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
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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

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 .....' 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!

Aug 22, 2016
Boeing: The Future of Flight 2.

The tour of Boeing started with us being bussed to the building where the seven hundred series of planes are made, particularly the 747s. It is the largest building in the world, measuring 13,385,378 cubic meters.  It has several entrances, several floors, and, of course, huge double doors through which the new planes can be rolled out. Our guide told us so many facts that I actually stopped listening; I just wanted to watch the men and women working on these huge planes. I did, however, pick up some information. The wings of the 747, for example, can hold up to 57,000 gallons of fuel. I saw that every piece of large equipment either had wheels or hung from the ceiling. This was because as the planes develop and get bigger, equipment needs to move out of the way. And, the day that a new plane leaves, a clear path must be made for it to get out of the building. The Boeing plant is in Everett which is to the north of Seattle. It has been there since 1943, the giant factory being planned in the 60's. Mr. Boeing had a German father and an Austrian mother, but was born in Michigan. After he became a pilot, he bought a hydroplane and came to Seattle. He soon broke the plane, and then told a friend of his, "We could build a better plane ourselves and do it faster." And that became the mission and destiny of Mr. Boeing. Looking around the factory gave me a sense of how serious and efficient Boeing is. The building itself(1) has to be organized by a mastermind! It is so packed with equipment, parts, and people, that to function correctly, someone with a great sense of design has to be in charge. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed on any planes because they already belong to airlines. Also, I'm sure, hundreds of tourists would be a distraction to the workers and also create a risk of injury or an error in building. We were kept far away from the important work. As we left, the guide told us about the new line(2) of planes called Dreamliners. They are smart planes that adjust the interior light and air to reduce jet lag. Also, more original materials are gradually being replaced with things like carbon fiber to make the planes stronger and lighter. This really is a time of advancement in technology, and the factory shows a sense of excitement about the future of flight.

1. 'The building itself' the word 'itself' is not totally necessary. I used it because I went on to emphasize the use of space inside the buiding, as if I was focusing in on what it looks like.

a. The singer signed my notebook herself!

b. The homework itself is easy, it just happens to be tedious!

 2. 'Line' of planes really means a series or a group.

a. Gucci has come out with a new line of handbags.

b. Nissan has a line of electric cars, the first of which came out in 2010.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Aug 19, 2016
Boeing: The Future of Flight 1.

I found myself in Seattle for the third or fourth time this summer on Monday. It was time to take my cousin to the airport for his flight back to Mallorca. He had asked to go to the Boeing plant to see the planes being made. "Sounds like a good idea," I replied, remembering that, years ago, I had visited the second, smaller Boeing plant in the south of Seattle. We arrived at 4pm, early enough to look around the Museum of Flight. It is an impressive, modern display of the science behind flight, and how it is continually developing and improving. There were displays that people could interact with which demonstrated the physics of flying. Airplanes hung from the ceiling. A part of one plane was sliced open to show all the components of a typical plane. There was even a Lamborghini, yes a Lambourghini. It was there to demonstrate the need for aerodynamics in cars as well as planes. It also showed the advances in materials like carbon fiber. My cousin, my daughter, and her friend climbed into a flight simulator which was like an enclosed room that was elevated. Inside were the kind of seats you find on a plane, and in front of them was a large screen. The door was locked and suddenly the room started to move. I was watching from the outside. It went up and down, side to side, and then it started bumping and jerking forwards and suddenly dropping. I could hear noises coming from inside the room, like little squeals. From the outside, it didn't look like it was a very exciting ride. However, the employee who was manning the display turned on a screen so I could see what the people inside were watching. Their screen showed jet planes flying fast all over the world, and making drastic maneuvers. "Oh," I thought to myself. "That is why they are squealing!" Even though we had an hour before the tour started, we weren't able to do and see everything that the museum offered. The tour was about to start. We were going to be placed on a bus and driven to the biggest building in the world. 

1. 'Display' is both a noun and a verb. It means 'a show' or 'to show'.

a. The peacock gave a glorious display of its feathers.

b. The science competition in school will require the children to make displays about recycling.

2. 'Jerk' is also a verb and a noun. A 'jerk' is an insult for a person who is difficult and silly, and who makes life difficult for people. 'To jerk' is actually very different in meaning. It means to move sharply, in a choppy way.

a. That man is a real jerk; when he was in line at the bank, he started shouting, and then he cut to the front!

b. The brakes on my bicycle froze when I was riding, so it suddenly jerked forward and I fell off.

3. 'To man' is a very basic verb that means a person is employed to physically be somewhere, especially a vehicle or a place of work.

a. He will man the fishing boat because he is the most experienced.

b. The telephones are manned by volunteers who will take your donations for the charity.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Aug 3, 2016
Let's go with Pokemon Go!

