A Cup Of English

Friendly, everyday English to help the anxious language learner. Texts, grammar notes, and photos on the blog page. Another great podcast by LibSyn.com
RSS Feed Android App iOS App








All Episodes
Now displaying: Page 1

    Share on Qzone       All time downloads = 5,209,098

Nov 18, 2015
The Redwood Forest.

The Redwood forest is located on the west coast, from the south of Oregon to the south of California. There isn't just one forest; there are several along and near the coast. Together they cover 133,000 acres. In the 1800's many people went to the west coast to mine gold. Of course, a lot of people didn't find any, and so logging became a second option. At that time there were 2,000,000 acres of redwoods. The trees were quickly chopped down and used for buildings in the San Francisco area. In 1920 a movement started to preserve the remaining trees, but it wasn't until(1) the 1960's that they were finally safe. And I'm so glad that they are. I was lucky enough to take my family there this summer, and we were amazed at their size and beauty. Their age was just as astonishing(2). We came across a slice of a massive tree that was around(3) before the Vikings came to the Americas. Some trees had fallen over, and their root systems were the size of houses! We walked around the forest, straining our necks to keep looking up, up, up. I noticed a few things in particular. First, the bark of the redwoods is spongey, not hard. Second, there are hardly any plants on the forest floor because of the lack of sunshine. And third, the forest is so, so quiet. There are so many photos on the web of these amazing trees. Click this link to see some.

1. 'It wasn't until...' is a phrase that indicates the passing of time until an event/ change/ an action. I mentioned that a movement to preserve the trees had started in the 1920's, but nothing happened until the 1960's. That is why I used 'it wasn't until...'

a. We asked for building permission, but it wasn't until 3 years later/had passed that we were given permission.

b. I asked him to close the door, but it wasn't until he got cold that he closed it!

c. We bought our ski gear, but it wasn't until February that we were able to use it.

2. 'Their age was just as astonishing.' This is a separate sentence which refers back to the size and beauty of the trees of the previous sentence. 

a. The boys received excellent results in English. Their mathematics results were just as good.

b. She is tall and attractive. You are just as beautiful.

c. The new car is computerized and stylish. It's fuel efficiency is just as impressive.

3. 'a tree...that was around before the Vikings..' Here I could have used 'was growing' or 'was alive', but 'to be around' is a highly used phrase for something or someone being alive or present.

a. I am wise because I have been around for a long time.

b. That radio program has been around for about 50 years!

c. How long are those noisy kids going to be around here?


Click here to download my free ebook ‘The Golden Whisper’

Click here to buy or rate my Apple app

Click the link for the Android app

Nov 9, 2015
Football Fever.

American football is an autumn sport here in the U.S. The season goes from September until December approximately. Out of my three sons, only my youngest likes to play it; infact, he loves it. His last game was a couple of weeks ago, as middle schoolers have a short season. We went to the local High School stadium, and sat with a small crowd to watch the game. It was a chilly day, so most people had brought blankets and warm coats. I am more accustomed to football (soccer) and rugby, and so, it has taken me a while(1) to get used to the stopping and starting that take place in American football. The sport was based on rugby when it was first invented, but evolved during the 1870's into what it is today. Here, in the U.S, it is called 'football'; they call 'football' 'soccer' to distinguish between(2) the two. In order for a team to win it has to, first, have possession of the ball, and then advance into the opposing team's end zone. A 'touchdown' is the term used for a 'goal', just as in rugby we say a 'try'. There are also goal posts that the ball can be kicked through. So, you can see how American football is a hybrid of rugby. My son's team ended up(3) losing, but it was a great game. A few times the possession of the ball changed from one team to the other, and that is always exciting. The sport is the most popular in the country, and the amount of children who play it increases each year. It's following on television is also huge, with last year's Superbowl having 114 million American viewers.

1. ' It takes a while / it has taken (a person) a while to + verb'  is a very common expression which shows how time is needed in order to accomplish something.

a. It takes a while to get onto the highway because the traffic in town is bad.

b. It takes me a while to wake up in the morning!

 2. 'To distinguish between' is similar to saying 'to show/tell the difference between' when contrasting two things.

a. We can only distinguish between the twins when they are wearing different clothes! / We can only tell the difference between the twins ....

*Note 'to tell the difference' is used when we figure out/ calculate the difference, whereas 'to show' the difference is used when you are teaching or explaining what the difference is.

b. Can you distinguish between your father's voice and your grandfather's?

3. 'They ended up losing..' is a very natural sounding way of saying 'the end result was that they lost'. You could simply say 'they lost' of course, but 'they ended up' refers back to all the effort and time that went into their activity.

a. We won eight out of ten matches and ended up going to the state competition!

b. My car broke down and I missed the bus. My bicycle had a flat tire, so I ended up walking to work.

Click here to download The Golden Whisper for free!

Click the link for the Android app

Click here for the iOS app

Nov 5, 2015
A Thousand Dalias.

On one of my many walks on the Apple Capital Loop Trail, I came across an amazing patch of flowers. On a corner of land, next to an indoor market(1), a garden of only one kind of flower had been planted. They were dahlias. I happened to have my iPhone with me, so I climbed in amongst (2)the tall plants, and tried to find the perfect angles for the photos. So what is so special about dahlias? Their variety and sizes are quite incredible. There are 42 species, and many hybrids, so the colors, shapes, and sizes vary tremendously(3). I grew just a few this year for the first time. One was a huge, yellow dahlia called a 'dinner plate'. You can imagine how big the flower head is! The dahlia also has an interesting history. It is the national flower of Mexico, and used to be grown by the Aztecs for its tubers (which are like bulbs) which they would eat. One of the dahlias I photographed was a red and cream stripy flower with a very large head. I played around with the photo for this blog, and actually decided that it looks better in black and white because the petals have so much texture. See what you think. 

