Of course, it's not necessary when there are buses; however, it's an expectation. As I sat in the traffic jam, I thought about how wasteful the situation is. If only half of the students had cars, a lot of people would save money and time. Two people could travel to school in each car, instead of just one per car. There could be a car pooling(2) system, so a car owner could receive a little money for giving other students a lift. That would help him to pay for the gas, and he might not need(3) to work after school, but focus on his homework instead. The first time that I heard about car pooling was years ago. My mother-in-law was driving me somewhere, and we drove past a sign that said 'Park and Pool'. "Oh," I said. "I didn't know that there was a park and a swimming pool there." My mother-in-law laughed loudly and said, "No Anna, that's where you park your car and then car pool to your next destination." I had never heard of car pooling. Soon, after that, I found myself carpooling with about 10 other people. We would park our cars in that parking lot, and then get on a van to go to Central Washington University. It was a very economical way to get there and back, much better than each person taking his or her own car. Car ownership(4) in this country is a huge part of the culture, an expectation. I think, though, that life would be much easier if more people car pooled.
1. 'The monthly car payment' is the payment made to the bank every month for ownership of a car.
a. Our monthly car payment is about $300 dollars.
b. They couldn't make their monthly car payment, so they sold the car and bought a smaller one.
2. 'To car pool'. The word 'pool' is often used in English to mean 'share'. So car pooling is basically sharing a car. Here are some examples:
a. The lost mountaineers pooled their resources, and found that they had enough to survive.
b. They pooled their ideas and came up with a great solution.
c. How about the four of us car pool, instead of driving four cars?
3. 'He might not need to' is a very native sounding phrase that introduces hypothesis.
a. If you work more hours during the week, you might not need to work at the weekend.
b. If you car pooled, you might not need to get an extra job.
4. 'Ownership' is the noun, like owner, that means that you possess something. It is the state of owning something. Let's see the examples.
a. House ownership is something that most people want.
(You could also say, 'Everybody wants to be the owner of a house/ everybody wants to own a house).
b. The company is focusing on land ownership because, at the moment, land is a good price.
Tue, 25 March 2014
On Sunday, we had a family picnic. It was one of the rare days(1) when the children didn't have any sports tournaments, and the weather was perfect. We quickly made plans to go down to a local river to spend a few hours. The river was quite high because it is early spring, and there is a lot of snow melting(2) in the mountains, filling the rivers and streams. We walked along the riverbank until we found a flat, beach area where we set up our chairs, food, and equipment. When I say equipment, I mean specifically our metal detector, and our gold panning (3)tools. There is gold in the Wenatchee Valley; a gold mine was quite profitable for many years. And now, you can find small deposits (4)here and there, especially in river banks. After we ate, we immediately started digging up the muddy sand, putting it in the sieve(5), and rinsing it in the river. As the fine mud washed away, small rocks and bits and pieces were left behind. It was so exciting whenever we would find a shiny, yellow flake(6). "This has to be gold," my kids would say. Each time they found a piece, they would put it in a small, glass vial(7) filled with water, and show it to my husband. "Nope, that's fool's gold," he said most of the time. Of course, they chose not to believe him. And they carried on gold panning as if their lives depended on it. Funnily enough, three groups of people walked past us, carrying serious gold panning equipment. So we realized that we were probably in the right place. So what is the difference between real gold and fool's gold? Well, they are chemically totally different. The symbol of gold is Au, and that of fool's gold is FeS2. One is a pure mineral, the other is iron pyrite. Gold is shiny yellow even in the shade, and has round edges, whereas iron pyrite is not as shiny, and has straight edges. You can often find gold and pyrite near eachother, so some of the flakes we found could be real gold. I have them now on a dark plate, and one or two of them look like they could be the real thing. I have a feeling that we will be visiting that riverbank more in the future.
1. 'One of the rare days'
a. It was one of the rare days that there wasn't any rain.
b. It is a rare occasion when he gives a speech.
2. 'Snow melting/ snow melt'.
a. The trees will be watered by the snow melt.
b. You can see the snow melting in the sun.
3. 'Gold panning'.
a. We went gold panning, and found a few flakes.
b. Gold panning is a verb and also the noun; just like 'cooking'.
4. 'A deposit'.
a. The minerals get deposited/ deposit themselves on riverbank.
b. I went to the bank and made a deposit.
a. You always need a sieve when gold panning.
b. I need to sieve the flour to get the lumps out.
a. You can use 'flake' for many things, like snow flake, potato flake, a flake of gold, a flake of paint. It is also a verb.
b. Fleck is used specifically to talk about a tiny, thin piece of gold.
7. 'A glass vial'.
a. Glass vials are small, long, glass containers used to collect samples.
b. We put our gold flecks in a glass vial.
