August 2014
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The most delicious smell filled the house yesterday. My son, Cass had made bread. He has made it successfully many times, and I have had to go to the supermarket on many occasions just to get more flour. Of course, when he first started making bread, there were a few disasters. It took a while(1) to teach him to clean up after cooking, and to use the right ingredients and the right method of cooking and baking. However, with practice he has become an expert, and we all look forward to sampling(2) his baked goods. There was something extra special about yesterday's bread though. Cass had actually(3) grown the wheat, harvested it, and made it into flour for the bread. He's a purist, and like me, an avid gardener. He planted the wheat in the autumn, and waited patiently for it to grow. So far this summer, he has been checking it every day. When he saw that it was ready to harvest, he cut it all down, threshed it, and put the grain in a large bag. We have a grinding machine which he used to crush the grain into flour. So he went through the process from the very beginning to the end. He even cleaned the kitchen! It was a labor of love. 

1. 'A while', 'it took a while'. These phrases are commonly used in the same way as 'some time'. It's very non-specific, and good usage.

a. It'll take you a while to get used to those high heels.

b. It took me a while to learn French, several years actually.

c. He has been going to the gym for a while, ten years I think!

2. 'To sample' is to have a little bit of a larger item, often food. However, it can also be non-edible items like perfume, detergent, creams. The verb and noun are also used in science, when tiny pieces of substances are taken to be examined.

a. I sampled some unusual cheeses in the deli.

b. The sunscreen company sent me a sample in the mail.

c. The biologists took samples of the pond water and later examined them in the laboratory.

3. The use of 'actually'. It's a fabulous and common word. Here it's used as emphasis. We do this by putting it in front of the verb.

a. I couldn't believe that the two-year-old actually read the novel!

b. Everyone thought they would lose, but they actually won the race.

c. His friends were supposed to help him, but he actually did all the work himself.

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Direct download: Purist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:08 PM

Peter: Hi Liz, are you just about ready?

Liz: Yep. Thanks again for giving me a ride. I appreciate all your help.

Peter: Oh, don't mention it. Anything for my friends!

Liz: You're so sweet.

Peter: So, your dad will pick you up at the train station?

Liz: Yes. She'll be in her aerobics class, so she won't know that I'm arriving. We'll pick up three more people, plus the birthday cake, and get back to the house before she comes home. Everyone else will be waiting there.

Peter: Oh, I love surprise parties.

Liz: Me too!

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Direct download: basic_34.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:28 PM

I laughed when I saw the cartoon scene from this podcast, of a boy talking to his teacher, and giving a very weak excuse as to(1) why he hadn't done his homework. I remember telling a similar tale(2) to the principal of my elementary school. However, all those years ago, we didn't have computers, and we certainly had never heard of technology viruses. I told him that my mother had burned my homework. "She burned it?" he exclaimed, looking at me with judging eyes. Of course, he knew that I was lying, and I knew that he knew. Why did I even try to lie to my principal? I suppose I was scared of his anger; I didn't expect him to be ok with me not doing(3) the homework. Plus it's always easy to blame your mother when she's not around. I come across similar situations with my children, "Robert, why didn't you clean up your mess?" An answer to that is often, "Domini didn't clean up hers either." In English we call it 'pointing the finger'. We mention someone else's fault to make ourselves look better, and feel less guilty. Nowadays, of course, we are not limited to blaming our mothers, brothers and sisters, or our family pets  (children are known to say that the dog ate the homework). We can now add computers, printers, and viruses to the list.

1. The use of 'as to' in the first sentence. It's a little bit old fashioned, but still sounds good in sentences that we are trying to stretch out, or lengthen. It means the same as 'regarding' or 'concerning'. It also sounds less formal than 'regarding' or 'concerning' and that is often why it is used.

a. I'd like to hear an explanation from you as to why you fired Jim and then hired Bob.

b. I understand the project, but I don't have a clue as to how it will be financed.

2. 'Tale' means a story. It is often used as a kind way of saying 'a lie'.

a. I don't believe what she was saying; I think she was telling a little tale.

b. The fishermen always tell tales about the giant fish that escaped from the net.

3. 'To be ok with something' means that a person is comfortable or agrees with a situation.

a. Are you ok with me coming to your house at 10pm?

b. I'm not ok with this situation; it makes me feel uncomfortable.

c. I can't believe that you're ok with your noisy neighbors.