Check out my Facebook page for more dahlias!

1. 'Indoor/ outdoor' is quite obvious in meaning, but let's practice some examples:

a. We have indoor markets all winter because it is too cold outside.

b. They have an indoor swimming pool. How lucky!

c. There will be an outdoor theatre all summer long.

d. They live in Arizona where it is nearly always dry. They have an outdoor pizza oven.

2. 'Amongst/ among' are interchangeable. Note, however that in the US people don't really use 'amongst' as it sounds out of date. 

a. Divide the chocolate among you three.

b. In this group, you are always among friends.

3. 'Tremendously' is a powerful adverb that is similar in sense to 'enormously'.

a. She is a tremendously talented mathematician.

b. He is tremendously helpful.

c. The personalities in my classroom vary tremendously.


Click here to download The Golden Whisper for free!

Click the link for the Android app

Click here for the iOS app

Nov 4, 2015
A Park for the People.

Walla Walla park is right next to the river in Wenatchee. When I first came here twenty three years ago, it had just opened. Now, twenty three years later, the trees are so much bigger, and the park is well used by the locals. Its biking and walking paths run(1) for about five miles along the Columbia river. Then they continue over a bridge to the north, follow the other side of the river south, and finally, cross over the southern bridge to form an oval, or what we call The Apple Capital Loop Trail. It actually gets very busy as the walkers and bikers share the same paths. There is a courtesy rule(2) that as a biker approaches people walking in front of him, he must call out, “On your left!” That way, the walkers can move over to the right and let the biker pass safely. Safety is, of course, very important when lots of people are using the same place for sport. The water sports, such as kayaking and fishing, also need safety precautions. The local council has supplied life jackets for anyone who wishes to use them. So, if a family brings a boat to go fishing, they can use as many life jackets as they need, as long as(3) they put them back afterwards. The same goes for kayakers, water skiers, and paddle boarders. It is a generous and practical idea. It also encourages people to be honest, and to give back what they have borrowed. Along with the drinking fountains, toilets, play areas for children, and coffee hut, the free life jackets ensure a safe and enjoyable experience of the park.

1. ‘Run ….along/ the length of’ describes how a physical or imagined road travels, and what it is next to.
a. The route we will take runs up the mountain face and then along to the right.
b. The state boundary runs right along the river.
c. Semi-precious stones can be found on the entire length of the stream.

2. ‘A courtesy rule’ is a rule that is established for the good of the general public, for safety, and for comfort.
a. Opening the door for a lady used to be a courtesy rule.
b. Waving at a driver who has just let you into traffic is a courtesy rule.

3. ‘…as long as…’ is similar in meaning to ‘if’, but it implies that a condition has to be met.
a. You can go to the cinema, as long as you are home by eleven.
b. They can borrow our car, as long as they buy extra insurance.
c. She can borrow twenty dollars, as long as she pays me back by Thursday.


Click here to download The Golden Whisper for free!

Click the link for the Android app

Click here for the iOS app

Oct 29, 2015

1.Barbara: Liz! How are you? I'm so glad you're back. We all missed you!

2.Liz: Oh, thanks. I can't believe that the six months have been and gone!

3.Barbara: So, you must be super-fluent in English now, right? It sounds like the language course in York was really thorough.

4.Liz: My English really is so much better! Well, when you live around it everyday, it has to get better, right? The people in York are so friendly and chatty. And the city is amazing.

5.Barbara: We have to go to our favorite coffee shop, so you can tell me all about it. And don't forget your photos!

6.Liz: That's a great idea. But gosh, I have so much to tell; I don't know where to start!

Click here to download The Golden Whisper for free!

Click the link for the Android app

Click here for the iOS app

Oct 26, 2015
The Sea, the Sunset, and the Ocean Crab.

They walk sideways on their ten, bony legs. They are hard, and seem unfriendly. They run away from humans. Some people have them as pets, but I wouldn't! Their world is water, rivers, oceans, where they live with other cold-blooded animals. They are experts at hiding. And if you catch one, watch out! Your fingers will be pinched if you're not careful. You've probably guessed that I'm talking about the crab. It's a wild, sea creature, though some of them live in rivers. And it is unusual, compared with(1) most animals. It doesn't have any fur or feathers, and it doesn't seem to show emotion. It even wears its skeleton on the outside! One thing that it really does have is a good taste. It was that delicious flavor that prompted (2) my family and some friends to go to Birch Bay. The place is 100 miles north of Seattle, and about 35 miles south of Canada. It is a beautiful, wide bay, that is surrounded by forest. Our friends had a boat, crabbing pots, and all the equipment needed to trap our dinner. The sea must be healthy in that area, because after waiting for just a few hours, we had 30 crabs, far too much for us! We cleaned and boiled them right next to the beach, and then had a feast! The sun went down as we ate, and the most amazing colors developed on the horizon and through the sky. It was really a magical time. Those hard, but delicious creatures had lead us to a beautiful part of the country. We took so many photos of the sunset and its changing colors, and we sat after our meal, and enjoyed the gentle lap(3) of the waves on the shore.

1. 'Compared with..' is an essential tool to use in English conversation and writing. It allows you to create interesting, intermediate sentences. It points to differences, whereas saying 'compared to' points to similarities.

a. Life can be compared to a journey.

b. Ludovico Enaudi, as a composer, can be compared to Vivaldi in many ways.

c. My life in London was very different compared with my life in Wenatchee.

d. Compared with our school funds from last year, this year's funds are really low.

2. 'To prompt' is to encourage or remind. It can be used in many ways.

a. The wonderful weather prompted us to go for a hike.

b. The taste of crab prompted us to go fishing in Birch Bay.

c. During the play, the drama teacher prompted Deborah when she forgot her lines.

d. The rise in the price of milk prompted demonstrations in the capital city today.