Did you know that the First Lady of the U.S, Michelle Obama, has been trying for years to get people exercising? Over a third of people in the U.S, including children, are obese. This is an epidemic, and a huge national problem which leads to all sorts of medical complications and expense. However, something has taken the nation by storm(1) which is getting people of all shapes and sizes outside walking, running, skateboarding, and biking. It's Pokemon Go. It has become a craze. The most unlikely(2) people, those who would normally be at home sitting in front of a computer, are out walking along the streets, or moving around in parks looking for Pokemon creatures. The game came out in July, and had 80 million downloads in the first week. It is a free game that is location based and uses augmented reality, which means a view of the real world with a touch of fantasy added to it. Players download the game on to their phones, they create an account with a personalized avatar, and then they move around looking for Pokemon. The aim of the game is to find, catch, battle, and train the creatures. So who are the Pokemon? They are cartoon characters that first came out in the late 1990's in a Nintendo game called Game Boy. Films, books, and cards also popularized them. They have names like: Greninja, Arceus, Mew, and Pikachu, and are generally very cute, blending the look of animals and fantastic creatures. Pokemon are trained by their human owners to battle other Pokemon and evolve. Thankfully it isn't a game that is violent or deadly, so it is appropriate for young people, and therefore a wide audience. If you think about it, it is a very involved game, with different levels and many different elements, and now the physical aspect of it makes it even more addicting. Two of my boys have certainly become quite addicted to it. My oldest son even walks around the parks with his group of friends at night, searching for the most valuable Pokemons. I can't see Pokemon Go losing(3) its popularity for a while. If that is the case, people large and small will be dressing up in warm clothes to find their creatures in the snowy parks in the winter.

1. 'To take something by storm' is to make a huge impact on something, a person, or a place.

a. The Harry Potter series took the world by storm.

b. The Beatles took the U.S by storm in the 1960's.

2. Unlikely means 'doubtful or not very probable'. However, it can also be used as an adjective.

a. Their house was in the woods in a very unlikely place for a home.

b. Out of the people I knew from school, he was the most unlikely to become a singer.

3. I can/ can't see .......+verb in gerund.

a. I can see him slipping and falling (prediction).

b. I can't see him calling back today; he never returns my calls.

c. I can see them missing the bus my two minutes; they need to hurry up if they want to catch it.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Jul 28, 2016
An Interview at Scalar Learning.

I look through my emails each day to see if anyone who listens to my podcasts has written to me. I was doing that last week when I came across an email that took me by surprise(1). It was an invitation to be a guest speaker on an educational podcast called Scalar Learning. I immediately looked up the website, and found a very professional, mathematics focused site that offers both tutoring and regular podcasts. Well, how could I say "no"? I was intrigued and flattered(2). I sent an email back to say that I would love to be interviewed. We went back and forth(3) until we agreed upon a day and time. I told all of my children, "Now, this is very important, so I need you all to be quiet for half an hour.  Is that possible?" They nodded. "I'll be up in the bedroom, so it will be nice and quiet. You can play or watch television, but please, I don't want banging or crashing or dogs barking, ok?" I think they got the message(4).

The time for the interview came, and I was quite nervous. Huzefa, the gentleman who created and runs Scalar Learning, is a young man who used to be a lawyer, but who has a passion for education. He was very personable, so I immediately felt relaxed. We talked for about thirty minutes, and he asked me all kinds of pertinent questions about: my background, my podcasts, culture, and how to be an effective teacher. Huzefa is on a mission to enable students to be successful with mathematics, and to have the right approach to exams. His insights about teaching obviously come from experience and study. The time flew. The next day, he released the podcast, so I listened to it. I'm happy to say that it is very informative and clear, and if you click here  you can hear it too

1. 'It took me by surprise,' is the same as saying 'it surprised me'. This expression is simply longer and more descriptive because of the verb 'to take'.

a. His decision to go and live in Australia took us all by surprise.

b. We were completely taken by surprise when she walked out of the wedding.

2. 'Intrigued' means very interested and curious. 'Flattered' means that I felt complimented.

a. I was intrigued by his political ideas; I had never heard anything like them.

b. The young lady felt flattered by all the attention she was getting.

3. 'Back and forth' really means 'one way and then the other way' or 'from side to side', but we use this phrase a lot when talking about discussions and verbal agreements.

a. The politicians went back and forth until they finally agreed.

b. We talked all night, and went back and forth, but we still don't understand each other.

4. 'I think they got the message' is a casual and slightly joking way of saying that 'they understood'.

a. My mother put up two posters saying 'please remove your shoes'. She put one on the front door and another in the entryway. We got the message!

b. If you travel on the underground, or 'Tube', in London, you will hear "Mind the gap" all the time. You will eventually get the message.

italki for practice with native English teachers!

Jul 13, 2016
A Visiting Student.

The number of people in my house has grown from six to seven recently. A young man from Spain has come to spend six weeks with us. He is no ordinary young man; he's actually my second cousin, and is here to spend time with this side of the family, and of course, to learn English. Thankfully, he is the same age as my youngest son, and is very fun-loving. I'm sure that he will pick up(1) a lot of English while he plays with my kids. That was actually how I picked up a lot of Spanish when I was a child. My mother would take me to Mallorca in Spain, to spend about a month in the summers. Because children play so much, and are less inhibited than adults, they absorb language like little sponges. Well, that's what happened to me, and I'm very thankful for the experience. So far(2), we have taken my cousin to Seattle for a couple of days, and down to a local river to look for gold. Today, I plan on taking him to the museum in the town of Cashmere which is excellent. He will get his first view of Native American life, and be able to walk through some of the original pioneer cabins of this area. Like most boys who are thirteen, he is very curious and constantly asks questions. Of course, I don't always have the answers! Coming to the U.S is a big step for him, especially being so young(3). Mind you, he is a world traveller. His mother is an air hostess and is able to get cheap airline tickets, so they travel internationally all the time. So he is extremely comfortable in airports, and understands the routines of getting from one place to another. I hope that him being here will encourage my children to spend time in Spain, and also become international travelers.