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Direct download: excuses_sound.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05 PM

While substitute teaching in a local school for an art teacher, I came across junk art. I had heard of it(1), but I had never really looked into it. Actually, elementary school art often involves items that are for recycling, like boxes, bottles, or packages. However, there is a difference  between using recycled objects for art projects, and junk art. In junk art, the object used is not disguised by colors, shapes, or textures. Pablo Picasso was the first well-known artist to include junk in one of his pictures, in fact, he stuck a piece of a chair onto a painting. Later, junk art was practiced and perfected by(2) Marcel Duchamp. As I looked around the art room where I was teaching, a red glow caught my eye. The color was coming from(3) a string of fairy lights that had been placed inside empty, red cartridges that had been used in a shot gun. Usually, these are just thrown away. However, someone must have had the idea of saving them for a creative reason. I think that the idea of using shot gun cartridges as a string of lights is delightful. Its use in art is so different from its original intention; it's a great contrast.

1. 'I had heard of it' and its variations can be used in conversation to increase the impression of your fluency.

a. I had heard of him, but I had never met him.

b. I had heard of the book, but I had never read it.

c. We had heard of them, but we had never met them.

2. To have something 'perfected by' a person.

a. My grandmother created the recipe, and my mother perfected it.

b. He came up with the idea, but you perfected it.

3. '....was coming from...' is used in this podcast to add a bit of description to the text, and is good to use in conversation.

a. The noise was coming from next door; I don't know what was going on.

b. There's a strange smell in the garage; it's coming from one of the storage boxes.

c. What beautiful music! Where is it coming from?

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Direct download: junk_art_sound.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29 PM

Our recent camping trip turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. My family and I drove up to a remote forest area near Lake Chelan. There were no houses nearby, and only a few signs of human life(1). We set up our campsite next to a dirt path, overlooking a spectacular view of some distant mountains. It is very dry this time of year, but there are enough trees to offer some welcome shade(2). We rode our dirt bikes, built a campfire, the boys did some target practice with their BB guns, and we generally relaxed and explored. Some friends also joined us, one of whom is a hunter, and a bit of an animal expert. When he arrived, before he even said, "Hello," he presented us with a snake that he had just found on the property. "It's a kind of Boa," he explained. We all leaned forward to have a better look. It was small and green, and seemed to be a very gentle creature. It doesn't eat, bite, or sting humans, so I was quite happy to hold it. My daughter, who is an animal lover, borrowed it for quite a few hours. It curled around her hands, wrists, shoulders, and even her neck. I think it appreciated her warmth(3). The snake is now in a very nice terrarium back at the house where it is being thoroughly spoiled, and is growing longer and fatter.


1. 'Only a few signs of human life,' shows how remote the place was where we were camping. ' A sign of/ a few signs of' is an effective way of expressing the lack of impact of humans. It can also be used with many other subjects. It is similar to using the expression 'traces of'.

a. As we walked through the forest, we could only see a few signs of the fire that had happened five years ago. 

b. There were signs of animal activity in our garden: bear tracks and claw marks on the trees!

2. 'Welcome' is used as an adjective in the context of something being  appreciated, a help, or a relief.

a. At the end of my marathon, I was offered some cold water. It was truly a welcome drink.

b. The old men meet at the coffee shop where they have a welcome conversation.

3. The verb 'to appreciate' can be added into conversation easily and effectively to show fluency.

a. Thanks for helping me with the paperwork; I really appreciate it!

b. I appreciate how you listen so well.

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Direct download: Snake_in_hand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:54 PM

For the past five weeks, I've been working on a very exciting project. It is something that I've wanted to do for years and years, but have not got around to doing it.(1) I have written my first ebook. It's called 'The Golden Whisper', and is free for one month at The book is for older children or young adults, and is a silly, funny story about a substitute teacher who gets involved in an adventure when she goes to work at a certain school. The story actually came to me(2) when I was substitute teaching in a local elementary school here in Wenatchee. The language level is perfect for English language learners, as it is not too complicated. The process of writing the book, formatting it for online reading, and finding an artist for the front cover, was long and exhausting. However, I'm so happy that it's finished and available to anyone. My family was surprised when I told them about it. My husband said, "That explains why you haven't been doing much housework recently." Yes, the laundry has certainly been piling up.(3) Well, the laundry can wait. This was more important. I hope that if you find the time to download it and read it (it's quite short) that you can do me the favor of leaving a comment on I love hearing from my listeners, but it would also be great to hear from you as my reading audience. 

1. 'To get around to doing something' means to eventually find the motivation or opportunity to do something.

a. I'll get around to paying the bills this afternoon.

b. I did get around to washing the car when everyone left.

2. 'The story came to me' we use the verb 'to come' + 'to' + a person, referring to an idea or inspiration of some kind being received, as if it had approached that person.

a. The idea of building a holiday cottage came to me when I was on the beach.

b. The story came to me while I was on the train.