Tue, 18 March 2014
At this time of year, the schools have tests of all kinds for the children. Reading and writing tests, math skills tests, and tomorrow, there will be hearing and vision tests for the whole school. If you think about it, the two last mentioned tests are fundamental; if a child cannot hear or see properly, he will have a very hard time in school. My youngest son had a vision test today with an eye specialist. He had had a reading test the other day that raised a few questions about his eyes. His eyes are very sensitive to the white and black contrast of the print and the paper. It was found that when a blue plastic sheet was put on top of a text, then he could see the words clearly and read properly. This is considered a syndrome of the eye called Scotopic Sensitivity. I had never heard of it. It is a newly found syndrome, apparently. It is so new that some eye specialists don't take it seriously. Well, I bought some blue plastic to help my son read without getting frustrated, and I also made an appointment for a thorough eye test. We arrived at the clinic, where my son was first tested by a nurse. She asked me questions, put drops in Robert's eyes to dilate(2) them, and then left us in a room full of fascinating eye equipment. Robert and I both looked around and wondered how the doctor was going to use the devices(1) that were hanging here and there. Finally, the doctor came in and immediately started testing Robert's eyes. He put one metal device up to Robert's face and asked him to look into it and to tell him what he could see. He did the same with another larger piece of equipment, and wrote down a few things while Robert was talking. It turns out that his eyes are fine, but he is a little far-sighted(3). We become more near-sighted as we mature, so reading isn't such a strain. He gave us the option of Robert having glasses for school, until his near-sightedness develops. Thank goodness there is no real problem with his eyes. It's definitely worth having a test so you know what your options are.
Related vocabulary: A device, near/far-sighted, to dilate, parts of the eye: pupil, iris, white, bags, eye lids, eye lashes.
1. A device can be a tool, or a piece of equipment.
2. I have no problem seeing far away because I am far-sighted.
3. The nurse put drops in his eyes to dilate them; his pupils got really big, and they were very sensitive to light for a few hours after that.
4. The fascinating eye has many parts. The pupil is the black center of the eye which regulates the light going into the eye. The pretty colored circle is the iris. This is surrounded by a white area which we just call ‘the white of the eye’ in English. The eye is protected by the two eye lids. The row of hairs on each eye lid is called ‘the eye lashes’ which also protect the eye. And if you don’t sleep enough, you might get ‘bags’ under the eyes which are also called dark circles, even though they are actually semi-circles.
Mon, 10 March 2014
Primulas are one of the first spring flowers to appear in this area. I was thrilled to see them this morning. Most people I know are excited about the spring, and hoping that the snow will not come back, and that the cold conditions will wait for next Winter. It seems miraculous and surprising when you spot a flower in an area where there are still dead leaves from the previous autumn, and when there are patches of ice still around. So, how is it that plants know when to grow? The science behind it is interesting. During the autumn, a hormone that brings on dormancy(1) builds up(2) in the plant. It makes the plant ‘sleep’ during the coldest months, so the plant is protected from winter damage. The cold of the winter slowly destroys this hormone, and produces a growth hormone which builds up in the plant. Trees and bushes store food in their roots. The warmer temperatures of spring help this food to flow up to the buds. But what about light? We all know that it is essential(3) for plant growth. You could say that plants have an internal clock. They have genes that tell them when they are exposed to the light or to the dark. Proteins are activated by light, specifically red light which is found in full sun light. So the plant produces these during the day, and the process is turned off when the red light stops. That’s why, if you look at a fast growing plant in the morning, and then again in the evening, sometimes you can see that it has grown. We are similar to plants, not by the way we grow, but by mental activity and feelings. When we are in the sun, our brain produces serotonin which makes us feel happy and energetic. Also, our skin produces vitamin D which protects us from some cancers, and maintains serotonin. As the light fades, our brains produce melatonin which starts our sleep cycle. So, now that there is more daylight, our bodies are ready to get active, just like plants. We have been sleepy all winter long; it’s time for some light, and some growth.
1. a. It is best to transplant trees when they are dormant.
b. The volcano is dormant; it hasn’t been active for 100 years.
2. a. There was a build up of rubbish in the river, so the council cleaned it.
b. I could feel that the tension in the room was building up, so I left.
3. a. Clean water and good food are essential for basic health.
b. It’s essential that you listen to him.