1. 'To pick up' is used in this podcast to mean 'to come to understand', ' to learn in a natural way'.

a. When we went to Iceland, my kids picked up a lot of vocabulary.

b. I used to watch my mum cook, and so, over time I picked up how to cook.

2. 'So far' is like saying 'up to this point'. It is a very simple and conversational phrase.

a. So far this summer, we have only had a few very hot days.

b. The fund-raiser so far has made $2,430,000.

3. 'Coming to the U.S is a big step for him, especially being so young,' the last part of this sentence has a great structure that is flexible. You can add many things to 'especially being so ...'.

a. They will have a great time at the party, especially being so sociable.

b. She will feel so much better with the new medicine, especially after being so ill.

c. It will be a relief when the presidential race is over, especially after so much news coverage.

italki for practice with English teachers!


Jul 1, 2016
A better way to waste.

With the fire season approaching, we have been preparing our back garden. My husband trimmed off some old, dead branches from our pine trees. These trees are notorious for(1) burning easily because they are both dry and oily. Most of the horrendous fires that make international news are those of pine or fir forests which are both conifers. We have seen this kind of devastation in Canada recently, in Alberta. To avoid as many fires as possible, it is always best to clear forest floors of dead wood, dry bushes, and diseased trees. There is a new community effort in Wenatchee to do the same in as many places as possible to avoid the problems that we had last year. So, the garden is clear, but what do we do with the huge pile of branches and pine needles? "Take everything down to Stemilt Organic Recycling Center on Columbia street" my husband texted me early in the morning. I didn't even know that this place existed. I've lived here for over twenty years, and I'm still discovering things about this town. I looked up the direction on Google Maps and their website. They take all kinds of garden waste and shred it up(2) with a giant shredding machine. This then gets composted and delivered to many of the orchards in town. The rich compost increases the levels of sugar in the fruit. So my oldest son and I loaded up two trucks and made two deliveries to the recycling place. It was hot and heavy work. When we drove in, I was impressed to see an enormous pile of branches and green garden waste. Other people were there emptying bags of weeds, old bushes, and garden clippings (3). Next to the pile was a machine that looked as big as a brontosaurus. "Now that would be fun to operate," I thought to myself. We emptied the trucks, paid a small fee, and left. It's good to know that our waste will become a compost that feeds and nourishes the trees that make up so much of this valley.

1. 'To be notorious for ...' means that a person or thing is well known for something, and it has a negative sense.

a. He is notorious for being late. He was even late to his own wedding!

b. Those valleys are notorious for flooding every spring.

2. 'To shred (up)' this verb describes a way of cutting which leaves the item being cut in thin, long pieces. In cooking, we talk about shredding carrots or cabbage to add to a salad. Notice that I didn't have to use 'up'. This little word is used a lot in the UK to give a sense of completeness or fullness.

a. Fill (up) the watering can and water the flowers please.

b. We need to finish dinner now and get to the cinema; the film starts in six minutes. Eat up!

c. Children, button up your coats, it's really cold outside.

3. 'Clip, cut, trim, cuttings' are all ways of cutting that you can use in the context of gardening. 'Cuttings', however, is a noun. It is the piece of a plant that you break off and encourage to growing roots and become a completely separate plant.

'To clip' is a brief cut that is deep enough to shape or prune a plant. We can use this for our finger and toenails as well as 'to cut'. 'To trim' is more superficial. We often say 'I will trim the hedge' instead of 'I will cut the hedge' which sounds too deep. Likewise, a trim at the hair dressers is a superficial cut, one that just shapes the hair a little.

a. I clipped off the dead rose heads to encourage more blooms.

b. I took cuttings from my hydrangea; I hope they all root and become big, healthy plants. 

c. I went to the hairdresser for just a trim, but she gave me a serious hair cut!

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Jun 23, 2016
Brexit or Pumpkin Cake?

I'm a little nervous today. It is a very important day for the UK, as it is the Brexit referendum. Most informed people will know that UK citizens will vote today to either leave the European Union or to remain in it. This isn't a small issue(1). The country is divided on the subject. I have been reading about it and watching videos, some that are for leaving and others that are against it. To be quite honest(2), my head is spinning with all the information. I find it difficult to get on with other activities like cooking and cleaning, because I really want to know the result, and have a clear idea about the consequences of leaving or staying. I had planned to make a pumpkin cake yesterday. I had the ingredients on the kitchen counter, and the recipe. It would be a simple treat to make for my family, but every time I approached the cans of pumpkins, I would immediately turn around and surf the internet for more information about Brexit. How can I think about pumpkin cake now, when the UK is about to, perhaps, make a huge change? The economy and immigration are the two biggest issues that have been talked about for months. If Britain leaves the EU, trading with it will be more complicated, and the free flow of immigrants will be stopped. More power will be given back to the UK government to determine laws and regulations. However, does anyone really know if the changes will be beneficial? And will the EU suffer if Britain pulls out(3)? Perhaps it won't leave, but regulations from the EU will change? It's all a big unknown at the moment, like the quality of my future pumpkin cake. I know the ingredients, I know the process of making it, but you can never really tell how good it will be until it is cooked. So what do I think? Well, I believe in independence, but I also support unity. I think that humans and communities are supposed to work together. The trouble is, that is exactly where problems occur if members are ignorant or corrupt. I think that we are also supposed to think for ourselves, and determine what is best for us, but advice from many can often help generate creative and efficient ideas. I have decided to hope that however the vote goes, man's ingenuity will solve problems that arise, and find creative and fair ways to keep good relations between Britain and the rest of Europe. And for now, I will open the cans of pumpkins, mix the ingredients carefully, and hope for the best.