3. 'Lap' is a noun and a verb. Your lap is the top of both thighs when you are sitting down, where someone or perhaps a pet can sit. 'To lap' is a gentle forward and backward motion, like a wave on the edge of the shore, or the tongue of an animal when it drinks.

a. We sat at the edge of the river and watched the water lap on the shore.

b. I gave my cat some milk and she lapped it up!

c. Her granddaughter sat on her lap and told her about her day at school.

d. My dog jumped up onto my lap and got me covered in mud!

Click here to download The Golden Whisper for free!

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app

Oct 23, 2015
Di Caprio, real or wax?

Marie Tussaud was a French woman who became famous for her wax models. She was born in Strasbourg in 1761, and developed her hobby by watching the doctor who her mother worked for. He taught her the difficult art of wax modeling. When she was older, she travelled around Great Britain, showing many of her creations, and eventually settled in London, opening up her famous wax museum. There are actually many Madame Tussauds. One that I went to this summer was in San Francisco. It was the first time that we had been to that city, and as (1)we were there for only a couple of days, we wanted to see all the main tourist attractions. We had a great time in the museum, and really laughed a lot. I was surprised when I learned that you are allowed to touch the wax models. When we learned that, there was no stopping us(2). We hugged them, kissed them, pulled faces near them, and copied their poses. When I spotted Leonardo di Caprio, I had to pose with him. He is one of my favorite actors. I pretended that he and I were walking on the red carpet to see the premier of his latest film. When I looked at the photos we had taken, the wax models looked more real than we did (3)! The figures are so perfectly made. I couldn't decide which one of us looked more real, me or di Caprio!

1. '..as we were there for only a couple of days, we wanted...' as here is used the same way as 'because' or 'seeing as though'. It is good to practice producing such long sentences with as.

a. We got off the bus, and as we already had the tickets, we went straight into the theatre. 

b. Maybe you can explain our car problem to the mechanic, as you know more about cars than I do.

2. 'There was no stopping us/ there's no stopping us' is obvious in meaning, and is used to express enthusiasm or determination.

a. We wanted to hike, but it had rained for two weeks. When the sun finally came out, we put our boots on and headed out. There was no stopping us!

b. The business owner was so angry about the rise in taxes, that he went to the local government building to complain. There was no stopping him!

3. 'The wax models looked more real than we did!' I chose this sentence in order to practice the end auxiliary 'did'. This type of sentence sounds very natural. Remember, that we don't use 'did' with the verb 'to be'.

a. He ate more cake than everyone else did!

b. He is definitely taller than you are.

c. She is more generous than you are, but she has less money than you do.

d. She studies less than you do but still gets good grades.

e. They saw the movie before we did.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Oct 20, 2015
Pioneer village.

A museum that is close to my house is the Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village. Cashmere is a little town that is just eight miles away. It is a very small, country town surrounded by hills, and is known for(1) two things: a candy factory, and the museum. As my aunt was visiting from Spain, and is very interested in history, I thought that it would be nice to take her and my mother there for a day out. The museum had a lot of Indian artifacts and photos, and by Indian, I mean Native American Indian. There was an impressive amount of tools, baskets, and ceremonial instruments. This area is rich in Native American history. Outside of the museum building, however, was a collection of original pioneer houses. They were wooden cabins, and had been collected from a forty mile radius(2). They were arranged in a square, and together formed a perfect little village. There was a school, a few shops, a jail, a saloon, a church, and a couple of private houses. They had all been built around the 1880's. Everything inside the cabins revealed the progress of history. There was a printing cabin, with an original printing press. This reminded me that printed news, at that time, was quite a new thing. The cabins revealed to me how sophisticated our lives are now; back then(3), they were very basic. The homes usually had just one or two rooms, with the beds quite close to the oven, so they could stay warm in the winter. The photos that you can see on this link show a how the pioneers of this area lived, just before the Industrial revolution reached the U.S.

1. '...is known for' means 'has the reputation for', 'does something regularly' or 'has done something memorable'.

a. Rosa Parks is known for initiating the civil rights movement in the U.S.

b. Paul Klee is known for experimenting with color in his art.

c. Mrs Brown is known for her fabulous pies.

2. 'Radius' is a mathematical term meaning the line from the center of a circle to the perimeter.

a. To calculate the area of a circle, you need to know the radius.

b. The police searched a radius of two miles outside of the city.

 3. '..back then..' refers to a point in time that has already been mentioned. It is mainly used to refer to the distant past.

a. When my father was a boy, the Second World War was taking place. Back then he lived on a Canadian island.

b. The pioneers came to Wenatchee in the 1800's. Back then, they didn't have electricity.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Oct 20, 2015
Annie's Fun Farm.

Did you know that there are over 30 different varieties of pumpkins? They are grown on every continent apart from Antarctica, and they are used for cooking, for livestock(1), and for decoration. They have been around for a very long time. The oldest recorded evidence of pumpkins dates back 7000 years to Mexico. Although it grows like a vegetable, it is actually a fruit. And what a pretty fruit it is! A friend of ours has recently opened a special pumpkin patch(2), that is a few acres in size. It is called Annie's Fun Farm, and is open to the public for family entertainment. Paths lined with pumpkins have been made, as well as an area to throw apples with giant elastic ropes. There's an inflatable castle, a corn maze(3), and rides on a tractor and trailer. It is a perfect place to take family or friends to have some fun, and to choose that special collection of pumpkins, if that's what you like to do. I filled up a little shopping cart with pumpkins of different shapes, sizes, and colors, to put next to my front door. I also walked through the corn maze. Believe it or not, I got a little scared by the rustle of leaves behind me! What a big baby! But that is actually what the public likes: a little fun, a little scare, and a car load of pumpkins to take home.