Thu, 6 March 2014
It has been some time since we had an episode of A Tour of Homes, so today we will take a close look at the dining room. It, like the kitchen and lounge, is a focal point of family life. A lot of good things happen here, and it is a place where we celebrate special occasions. This room centers around a table and chairs. Here in Western society, there are often more than four chairs around a table. When there is a special occasion, often friends and family come to celebrate, so more chairs are needed. The table is 'laid' (what we say in England), or 'set' (which is what we say in the U.S.) To do this, we need cutlery, crockery, glasses, sometimes a table cloth or a 'runner' which is a much skinnier version of a table cloth, and a salt and pepper shaker, and perhaps some candles. Don't forget serviettes, or napkins as they call them here in the U.S. For special times, the table can be decorated with candles, flowers, or some craft type arrangement. Here in the North West, it is very popular to mix candles in some pretty arrangement for the table, especially during the Winter. I have seen some center pieces that are a mix of flowers, pebbles, plastic fruit, and candles. But it's up to the imagination of the owner. Anything goes. Other furniture in the room includes dressers to store crockery and cutlery, wine glasses, and wine bottles. Often a dining room is decorated with art work of different forms, pretty curtains, perhaps a rug, and often a chandelier or other light fixture that has more than the average amount of detail. We use our dining room for family meals often during the week, even though sometimes we will eat at different times depending on our schedules. The special occasions are: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Birthdays. These are the times that I really dress the place up, get out the nice plates and glasses, and make the effort of ironing a table cloth. Even though the way of life in the U.S. is crazy busy, the dining room still can be a place of togetherness and relaxation.
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Tue, 4 March 2014
Recently, we gave our dog, Foxy, to another family. It was a difficult decision, but a necessary one. She is a working dog, very intelligent and very active, and she needs a job. The family that has adopted her has other dogs of her breed, a lot of land, and horses. She is in a much better situation, and is able to run over acres and acres every day. Now, my other dog, Rosie, has become more of a spoiled house dog. She has a very different personality, and it seems, her instincts are focused on eating, sleeping, and being petted. Leave the exercise to the athletes! Her life has also changed for the better, but now she has a different challenge: the cat. Lilly, my miniature tiger, owns the house, or at least she thinks she does. She and Rosie don't tolerate each other; they have different ideologies. But, are they really natural enemies? Research will tell you how similar they are: they both walk on four legs, they are carnivores, they have super senses of smell and hearing, and they are both very territorial. It's this last point that apparently makes the difference. Both species compete with each other for territory and food. Add to that the attitude of a dog to its owners: it is protective. It might see a cat as a threat to its human family. Cats, on the other hand, see dogs as a threat to their lives; dogs will hunt and eat anything small and furry. Plus, cats are independent, not a group animal like dogs. Of course, all of this isn't a rule. Some domestic cats and dogs get on really well, especially if they have been raised together. It must be a question of getting used to eachother. Over time, my animals are. I'm training Rosie to not bark when she sees the cat. Now, they are able to be in the same room without a war starting. Hey, that's progress. I read that there are some tricks you can use to make them like each other. If you feed the their favorite food when they are quite close to each other, they will transfer the good feelings of eating to their relationship. They will even get used to each other's smell. I wonder if anyone could try this on the Republicans and the Democrats; they might learn to control their barks, and to tolerate each other's smells. However, unlike cats and dogs, I don't think that sharing territory will ever be possible.
1.a.The little girl asked if she could pet the lady's dog.
b. Cats don't like to be petted very much.
2.a This breed of dog is good for working on a farm.
b. If you want a relaxed dog, choose the breed carefully.
3.a He took the man's words as a threat.
b. They received threats in the mail!
Thu, 27 February 2014
"Mum, I want to make a volcano," said my son Cass on Sunday morning. "You know, the kind that we can make out of paper," he added. That is an unusual request for a Sunday morning. Papier mache is what he was talking about. I remember making heads and masks out of papier mache in school. We would blow up balloons, and then cover them with a mixture of torn up newspapers, flour, and water, and then leave them to dry for a couple of days. Then, the balloons would be popped and removed, and we would paint and decorate the project. Sounds like fun. This would be a bit more special because, in its center, we would put a plastic container, into which vinegar and baking soda could be poured, in order to get the bubbling, lava-like reaction. We sat and brainstormed for a while: what its base would be, did we have enough newspaper, how to make the lava realistic, could we put model villages at the base of the volcano, etc etc. Our imaginations took off. After we came to a consensus, we made the preparations. We covered the dining room table with newspaper, mixed the glue, tore up lots of pieces of newspaper, and decided who would do what. Oh, it was so messy! The flour water mixture was wet and gooey, and I had to really supervise my kids who unintentionally would flick the goo from their fingers, and it would go all over the place. Slowly, slowly, the volcano took shape. It even has a lake on one of its slopes. It is drying at the moment in the garage, soon to be painted, varnished, and made more real. Some people I know are quite anxious to see the lava flow, and the warring villagers fight.
Practice of the past continuous with related vocabulary: gooey, warring, to brainstorm, to tear.
1. When I was little, my brother and I would make gooey mud pies in the garden by mixing soil and water.
2. The warring island nations would stop fighting for a few years, and then start all over again.
3. Our high school English teacher would make us brainstorm in groups, in order to get lots of ideas for stories.
4. Oops! I have torn a page in my book. I used to do that deliberately when I was a toddler.
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