1. 'Issue' in this context is similar to 'matter' or 'subject', it is also used as 'a personal problem'.

a. The cost of living is an issue that any government has to deal with.

b. Needing to control everything is a real issue for him.

2. 'To be quite honest' is a phrase that is often used at the beginning of a sentence, expressing a strong opinion.

a. To be quite honest, I don't want her to stay with us.

b. To be quite honest, I think he treated you unfairly.

3. 'To pull out' is similar to 'to leave'. However, we use 'to pull out' more in the context of competitions, unions, and groups where the members are invested.

a. The long distance runner pulled out of the competition because of an injury.

b. The teachers' union pulled out of the discussion because they disagreed with the terms.

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Jun 18, 2016

Peter: Hi Liz. What are you looking at?

Liz: Oh, hi Peter. I'm looking through some information about cars. It's about time I bought one, but I'm quite fussy. I don't want to spend a lot of money, but there are certain things that I definitely want.

Peter: What kind are you after?

Liz: Well, I'd like a hybrid. Eventually when I'm working, I don't want to spend a fortune on gas. Other than that, I'd like a medium size, four-door that is reliable and safe.

Peter: Why don't I go with you to some dealerships and we can have a look? I know a lot about cars, you know.

Liz: Ha! Why is it that men know so much more than women (do) about cars?

Peter: It's probably because we're really interested in them....Anyway, I can protect you from the greedy salesmen who want you to spend too much money.

Liz: Yes, protect me, please! 

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Jun 16, 2016
Soccer practice.

The most popular sport in the world is seen everywhere these days in Wenatchee. As you drive around the town, most days of the week, you can see colorful teams of players running around the parks practicing and competing. The goals are dragged into position, bright orange cones are set up in lines for the players to zig-zag(1) through with the ball. Parents, like myself, either drop the kids off and go and run errands(2), or stay and chat with each other during the practice. Game day transforms the parks with team after team competing. Yells and cheers ring out(3), and there is applause from the multitude of parents and grandparents who sit in their fold-up chairs. The U.S has quickly gone from a country that had little to do with football (the real name), to one that has embraced it. Even young children in this town have the opportunity to do year-round soccer. During the snowy months, it simply takes place indoors. And the sport seems to be transforming children from overweight, sedentary kids, to leaner, faster, and more competitive children. Another thing I have noticed is that international soccer is part of conversation in schools more than it used to be, which is partly because the population of Wenatchee is 50% hispanic, and soccer is an important part of their culture. This influence has spread to the non-hispanics, and has caused them to contemplate other countries and their sporting talents. I'm happy that a sport can do this for children, giving them a more global perspective.

1. 'To zig-zag' is any action that goes from side to side. 

a. The car in front of me was zig-zagging all over the road; I think the driver was drunk!

b. The kids had to zig-zag past the cones with the football, keeping as close as possible to them.

c. I saw something zig-zag across the road; it was a rattle snake!

2. 'To run errands' is to drive around to shops and other places in order to shop or get other things done.

a. I had to go to the post office, buy vegetables, and then buy some nails from the hardware store. I always have errands to run.

b. While you're running errands, could you please get me some stamps?

3. 'To ring out' is what we often say when you hear cheers, singing, or even bells.

a. The church bells rang out across the valley.

b. I heard her voice ring out over the rest of the choir.


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Jun 7, 2016
Cowboys and cowgirls.

I had always heard about cowboys before I came to the U.S, but I had never met any. I suppose I had seen many in typical Western films, so I had some idea of what they looked like. I wasn't sure, however, that the style of cowboys I had seen still existed. I thought that perhaps in our modern day, there would be less need for them, or perhaps there was a more modernized version of a cowboy. Well, since I have lived in Wenatchee, I have met plenty of real cowboys and cowgirls. One of my husband's cousins is a rancher who owns many cows, is himself a cowboy, and employs quite a few cowboys as well. There are also cowgirls who live on farms and who help to take care of the cattle. Now, there is some debate(1) about 'real' cowboys. Some people dress like cowboys and listen to country music, but certainly are not the real thing. A cowboy or girl is a person who rides a horse and takes care of cattle. Simple. And, in case you didn't know, the first cowboys were Mexicans who worked with the cows and horses that the Spaniards brought to the Americas. 

A few weeks ago, I went to a rodeo which is a show of cowboy skills, tricks, and even bull riding. I certainly didn't want to miss the bull riding. It is essentially a crazy sport. Each time you ride a bull, even if you are experienced and strong, you run the risk of getting terribly injured. The bull rider has the support of other men in the ring(2) who, if need be, will distract the bull and lead it away from the bull rider when he falls onto the ground. We all gasped and said, "Oh, my gosh!" when the bull charged out of the cage, bucking and kicking, with the man on top. Each man fell off, of course, with the winner being the one who had stayed on the longest. What a show it was! There were also cowgirls who raced each other, and even children who rode on running sheep! The cowboys and cowgirls are professionals who earn money by traveling the country and doing what they do(3). The rodeo was a real eye-opener for me, an interesting look inside this very Western culture.