1. 'Livestock' means animals that are raised for profit. They are usually farm animals, but can also be horses and similar animals that can be sold as workers instead of for their meat.

a. The farmer has a lot of corn and also livestock.

b. In New Zealand, sheep and deer are bred as livestock.

2. 'Patch' in this podcast means an area of land where the pumpkins grow exclusively. Patch is also used to mean a square piece of material that covers a hole in clothes, or the cover for a blind eye. It can also be used figuratively meaning 'to cover' or 'to repair'.

a. The pirate wore a patch over one eye.

b. Last year we had a huge cabbage patch in our vegetable garden.

c. My grandmother sewed a patch onto my jeans.

d. After arguing for years, we have finally patched up our relationships.

3. 'Maze' is a noun that means a labyrinth or a complicated area.

a. It is common in the Autumn to find places of entertainment with mazes made of corn.

b. Some traditional English gardens have mazes made of very tall hedges.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Oct 16, 2015
Summer Blooms.

One of the benefits of growing your own flowers is picking them and bringing them into the house. Bouquets, after all(1), are expensive in the shops. They bring color, and light, and cheer to an entryway or a kitchen table, but I hate to pay ten dollars for something that I can grow for just pennies. It's not just the cost, however. My biggest thrill in gardening is growing plants from seeds. There is something magical about seeing a little piece of nothing sprout, and then eventually produce a flower. So, with scissors in my hand, and a vase full of water, I walk around my back yard and snip(2) here and snip there until the vase is full. But now it's October, and the summer blooms are coming to an end(3). However, you can extend the season a little by doing two things: you cut off the dead heads, and you fertilize. It's a little trick that I learned from my mother who is also a gardening fanatic. This way, you can double the amount of flowers that you get in one season. It's really worth the effort. In fact, a couple of years ago, my garden produced so many flowers while I was on holiday, that my relatives came regularly to gather the flowers for bouquets for their own homes.

1. 'After all' is powerful idiom that means many things: nevertheless, considering the evidence, ultimately. It points to the most important part of a sentence.

a. The train was an hour late, but we arrived on time after all (like nevertheless)

b. I painted each room and rearranged the furniture; after all, it's my house!(ultimately)

c. Heathrow is always packed with people, after all it is one of the busiest airports in the world. (considering the evidence)

2. 'Snip' is both a noun and a verb, and mean a quick, small cut of scissors.

a. I will go to the hair dressers, but I only need a few snips.

b. The instructions for cooking the noodles say," Snip one corner of the plastic packet, and cook in the microwave on high for two minutes."

3. 'To come to an end' is a longer way of saying 'to finish'. It implies that the finishing is taking some time.

a. The long summer days are coming to an end. The days are slowly getting shorter and shorter.

b. The days of the museum are finally coming to an end, after being open for 50 years. (it will close in a few weeks/months)

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Oct 16, 2015
New Life From Ashes.

The hills of Wenatchee are an unusual color for this time of year. They are usually a sandy brown, due to the dry climate. The brief green of the spring quickly changes into tan(1) as the sun gets hotter and hotter, and the rain stops. The hills are a popular place for hikers and bikers. We walked up one of the many trails a few weeks ago, and experienced a very different hike than normal. The whole area, reaching up to the top of the highest hill, was black. The fires that we had this summer completely consumed the grass, and left nothing but ash. And that's not to mention(2) the houses that also burned. It was a disaster. But now, as the cooler weather is here, there is a stream of(3) people walking at the weekends. As we headed up to a summit, we came across a sign that read, "Keep on the trails; give the plants a chance." What that meant was that we should not walk off the path because plants are beginning to grow again. And sure enough, as I looked around, here and there I saw green shoots(4), and even some plants that are ready to flower. There is a purple lupine that normally flowers in the early spring that is emerging again. The fire must have stimulated the deep bulbs, and now, in October, they are ready to bloom! Nature has been tricked. As I looked around, I realized that although the fires had been overpowering, they were only superficial.All the potential under the earth was still there; the unseen was unaffected. Life was coming again from the ashes. And now, in a short time, the hills will be covered again in purple lupines.

1. 'Tan' is both a color and two verbs. 'To tan oneself' means to spend time in the sun to brown your skin, and it also means to treat an animal skin in order to turn it into leather. 

a. I try to avoid the sun; however, I do look good with a tan.

b. The people on the beach are all tanning themselves.

2. 'Not to mention' is a phrase we use that introduces extra information into a sentence. The information is usually important or significant. It is similar to saying 'also', but more emphatic.

a. His popularity as a singer has grown, not to mention the sales of his records.

b. He was stressed out by the wedding arrangements, not to mention the expense!

3. 'A stream' or 'a constant stream' is a useful expression that describes a consistent amount of something, often people.

a. There was a stream of people all day at the book signing.

b. I had a stream of phone calls this morning, and I couldn't get anything else done!

4. 'Shoots' are the first signs of a plant growing, the new, upright leaves that come out of the ground, as if they are being shot out of a gun.

a. When I plant mangetout, I cover them with a net because the birds like to eat the shoots.

b. When cows eat grass, it stimulates the growth of new shoots.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Sep 4, 2015
Glass Beach.