3. 'To pile up' is to place layer after layer of items in one area. We often talk about unpleasant things piling up.

a. The bills are piling up; it's so depressing.

b. The dirty dishes have piled up; someone needs to do the washing up!


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Direct download: First_ebook.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:51 PM

Do you find waiting frustrating at times? I do, especially when I'm waiting for someone else to complete their work, so that a project can be finished. Waiting for emails, paperwork, for someone to make his or her(1) mind up, or waiting for a telephone call, can all be exasperating(2). When I think about it, I realize that I always have a project going on. It's either one thing or another. I love projects; I love having an idea, doing some work, and seeing that idea become a reality. In my garden, it's simple. It's all up to me. I get the idea, I plan, I work, and I finish. However, when other people are involved, it's not that simple. Immigration papers are a perfect example. When I was trying to get my mother's immigration papers for the U.S approved, it was as painful as pulling teeth out. We had to wait. We had to make phone calls. We had to fill out more papers. And we had to wait again, for months and months. I can't complain, because, in the end she got her green card. The project was worth the wait(3). Well, I've just been informed of another project that was worth the wait: my Android app is finally ready. I have been emailing my host company, asking for the release date. They have been patient with me, but it has been really hard to wait, especially considering that many of my listeners have Android devices. Well, it's out; it's here, and I'm relieved. There's no more waiting; just click and enjoy.

1. 'Someone ...his or her'. The objects that follow 'someone' can vary in English. Even though 'someone' is like saying 'a person' and is therefore singular, we do cheat and sometimes use the possessive object 'their' afterwards, especially in speech. In the second sentence of the podcast I say: '...especially when I'm waiting for someone to complete their work..' Later I say, 'waiting for someone to make up his or her mind' which shows the word 'someone' as singular. Of course, the second example is the correct one, but using 'their' after someone is very common and accepted.

a. Someone needs to move their car; it's blocking the exit.

b. Someone left their muddy shoes on the carpet!

2. 'Exasperating' is one of my favorite words. It means that something is annoying, frustrating, and exhausting. It even sounds like its meaning.

a. Waiting in line in Disney Land in the middle of summer can be exasperating.

b. The argument that I had with my neighbor was exasperating; we didn't agree at all, and she didn't make any sense.

3. 'Worth the wait'  is the same as saying 'worth waiting for'.

a. The app for Android was worth the wait.

b. My mother's cooking is great, even if it takes a long time for a meal to be ready; it's worth the wait.

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Direct download: Android.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:22 PM

If you can see the photo of the bee that I recently took in my garden, you will see that it is right in the middle of a big flower. It is sitting on its target(1), working to get the pollen and the nectar. Bees are determined(2) little creatures that always make me feel lazy when I compare myself to them. I assumed that there were a few different kinds of bees, but I had no idea that there are 20,000 different kinds. Some live in communities, and some live alone. Some produce honey by gathering nectar and pollen, and others spend their time stealing those two things, instead of getting their own. We get honey and beeswax from them, but, more importantly, they are the pollinators of the world. They actually have an electrostatic charge(3), which makes pollen stick to their furry bodies, so, as they go from flower to flower, they pollinate without even realising. As well as a furry body, they have a long proboscis which is like a tongue, and two pairs of wings.  Not all bees sting. The honey bee will only do so if it is threatened, and the worker honey bee actually dies if it stings.  Throughout history, the bee has been a symbol of industry and hard work. Some industrious(4) cities, such as Manchester in England, have adopted the bee as its city symbol. I have taught my children to never kill any bee; they are too valuable. Plus, for quite a few years they have been under threat due to loss of habitat, parasites, and pesticides. So, when we hear a "buzz, buzz", we shouldn't be scared, we should actually be pleased that a bee is near.

1. A 'target' is a point that is aimed at.

a. The hunter practiced shooting targets before he went hunting.

b. The advertisers of diapers target mothers.

2. 'Determined' is an adjective that describes a eprson as being focused and single minded.

a. That dog is determined to catch the cat; he won't give up until he does.

b. He was determined to win the marathon, so he trained for two years.

3. 'Electrostatic'. Here we can see 'electro' from 'electricity', and 'static'. We don't often use them together.

a. If you rub a balloon on your head, your hair will stick up with static electricity.

b. An electrostatic charge is an electric charge that doesn't move, or does so very slowly.

4. Industrious is a great word. You can see that it comes from the noun 'industry'. It can describe a person, and animal, a factory, a city, or even a country.

a. Manchester is known as being an industrious city because of its history of production and invention.

b. China is an industrious nation, determined and industrious.