1. 'There is some debate' is a phrase that adds some sophistication when added to your conversation.

a. There is some debate over the use of natural or artificial sugars.

b. There is an on-going debate over global warming: is it a real phenomena, or is it scientifically inaccurate?

2. 'The ring' is used in many contexts to describe the area where an activity takes place, particularly a circus, a boxing arena, and a general event location where there are performances such as a rodeo.

a. The boxer punched his opponent so hard, that he fell out of the ring!

b. The elephants formed a pyramid in the ring and then the clowns stood on top of them.

3. '...doing what they do.' This repetition of the verb 'to do' is used when the context has already been explained or is understood.

a. I do what I do because I love to teach and communicate.

b. The presidential candidates spend most of the year giving speeches and traveling. They do what they do/ they are doing what they do because they want to win.

May 13, 2016
Apple Blossom Heat.

May in Wenatchee is the month when Apple Blossom is held. It's an annual festival that starts with a parade. There is also a food fair, a classic car show, and a medieval fair. A spin-off (1)of all these activities, is a 3 on 3 basketball competition at the local college. Students of all ages compete in teams of only three people, so the games are intense and exhausting. You're never really sure what the weather will be like in May either; sometimes it's windy and cool, but other times it's quite the opposite(2). This year, it was very hot indeed. I watched some of the games, and felt quite sorry for the players. As the day went on, I moved from one patch of(3) shade to another, trying to keep cool. There was lots of huffing and puffing, gasping, and calling out like, "Here, I'm open, pass, pass!" The crowds were kept happy with a DJ and food and drinks. Watching the athletes made me feel quite lazy, as I was perfectly relaxed, but they were fighting hard to win. Most of the young people who were participating have dreams of playing on the High School or college team. Many of them dedicate years to playing basketball, playing on both school and local teams. Perhaps that sort of occasion is a stepping stone for them; another stretch, another effort, and they might get closer to their goal.

1. 'A spin-off' is like a result of a process or event.

a. A spin-off of the Apple Blossom parade is the 3 on 3 basketball.

b. A spin-off from recycling is sometimes profitable business.

2. 'Quite the opposite' is a more definite way of saying 'the opposite'; it just adds a bit more character and confidence.

a. The evening was calm and relaxing; however, my first class in the morning was quite the opposite.

b. Her words seemed gentle and kind, but later her actions were quite the opposite. 

3. 'A patch' is used in many ways. It can be a section of material used to repair a piece of clothing. It can also be an area of grass, shade, light, or a figurative way of saying an approximate project.

a. I didn't repair the wall properly, I just patched it quickly.

b. We found a patch of grass under a tree in the shade, and we sat down and slept.

May 5, 2016

I have been working in a middle school for the past couple of weeks in the place of a teacher who is taking paternity leave. His wife has just had their second child, and so he is taking 5 weeks off of(1) work to be at home. So, I am teaching 13 to 14 year olds each day about essay writing and poetry. I usually only work a couple of days a week in the school district, so adjusting to(2) working every day has been a challenge. For the first week, after school, I would go home, sit down with my cup of tea, and fall asleep! Now that I am in my second week, however, I have toughened up(3). This week also happens to be 'Teacher Appreciation Week'. Parents and other volunteers organize a nice lunch, or small gifts for the teachers to show that they are appreciated. Teaching, after all, is not the easiest job. It can be stressful working with students of different levels of ability and motivation. However, there is satisfaction when you see your students learn, and also feel happy and relaxed in your class. Lunch was a great surprise yesterday. I went into the staff room, and found a long table full of delicious dishes of all kinds. Some parents were arranging plates, cutting cheese, mixing salads, and warming up desserts. Gosh, I suddenly felt like I wasn't at work! It was tempting to eat a lot, but I didn't want to feel sleepy during my afternoon classes. I went back to class in a great mood. We all need to feel appreciated, even if it's not with food, a thank you makes a big impact.

1. 'To take ....days/weeks etc off of/from...' means to take leave for a while from an activity.

a. The football player took two months off of/from training to rest his injuring.

b. The teacher was able to take 5 weeks off from/of teaching to be at home with his wife and new daughter.

 2. 'To adjust to' is something that we all do. It means to get used to something different.

a. The nurse had to adjust to her new night time work schedule (night shift).

b. Moving to the city from the country was something that was hard to adjust to.

3. 'To toughen up' means to become stronger, more resilient, adjusted. It is often used figuratively.

a. Biking every day has toughened me up and prepared me for a 10 mile race.

b. Living in a racist community toughened up the boy, and made him determined to work for tolerance.

Apr 28, 2016
Username and password.