Glass beach is an interesting place that we visited this summer. It is on the coast of California, to the North. The town is not spectacular; it's the beach that draws(1) the tourists. I had never been to a California beach, and I suppose I was expecting it to be hot and sandy. However, it was cool and foggy for the first day. And there were many beaches. They were small, rocky coves(2), that had caves, and sandy cliffs. Seagulls and seals were here and there. It was the perfect place for exploring. My children climbed and jumped around like monkeys that had been let out of the zoo. There were many rock pools where sea water had become trapped; these are the perfect places to look for crabs, fish, and other sea creatures. We spent hours walking around and searching for treasure; not gold and silver, but glass. As its name suggests, Glass beach is full of old glass that has been broken and made smooth by the waves. For years, the tides (3)and the waves have tumbled bottles of different colors. And the result is wonderful. You can literally pick up handfuls of smooth glass pebbles. Interestingly, most of the blue glass has been picked up by tourists, leaving the greens, reds, and yellows still on the beach. 

1. 'The beach draws tourists'. 'To draw' can mean 2 things: to create a design with a pencil or pen, or to pull in, to attract. In the podcast, I use the verb with the second sense: to attract.

a. Donald Trump always draws lots of media attention.

b. The honey face mask draws out impurities from the skin.

 2. 'A cove' is the same as a bay: a small, rounded area of beach that is sheltered. It is also a sheltered area in a mountain or a narrow pass between woods or hills.

a. We had a picnic in a small, sandy cove.

b. We sheltered from the storm in a cove.

3. 'The tide/s' are the regular coming and going of the sea from the beach. We talk about 'high tide' and 'low tide': when the water is high and low at different times of the day.

a. The tide brought in a lot of sea weed and jelly fish.

b. We can't go onto the beach until low-tide.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy the iOS app.

Aug 7, 2015
A Creative Summer.

Summer can be such a relaxing time. If you're a teacher, it's your turn for a long vacation. However, if you have kids at home, sometimes that summer can become downright (1)stressful. "Mum, Jenna can't come over, and I'm so bored!" said my daughter to me with a look of pain on her face. Her friends are everything to her, and life is just not as colorful(2)when they're not around. I didn't say it, but I thought of something my mother used to say to me whenever I was bored, "Only boring people get bored," she used to say. Well, I decided not to use that phrase; it wasn't very helpful. "Do you want to use my laptop?" I asked, knowing that it would help her get some ideas. "Ok," she half-protested(3). Later, my son Robert came into the kitchen and also complained about being bored, again as if he was in pain. "How about your bike?" I suggested. He went into the garage and didn't come back. "Oh good," I thought to myself, "he must be riding his bike."                                  

About an hour went by. The house was quiet, so I became curious. Were my kids ok? Were they asleep? What had happened? Just then, Robert came running in, "Mum, tell Domini to come out. I drew a racing track on our driveway with chalk(4). It's perfect for racing her Crazy Cart." And then Domini came running down the stairs, "Hey mum, listen to this piece of music I just made on Garage Band." They had both become creative, and had forgotten about being bored. So now the plan was to video the Crazy Cart race, and put it to her music. What a plan! They took turns racing around the driveway while Domini's music played. It was a burst of creative energy. I was impressed. 

1. 'Downright stressful'. Downright is a very emphatic way of saying 'very' or 'completely'. It is usually used when emphasizing something negative, although I have heard it used in sentences like: "She is downright gorgeous."

a. That book was downright boring!

b. The service in that restaurant is downright sloppy!

2. 'Life is just not as colorful..' this expression here is figurative when talking about Domini's friends. The idea of something adding color or light to life is often used in English. The word 'colorful' is used to mean interesting even to an extreme.

a. His language was very colorful (this can mean that he used a lot of rude words).

b. You light up my life, darling.

3. 'Half-protested.' The 'half' here indicates that the action carried out was weak, soft, or not very determined.

a. "Here he comes now," she half-whispered.

b. When he told me that bad news, I half-laughed out of shock.

4. 'I drew a racing track on our driveway with chalk.' This practice is very common here in the U.S, especially in summer. Children will often draw images, tracks, and even gameboards in chalk, and then play on them.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Jul 29, 2015
Helpful Ladies.

Those of you who listen regularly to my podcast will know that I am a gardener. However, you might not know that gardening can be a challenge. This year I have come to realise(1) that I need to learn more about bugs because they can make the garden a success or a failure. Some of my most prized(2) vegetables and flowers get infested at times, and I am left scratching my head, wondering(3) what to do. Bugs are everywhere, and they all serve a purpose, but if I choose to have certain plants in my garden, I must understand what their strengths and weaknesses(4) are, and which bugs either attack them or help them. So, what do you do if you need about 3000 beneficial(5) bugs? Well, you order them online. And that's just what I did about a week ago. Before I knew it, the box arrived on my doorstep. It was a strange experience opening a package, and finding a bag full of bugs inside. I had to follow some instructions before putting them in the garden: wait until it was dark, mist the infected plants with water, gently release the ladybirds. It was fascinating to see the colony slowly leave the bag and start to crawl in all different directions. Success! I felt good about using some of Nature's medicine to keep the garden healthy. The next morning, I went outside early to see what had happened to my new friends. Some of them were still where I had left them, but the rest had disappeared. They must have crawled off to explore, and search for food, or a perfect spot to hide. I hope that they will establish a new home here, go to war on the bad bugs in my garden, and decide to stay.

1. 'To come to realise' means that over time, a person has formed a conclusion or opinion, based on experience.

a. After working all summer in the orchard, I came to realise that it is one of the hardest jobs around!

b. After being overcharged by mechanics for years, I came to realise that I should learn how to fix my own car.

2. 'My most prized + noun'. It's just like saying 'something that I really value.'

a. Out of my stamp collection, this old one from Germany is my prized possession.

b. Our new puppy carries a certain bone everywhere; it's his prized possession.

3. 'To be left scratching one's head, wondering' this phrase gives a visual of a person scratching her head. This action is supposed to represent someone wondering, or trying to figure something out. It is figurative most of the time.

a. When the train was canceled, we were left scratching our heads, wondering how on earth we would get to the airport on time.

b. The cat jumps on the dog's back, and then shoots up the tree, leaving the dog wondering what happened.