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Direct download: Brilliant_Bees.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:49 PM

Have you ever seen a diamond made up of circles? Or a mosaic(1) made up(2) of straight lines? Art that is based on geometric shapes can be fascinating. In Seatac airport near Seattle, I discovered a picture that uses only geometric shapes. It actually wasn't a painting; it was a panel of lights, each one having a color and shape in front. The main shape was a diamond or a rhombus, made up of multiple lines. Each line was a different color, and made up of many circles. The combination of colors was very striking. But what I liked more than that was its imperfection. The lines were not perfectly straight. The circles had tiny shapes inside of them, sometimes triangles, sometimes stars, but these were irregular. The art work reminded me of a picture I have at home by an artist called Paul Klee. It's called Cityscape, and is made up of squares, rectangles, triangles, parallelograms(3), trapezoids(4), and one large circle, representing the sun. I don't know why I find the combination of shapes to be so beautiful; but it is. And again, the artist makes each shape irregular in color and form. They are more like shapes that you find in nature, soft, not so sharp. Well, waiting for my mother's plane to arrive was not boring at all, because I had this fascinating panel to stare at, and was very happy to do so.

1. A mosaic is a picture or pattern made by putting together tiny pieces of colored material.

a. The mosaic in the public spa is from the Roman era.

b. The students were making mosaics out of glass squares in their art class.

2. 'To be made up of' is the same as saying 'consists of', but the former is better to use when talking about something that has been fashioned like a piece of art. 

a. The floor mosaic is made up of tile and glass.

b. Our reading club is made up of people from all over the world.

3. A parallelogram has four sides, with two sets of completely parallel lines. 

a. A square is a kind of parallelogram.

b. If you think about it, a diamond is a rhombus, and a rhombus is a parallelogram.

4. A trapezoid has four sides, but only one pair of parallel lines.

a. I love that modern table design; it's a trapezoid which is unusual for a table.

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Direct download: Mosaics.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:26 PM

I have been in and out of the sporting goods store recently, as my children are all involved in sports. I had to get some soccer shoes for my daughter, and some shin pads(1), so we made another visit to the place. I don't particularly like to shop; I have to do it more than I would like to(2). My daughter, however, adores shopping. It's always a problem taking her to any clothes shop, as she sees many things that she loves and wants to have. I usually move around the shop as fast as I can, buy what I need, and leave, before she can fall in love with trousers, t-shirts, shoes, and hats. "What's the rush, mum?" she'll ask me. "I just have a lot to do at home, darling," will be my reply, as I drag(3) her out of the shop. When we went to get her shoes, though, I took my time, gazing(4) at the latest Nike soccer shoes. They were so attractive and impressive. Bright colors are in fashion now, on the soccer field, so I had to photograph a row of beautiful Nike shoes. The company has a knack for design; they've been in business since the '60's, and have grown to become a Fortune 500 company. Most highschoolers here in Wenatchee wear Nike everything to school; it gets expensive for the parents, but it's great for the shops that sell the clothes. Professional basketball, advertising, and music videos totally influence teenagers to buy Nike; it's a huge business. I must admit, that the clothes are good quality, and last quite a while. My oldest son, thankfully, is beginning to experiment with other clothes, less well-known brands, and is enjoying being more of an individual in the way he dresses. Thankfully that stage is over, but I can understand why teenagers find it hard to give up their Nike addiction.

1. 'Shin pads' are pads that protect the front part of your leg, in between your ankle and your knee. Your shin is a thin bone that can easily get kicked in soccer.

a. He had bruises all over his shin after the soccer match.

b. My shins really hurt; I think I've been running too hard.

2. 'I have to do it more than I would like to'. This sentence is in the grammar notes because of its ending. It is actually short for 'I have to do it more than I would like to do it.' We do not want to sound repetitive, so we miss off the 'do it'. It is also common to miss off the final 'to' of the verb.

a. I have to work more than I would like (to).

b. She has to clean more than she would like (to).

c. They have to study more than they would like (to).

3. 'To drag' is a verb that is similar to 'to pull' in meaning. However, it implies that the object being pulled is on the floor, and it is either heavy or unwilling to be pulled.

a. I had to drag the heavy bag of tools to the garage.

b. I had to drag the dog away from the neighbor's cat.

4. 'To gaze' is similar to 'to stare'. You gaze at something when it is beautiful or fascinating; it isn't a quick look. It's as if you cannot stop looking at it.

a. We gazed at the sculpture for at least 20 minutes.

b. The children gazed at the fireworks with their mouths open.

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Direct download: Mighty_Nike.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:55 PM