The world of usernames and passwords is quite simple for some people. Choose both, and stick to them(1); don't change them unless you have to, and your life will be easy peasy. Most people I know, however, have a love-hate relationship(2) with the two words. First of all, it's easy to forget a password, especially if you haven't written it down somewhere, or if you've forgotten where you wrote it! Secondly, to reset(3) your password often requires a process of getting into a secondary email, which, again you need a password for. Now this isn't really difficult, until you find that some on-line companies require a password with letters, numbers, and special characters, like an exclamation mark, or a comma, but other companies don't require a special character. So, what do you do? Your ingenious plan of having  the same password for all of your on-line activities is ruined. One or two of them will have to be slightly different. Will you remember which accounts they are? Perhaps you can make them memorable like: 'Ihatepasswords99!'  or 'Passwordsareapain22*'. Unfortunately, it is totally necessary to make good passwords for our own security. I have to be more creative than 'anna123'; that just isn't secure enough. Another problem with them is that often one is needed immediately by someone in the family, which makes you automatically forget it. Once, when I was visiting my father in England, my son texted me from the U.S, wanting to know the password for his Minecraft game. It was three o'clock in the morning. Passwords can't wait, you know. 

1. 'To stick to something' means to not change your plan, idea, or situation.

a. We've accepted the offer on the house, and we're sticking with it.

b. Our company is going through a difficult time, but I'm sticking with it.

2. 'A love-hate relationship' is one which involves both emotions, or one in which you enjoy hating something.

a. I have a love-hate relationship with my car; I love having a car, but it causes me endless problems.

b. He and his neighbors have a love-hate relationship; they enjoy annoying each other.

3.'To reset' means to reprogram, or start back from the beginning.

a. I will reset my alarm clock as I have to get up extra early tomorrow.

b. I forgot my itunes password, so I have to reset it.

Apr 18, 2016
You want to join the circus?

My daughter wants to join everything. She loves football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, acting, dancing, and almost anything else. I don't know where she gets her energy from. Of course, I'm glad that she's energetic; its a sign of being healthy. Her friend, Lilly, has been involved with the Wenatchee Youth Circus for four years, and is a rope performer. She twists and turns (1) on two ropes that have a bar of wood joining them, like a seat. She hangs from the bar, spins, and does all kinds of acrobatics. For an eleven year old, she is very strong indeed (2). She spent the weekend with us, and as she had practice, my daughter went with her. The practice was two and a half hours long! When I went to pick them up, I expected to find two very exhausted girls, but they were still full of beans (3). Domini begged me to let her join the circus, "I'll think about it, Domini," was my reply. "It's not very likely though," I said. "You can't possibly do everything, you know," she gave me those big, disappointed eyes. I videoed her friend practicing her routine before we left. Her trainer called out names of moves and positions that she had to make. By the time she had finished, I could see that she was breathing heavily, and needed a rest. She will go with the circus all over Washington State to perform in various towns. It is a big commitment to be part of the circus, even though it is just a small one. It doesn't have any animals; however, it has a surprisingly large amount of acrobats, fire breathers, Spanish rope performers, and high wire riders. Some of these young people have been involved with the circus since they were little. It makes me wonder if Lilly will be performing when she is an adult with bigger circuses. Who knows? Domini and I will certainly join the crowds in Wenatchee when she gives her first performance.

1. 'Twists and turns' go together very often, and the phrase is used figuratively.

a. English country roads are full of twists and turns.

b. He navigated the twists and turns of a difficult life, and finally found happiness.

2. 'For a/an + adjective +noun, main clause' this is a more common sentence structure switched around. The 'for a/an ...' is a great way to reintroduce, or point to character traits in the subject.

a. For an inexperienced climber, he did very well. * You can, of course, switch the sentence around and say:

He did very well, for an inexperienced climber.

b. For an old lady, she sang as well as the younger women.

(She sang as well as the younger women, for an old lady).

c. For beginning English students, they did very well on the intermediate test.

(They did very well on the intermediate test, for beginning English students).

3. 'To be full of beans' is an idiomatic phrase which means to be full of energy.

a. I hoped that the trampoline would make the kids tired, but they were still full of beans!

b. I have recovered from my illness, and am now full of beans.

Apr 11, 2016
Spring Work.

My house is almost surrounded by orchards of pears and cherries. On the west side, beyond my neighbor's house is the pear orchard, and to the north is the cherry orchard. It makes us feel as though we live deep(1)in the country. This time of year, the orchards are full of life. Of course, they are in bloom, but also there is a lot of human activity going on(2) inside the orchards. Tractors rumble away(3), along the lines of trees, spreading fertilizer, or spraying the branches and flowers. There is no time to waste! If the farmers want healthy, good looking fruit, they have to feed the trees important nutrients, and they need to find a way to keep harmful insects away. I have learned a few things about fruit trees since I have lived here. One interesting thing is that the trees are given a large dose of calcium, both in the form of spray, and also on the ground. This helps the fruit last longer, and it also helps to prevent diseases. There are lots of preparations to be made in order for the growing season to be successful. Pruning is another activity which increases the fruit production. In order for the pruning to happen, a large group of workers will come into the orchard, and cut off dead branches, and some of the healthy ones from the middle of the tree. Why do they do that? Well, it opens up the whole tree to the sun, so the tree can be productive, and the fruit can mature at the same time. The Wenatchee and surrounding area is still the second biggest producer of apples in the U.S, so spring time is busy time, and a very serious business.

1. 'Deep' is often used when talking about a location that is almost hidden, or really inside a certain area.

a. We have to walk deep into the forest to find the mushrooms.

b. The drug network is deep inside the urban area.

2. 'Going on' is a very common way of saying 'taking place' or 'occurring', and sometimes 'continuing'.

a. What's going on next door? They must be having a celebration.

b. Their arguments have been going on for years; when will they stop?