4. 'Strengths and weaknesses' are often used in the same sentence.

a. The student survey asked about our strengths and weaknesses.

b. The book definitely had more strengths than weaknesses.

5. 'Beneficial' is often used when talking about nutrition, insects, and bacteria.

a. Fish oil is beneficial for the brain; it improves its function.


b. Bacteria can be good and bad for us. We even have beneficial bacteria in our intestines.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Jul 20, 2015
The U.S Open

In June, I went to the U.S golf Open with my husband for two days. It was at a place called Chambers Bay in Seattle in a very interesting location that overlooked the beautiful Puget Sound. Let me explain: the Puget Sound is an area on the coast where there are many islands. The golf course was built on an old sand and gravel(1) quarry. It is unusually dry compared to most U.S golf courses, but it has its own unique charm, and what a fabulous view of the ocean and the islands. We traveled to the golf course from Wenatchee with friends, and then split up(2), and walked around from 'hole' to hole. It was a hot day, and quite humid. There were crowds of golfing fans(3) everywhere, and funnily enough, a lot of them looked the same. Most of them were big men, in shorts, wearing baseball hats. I'm not a golfer, but I could certainly appreciate their excitement. It must have been a thrill for many of them to get close to the professionals. At one point, I came close to Ryo Ishikawa of Japan (well, I think it was him). His ball had gone off the green and was on a steep hillside. There was a huge crowd of people, squashed together trying to get as close as possible to him. Just before he took a swing at the ball, everyone went quiet, out of respect, and the ball went flying gently in a perfect arc, over a road and back onto the green. You could see the people around gasp(4) at his skill; shaking their heads they said things like, "That's why he's a professional and I'm not!"  I was amazed that the golfers could concentrate with so many fans around. They even had to hear trains going by the 16th and 17th greens: when the sand and gravel quarry was converted into the golf course, the very important train was not diverted. It still needs to go on its route along the coastline, carrying freight(5) and people. We sat down for a while and watched the golfers. Every now and then cheers and applause could be heard; it was quite relaxing, just looking out to sea, and hearing the sounds of the competition. We left the next day after buying some memorabilia, and decided on the way home, to definitely come back and visit the beautiful Puget Sound, with or without the golf.

1. 'Sand and gravel' usually both come from the same quarry, gravel being the very useful small, straight-edged rocks that are used for driveways and roads.

a. The car was speeding along the road, making the gravel fly in all directions.

b. You can always find sand and gravel at construction sites.

2. 'To split up' is used to mean 'to separate' temporarily and also permanently.

a. The couple argued all the time, and finally split up.

b. The hunters split up: two went up the hill to look for bears, and the other two went into the forest to hunt for deer.

3. 'Golfing fans'. In the podcast I said, "There were crowds of golfing fans every where'. However, I could have said, "golf fans". The reason I didn't is that "golf fans" is less clear because the two words become one orally. Similarly, 'to golf', 'golfing', and 'golf' can all be used correctly in sentences.

a. Do you like golf? to golf? golfing?

b. He is such a golf fan/ a fan of golf/ a golfing fan.

4. 'To gasp', 'a gasp'. It's a fabulous word. It's the noise someone makes when they suddenly breathe in out of surprize or shock.

a. She gasped in horror when she realized that she had left her passport in the taxi.

b. I gasped when I opened the door and found a huge bouquet of roses on the kitchen table.

5. 'Freight' is a noun and a verb. It refers to products, like metal, minerals, and even food that need to be transported by train, truck, ship, or plane. It has a similar meaning to 'cargo', 'merchandise', and 'goods', or as a verb, 'the sending of the goods.'

a. That is a freight train; today it is carrying sugar.

b. I ordered a table online, but the freight was so expensive.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Jul 17, 2015
A Change of Plans.

A few weeks ago, I had just answered an email from one of my listeners. "When are you going to write another podcast?" was her question. And it was a good question, as I have been absent for some time. My plan was to write one the next day. In the afternoon, however, as I drove my kids to the swimming pool, I looked to my right, across the river and up to the hills, and saw a huge column of dark smoke. "Oh, no!" I said to myself, and my heart sank(1). "Not again!" This dry, windy climate is prone to fires in the summer, and there are often more than one. I swam briefly in the swimming pool, and then sat on a lawn chair and tried to read, but I was preoccupied with the smoke. As I turned the pages of my Harry Potter, I noticed some flakes of ash(2) on my black swimming suit. "Ok kids, we're going home," I announced. I had a bad feeling; the wind was picking up(3), and that only meant one thing: a big fire. 

Within a few hours the view from our house was all smoke. Our dogs wouldn't stay outside because of the huge helicopters that thundered(4) overhead. A firefighter rang our doorbell and announced that we were on evacuation level number two: soon we would have to leave. It was the first time that we had been so close to a disaster. My in-laws' houses were right where the fire was blowing. We knew that they had left their homes, but we had no idea what would happen next. We each packed a bag, and waited. The hours ticked by slowly, and one by one we fell asleep in our chairs. 

The next morning, I woke up early to the sound of a thunder storm. I walked outside into a warm, smoky rain. The fire had stopped. Our neighborhood was safe. But as I looked up to where my in-laws' houses were, I could see that many were no longer there. The hill was black, and in some places, only chimneys were left. I couldn't believe that it was over. And as I sipped my coffee, I realized that some people no longer had a coffee machine, or a kitchen, or even a house. It was later that I found out just how big(5) the fire had been.

1. 'My heart sank' is a wonderful expression of a feeling of hopelessness or sadness. The verb 'to sink' implies that the heart is heavy like a stone.

a. When I received his letter my heart sank; I knew that the wedding was cancelled.

b. The lost hiker's heart sank as the search helicopter flew over him and disappeared.