3. 'Tractors rumble away', ok 'away' here isn't necessary, but it does add a 'storybook' feel to the paragraph. The words 'away' and 'along' are used to do just that; they give the impression of time passing, and the activity continuing.

a. The boy yawned, grabbed his pillow, and drifted away into sleep.

b. We danced away all night; we didn't stop for hours!

c. He came along to help paint the house.

d. On saturday I could hear the lawn mowers humming along in the neighborhood.

Mar 29, 2016
Jumping Whales.

A shopping center called 'Whaler's village' was very close to where we stayed in Maui. At its entrance was a very elegant, metal statue of a mother humpback whale and her baby. You might know(1) that the water right next to Maui is the one place where humpbacks breed. The ocean here is called the Au'au channel; it is, remarkably, only 300ft deep at the most. Its name in Hawaiian means 'to take a bath', and that makes sense because the channel forms a circular area, with 3 islands around it, so it is sheltered as well as warm and shallow. These conditions make it perfect for the humpback whales who migrate all the way from Alaska where they have been feeding. They spend the winter here, mate or give birth, feed their babies, and then make the 3,500 mile journey back to Alaska. A very special event for anyone who happens to be(2) on Maui between November and April is the breaching of the whales which is their jumping. The mothers teach their babies how to do this. With one flip of their massive tails, they fly out of the water upright, and crash back down with a huge splash. My family and I went out on a boat especially to see this performance. We were very lucky, because about 20 minutes into our trip, the owner of the boat spotted a mother and her baby playing. All the people on the boat were saying, "Oooh!" and "Ah!" and clicking their cameras. The mother only jumped a couple of times; that's usually all they do. The baby, however, was in a very playful mood, and jumped and jumped until he got tired. He then made a circle above his mother and disappeared. The boat owner told us that this is a sign the babies make when they are hungry for milk. Once he was busy feeding, we moved on(3) to another part of the Au'au channel to find more whales. The baby whales get strong quickly; they are 10 to 15 ft long when they are born, weighing 1 ton, and drink 200 to 600 litres of fat-rich milk per day. They generally end up being 40-60 ft adults who weigh 44 tons or more. As you can imagine, it was both surprising and dramatic to see these huge creatures playing around. It's not every day that you witness such an event.

1. 'You might know (that)/ you might already know that' is a useful phrase that helps to engage your listener.

a. You might know that the first explorers from Europe who discovered America were the Vikings.

b. The presidential race is continuing; you might already know that Rubio is out.

2. '(A person) happens to be.../ you happen to be' is another  idiomatic phrase that is common.

a. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see the lunar eclipse.

b. So Michael, can you explain how your hand happened to be in the cookie jar when I walked into the kitchen?

3. 'To move on' means to continue on your way, or to finish doing something and to start doing something else.

a. We finished our paintings, and then moved on to our sculptures.

b. Ok, can we stop arguing and move on to the next subject?

c. We lost our house in an earthquake. We wanted to rebuild, but we decided to move on and find somewhere else to live.

Mar 25, 2016
The Banyan Tree.

I'm back in Wenatchee, and already missing Maui. We had such a wonderful vacation, and there were so many highlights(1). Some of you will know that I am into plants and trees, so it won't surprise you that a highlight for me was meeting the Banyan tree in the little town of Lahaina. I say "meeting" because it felt as special as meeting a person. It is about 150 years old, and was imported from India. It is from the fig family, and produces a little red berry that is not that good to eat. What is impressive about the tree is that it has spread through its aerial roots, and has become many trees. Its limbs(2) are massive, and it looks as though many trees have joined together. When we first went to the park, children were playing underneath the huge limbs, and running through the natural arches that the Banyan tree had made. The aerial roots are long and thin, growing from upper branches. They eventually touch the ground and attach themselves. These attached roots quickly get thicker, always maintaining their link(3) to the original tree. Compared to other trees, it must be considered a fast-grower because it has filled the Lahaina park in only one and a half centuries. It's right next to the beach, so it is ideally placed for people to hang out in its shade to enjoy the sea breeze. Lahaina is a tourist attraction, tastefully lined with shops, galleries, and restaurants, but you could say that the Banyan tree is its crowning glory.

1. 'Highlights' are special moments or places, or light-colored streaks in your hair.

a. He was the highlight of the show; his singing was amazing.

b. Your hairdresser did a great job. Your highlights make you look much younger!

c. The highlight of our trip was snorkeling with turtles and sharks.

2. 'Limbs' means parts of the body that project and are useful, like an arm or a leg, or a similar body part of an animal, like a wing. It is also another word for a branch.

a. The limb bones in a spider monkey are thin.

b. After rock climbing all day, her limbs were sore.

c. We must cut that limb off the tree before it breaks a window when it's windy. 

3. 'Link' is a commonly used word, especially in computer circles. It also means a physical or figurative attachment, and a piece of a chain.

a. Follow the link on my blog to see more pictures of Lahaina.

b. All his family members are creative, and he is linked to them by the same characteristic.

c. The metal chain on the gate has some broken links that we must replace.

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Mar 15, 2016
Aloha  Maui.

The fresh, warm morning air blew gently against my face as I looked out towards the nearest island. The sand between my toes was clean and soft, not irritating at all. As I let it fall through my fingers, it occurred to me that I was looking at the Pacific ocean. Now, that is something that I don't always do. It was still early; there were only a few people here and there, some jogging, some like me, experiencing the beach in the quiet of the morning. The birds up in the palm trees, however, were anything but quiet. They chirped and chatted noisily, arguing with their neighbors. The waves lapped softly on the shore; they were also waking up. I knew that later on the wind and the waves would grow, and soon become quite intimidating. But in this paradise, how could anything be intimidating? As I looked over at a hedge blooming with tropical hibiscus flowers, I couldn't imagine anything on this island being anything but beautiful and relaxed. I was soon to find out that there was a lot more to this island than I realized. I walked over to a beach hut to order a coffee. It had a view of both the beach and the high volcanic mountains that are at the center of the island, the two volcanoes that are responsible for the island itself. They are densely covered in trees, with their tops hidden by cloud all day. Apparently, the Haleakala Observatory sits way above the clouds, in the dry summit of the dormant volcano. There, far above human activity and artificial lights, the stars and planets are observed all year long. "Click, click, click,click," went a camera right next to me which made me jump. A man at the coffee bar was taking photos of the whales that were surfacing out at sea, not too far from the shore. It is the breeding ground for the humpback whales who come here every winter from Alaska. The ocean here is rich with sea creatures, and full of color. And it is the ocean that brought the first people to this island and the other eight that form Hawaii; the Polynesian and Tahitian came bravely on boats crossing huge areas of dangerous ocean. This relaxed atmosphere makes it easy to forget about the struggles of the first people, and the perfect weather makes you forget about the violent, tropical storms, and giant winter waves that crash into the island. Yes, there is a lot of beauty and peace to be enjoyed in Maui, but that is not all. Its volcanic beginning was violent, but like a mother, it nurtures life all around its shores. It stands strong against winds and storms, but it also reaches up through the clouds to gaze at the stars.

Mar 4, 2016

Dentist: Hello Liz. What seems to be the problem?

Liz: One of my small molars has been aching for a while. I was waiting, and hoping that the pain would go away, but it hasn't.

Dentist: You are due to have an x-ray, so let's do that and then talk about all your teeth.


Dentist: Ah, yes, you have quite a large cavity in the side of a molar. The hole in the enamel is small but deep. I'm afraid the pain won't go away until you have a filling.

Liz: Oh, ok. I'm so disappointed. I brush and floss my teeth twice a day, and I avoid sugary food.

Dentist: I know you have good dental hygiene. Well, because you have a brace, it is hard to clean in between your teeth. And some people have cavities, root canals, abscesses, and even gingivitis, while other people , don't have many problems.

Liz: That seems unfair.

Dentist: It's to do with the level of bacteria in your mouth which is affected by hygiene, diet, genetics, and even stress. I know that you have good dental hygiene because your teeth are healthy and your mouth is very clean. Generally speaking, brushing and flossing and avoiding sugar are the keys to cavity-free teeth. The good news is that soon we will be able to take off your braces; your teeth are almost completely straight. 

Liz: That will be a big relief!

Mar 1, 2016
Dentist or Orthodontist?

Every six months, my family members and I are supposed to go to the dentist for a check-up. I say "supposed to" because we don't rush to get there. Sometimes it's several months later that we have our appointments. I don't have a problem with going(1) to the dentist; I don't have tooth problems, and I like looking after my teeth. My children, however, have needed more of a push to take care of their teeth. Through the years, I have become familiar with the phrases and vocabulary related to dental hygiene: floss, cavities, fillings, molars, x-rays, enamel, and root canals. The dentist office is a scary place, if you think about it. Perhaps that's why the staff is so friendly, almost over-the-top friendly. Everybody smiles so much that it makes me nervous. Anyway, my son and I went to a different kind of dentist: an orthodontist. He is a person who corrects crooked teeth, an overbite, or an underbite. He doesn't pull teeth out, fill them, give injections, or fix any surface problems. Rather, he rearranges the position of the teeth by using braces and retainers. Robert doesn't have any of these problems, but he does have a canine tooth growing into the roof of his mouth. One of his baby teeth is in the way, and so the canine cannot grow into its space properly. I'm a believer in letting(2) nature figure things out as much as possible; the baby tooth will probably fall out, and the canine will grow in properly. I made a point of letting(3) the orthodontist know that I would rather wait than intervene. I noticed that he looked at my teeth the whole time that we were talking. That made me nervous as well. He, of course, is running a business, so intervening makes money for him. The conclusion, thankfully, in Robert's case, was to simply pull out the baby tooth, and then wait to see what happens. He has a lovely set of teeth at the moment, so maybe the strange activity in his mouth will correct itself. They told us to wait six months and then go back for another consultation. When we do, I'll make sure that our teeth are well polished, and we smile as much as they do.

1. 'I don't have a problem with + gerund'.

a. I don't have a problem with waiting for the bus.

b. They don't have a problem with paying extra for a room with a view.

2. 'I'm a believer in + gerund'.

a. I'm a believer in getting up early to get organized for the day.

b. I'm a believer in exercising and eating well. *Note, I could follow 'believer' with the nouns 'exercise and good food'.

3. 'I made a point of + gerund'.

a. I made a point of telling him that I was leaving the party; I wanted him to notice.

b. The students made a point of going to the professor's office at the end of the year, and thanking him for his teaching.

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