2. 'Flakes of ash'. The word 'flake' is used in many contexts. It really means a light mass, or a thin piece. As ash is so soft and powdery, 'a flake' is a good way to describe one thin piece of it.

a. The paint on the door was coming off in flakes.

b. The snow flakes were so light and fluffy.

3. 'The wind was picking up.' In this instance, I could have said, 'the wind was beginning to blow hard'. We use 'picking up' often when talking about the wind. It is short for 'picking up speed', just as a car or a horse will also pick up speed and get faster.

a. The train picked up speed as it went downhill.

b. The runner picked up speed in the last few meters.

4. 'The helicopters thundered overhead.' 'Overhead' is a convenient way of saying 'over our heads', and it is a bit more interesting than saying 'above'. I used the word 'thundered' here to describe the noise of the helicopters. 'Thunder' is of course a noun, but it is also a verb.

a. The children thundered down the stairs like a herd of elephants!

b. When we lived in an apartment next to the motorway, the lorries would thunder right by my window.

5. '...just how big the fire had been.' The word just is quite a powerful word. It can mean 'slight' or 'only', but in this sentence, it is emphatic. Together with the word 'how', it emphasizes the adjective.

a. We had no idea just how beautiful the statue was going to be. 

b. They complained about just how rude the employees were.

c. He talked all evening about just how successful he is!

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Feb 26, 2015
Addicted to Pinterest.

I remember when the internet became available in the 1990's. It was a revolution! It was, as they say, 'the next big thing'(1). Since then, different applications and social media have given us access(2) to huge amounts of information, ideas, and connections with people. One that I discovered recently was Pinterest. My mother had told me about it a year ago, but I didn't pay any attention until a couple of weeks ago. It is a collection of information, projects, photographs, and videos that you can select and collect. Selecting something that you like is called 'pinning' it. You pin what you have found onto what is called a board. It is just like in an office, when you pin a poster onto a notice board(3). You name your board, and you pin more items. My boards are: 'gardening', 'recipes', and 'fun projects'. Every day I add more pins to my boards. Two days ago I used one of the recipes: tender, juicy, barbecued chicken. I followed the instructions, and it turned out wonderfully tender. Later, my husband was shocked when he asked me what I was looking at on my phone, "Oh, I'm on Pinterest," I replied. "I'm looking at how to build a brick wall." "You're looking at 'how to build a brick wall'?" he repeated with a look of horror on his face. He probably imagines that he'll come home, and there'll be a big, brick wall in the middle of the lounge. Well, of course there won't be. It'll be for the garden, and maybe I'll grow some ivy on it. Let me check; there must be some pins about that.

1. 'The next big thing' is a phrase we use when a discovery or invention has taken place. It is one that will have a huge impact on our lives, such as the internet.

a. Probiotics are the new big thing in health.

b. Space exploration is the new big thing in travel.

c. Collaboration is the new big thing in politics.

2. 'Access' is a useful word taken from the verb 'to access'. We use it literally and figuratively. It means to be given a way, a path, an open door.

a. If you go through the gate, you will access the company office.

b. They accessed all of my personal information that was stored on my computer.

c. We accessed the files and found what we needed.

3. 'Board' is usually any rectangular or square piece of wood, cardboard, or similar material. You can put something on it, under it, use it in construction, or in crafts. There are multiple ways to use a board.

a. I stuck the new health pamphlet on the notice board.

b. He put a long, wooden board from one tree to the other and walked along it.

c. Let's use those old boards to fix the play house roof.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Feb 15, 2015
50 words for snow.

Chelan is a town here in Washington State that is famous for its huge lake. Its a forty five minute drive from where we live, and about 500 ft higher. To get to Chelan, we travel right along the Columbia river, and then wind up through some steep hills, before dropping down towards the lake. Many of these hills are wild, and still covered in snow. Last weekend I went up with my husband to one of these places, called Bear Mountain. As my husband is a hunter, he wanted to put out some apples and salt blocks for the deer. So, we loaded up(1) our little four wheeler, and headed up a dirt track. I drove while my husband looked around for deer, but for a while, there was no sign of them. What we did see was lots and lots of snow. It was like a Christmas scene from a chocolate box. We found the group of trees where we needed to dump(2) the apples and salt, and headed back. Well, that was the plan. We tried to head back. What we hadn't realized was that we had parked in deep snow. We were stuck. We tried reversing. That didn't work. We tried going to the left, and we tried going to the right. We pushed, and we pulled. By now, my husband was using some interesting words for the snow.

So, we sat and thought about our situation. I looked around for a solution. The snow was so soft and deep, and underneath, near the ground, it was compact and icy. The wheels just kept on slipping. What were we going to do? "That's it!" I said, "Let's put twigs under the wheels." There were large, dry bushes all around near the trees. So we snapped lots of twigs(3) and stuffed them under the wheels. It worked! The wheels turned without slipping, and we were able to get out of our deep, white trap. We drove back, slipping here and there, and getting sucked into deep patches of snow, but we managed to get back to our truck. As we left, the sun came out, and the snow shone brightly. I remembered hearing that the Eskimos have 50 words for snow. I'm not sure if that's true, but I certainly heard about ten to fifteen unusual words from my husband about it on our trip. As we came down the mountain, we laughed about getting stuck, and both decided that the only word we needed for the snow, at that point, was 'magnificent'.

1. 'To load up' is a verb that we often use, meaning to put or pack items onto a vehicle. It is a general verb that can be used with many different products: food, furniture, rocks, soil, supplies, or anything really. We also use it figuratively, especially to express filling a plate with food. Often you can miss out the 'up'.

a. We loaded up the truck with soil for our back garden project.

b. You can load up your plate with food; we have plenty.

c. We loaded our car with our neighbor's boxes to help him move to his new house. 

2. 'To dump' is a verb that means several things: to throw away, to unload, and to finish a relationship.

a. Just dump that old bicycle. Its broken, so get rid of it.

b. We drove the truck full of soil to the back garden and dumped the soil.

c. She dumped her boyfriend after only one week!

3. 'We snapped lots of twigs'. Here 'to snap' means 'to break'; it is a verb that describes the sound of breaking something thin and wooden. So it is perfect to use with 'twig' which is a small branch. 

a. I snapped my fingers and my dog stopped running and sat down.

b. I snapped off the extra twigs from the bottom of the tree.

c. He fell off the roof and snapped his wrist!

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Dec 29, 2014
Comfortable creatures.

Parks are a breath of fresh air, especially when they are in cities. I found that when we visited London in the summer, we really needed to escape into the parks at least once a day. Children can only take a certain amount of (1)site seeing, and then they need to run and play, and be around trees and grass. The parks in London are wonderful, my favorite being St. James's which is central, right near Buckingham Palace. It is one of the oldest in the city, and has a lake, and many kinds of birds. These animals are used to being around people; they seemed quite tame. We fed the ducks, geese, and swans with some of the sandwiches from our picnics, and we soon found that we were surrounded by pigeons as well. Deeper into the park, we came across another surprisingly comfortable creature: a squirrel. In fact, there were lots of them all over the place. I spotted a man who was feeding one of them nuts from his hand. "Wow!" we all said, as we watched him. He had the right 'touch'(2) with these animals, and they accepted all of his food. He was kind, and gave us some of his peanuts, showing us how to call the squirrels. And, would you believe it, they came scurrying(3) from the trees over to us and ate out of our hands. It was magical. I had no idea that they were so tame! When I worked in central London, I used to relax in St. James's park on my breaks, so I am quite familiar with it. However, I had never taken the time to be around the animals, so I was surprised how close they got to people. Each day we made a point of(4) visiting the squirrels in St. James's park. We would have an ice cream, play frisbee, and then feed the little creatures. We spent quite a few pounds on peanuts, and not one of them went to waste. They would jump up on the fence, take a peanut from one of us, and then jump down and scamper(3) off. I'd like to think that they appreciated our company, but really they just wanted the nuts. Once our peanuts were all gone, they would disappear in a flash, and look for other friendly people with bags of good things to eat.

1. '...can only take a certain amount of' means that too much of something would be intolerable. In this case, site seeing has to be limited, otherwise it becomes exhausting.

a. I can only take a certain amount of country music, and then I've had enough.

b. The crowd was beginning to leave; they had been waiting in the cold to see the actors, but they could only take waiting for so long.

c. At Christmas time, I can only tolerate a certain amount of shopping. I can take a day or two, but then I've had enough of the crowds.

2. 'To have the right 'touch',' can apply to many situations.

a. The animal trainer has the right touch with the animals; he is very gentle and careful, and seems to understand what they want.

b. Gosh, you have the right touch with plants. You can make anything grow!

3. 'To scamper/ to scurry,' these are two fabulous verbs that describe how small animals (rodents) run. We use these verbs particularly with mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels. 'To scamper' implies a bounciness to its running, while 'to scurry' implies a scratching and grabbing while the animal runs.

a. It was fun to see the rabbits scamper all over the field, jumping around like they had springs on their feet.

b. The rat scurried away from the dog, up the metal pipe and onto the roof.

4. 'To make a point of,'  means to deliberately do something; to be intentional.

a. My neighbor is an animal lover, and every day she makes a point of feeding a stray cat.

b. When we visited Amsterdam, we made a point of visiting a historical site each day.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Dec 8, 2014
Bouncing back.

It all started just before Thanksgiving. My daughter had a temperature of 103 and a bad cough. I had kept her home from school, and didn't plan on her going back for a while. The next day, as the twenty-two guests arrived for lunch, I noticed that one of the cousins had a similar cough, but I was really too busy to be thinking about illness. Well, Thanksgiving came and went; the plates and cutlery were washed, the tables were put away, and everything was back to normal. But then I noticed that one of the guests hadn't left. He had actually not even been invited. He was a most unwelcome(1) guest, and his name was 'The Flu'. I opened the front door and asked him to leave, but he he just smiled at me. He was comfortable, and obviously planned on staying. 

Before I knew it, everyone was ill: coughs, temperatures, weakness, and stomach problems. Most of our relatives who had been with us were also miserably sick. I, at that point, wasn't. Usually, I take care of everyone else, and I'm fine. But it was my turn. I had looked into the face of The Flu too many times. After a few days of doing nothing, and feeling sorry for myself(2), I went to the shops. "Anna, is that you? You look terrible!" said a friend of mine I bumped into. "Oh, thanks," I said, not feeling very thankful, and not wanting to hear any more about how I looked. I made a few phone calls and wasn't recognized, "Anna, you sound awful!" was the comment I received. I'm not surprized. I sounded as if I had gravel in my throat(3).

After a few more days, I was much better, and so was everyone else. In fact, I have bounced back. My energy level is up to the roof. I'm studying for my classes, seeing friends, and rushing around preparing for Christmas while listening to a very loud version of Handel's 'Messiah'. Now that the gravel has disappeared from my throat, I can do a podcast. It's good to be back! And if you want any advice from me, be very careful which guests you invite to your house.

1. 'A most unwelcome guest' can also be expressed as 'a very unwelcome guest'. The word 'most' sounds more formal, and is good in stories. This use of 'a+most' can be used with all sorts of adjectives.

a. She was a most gracious relative, always giving and patient.

b. They were a most unbearable gang of young men, always causing conflicts and violence.

2. 'To feel sorry for oneself' is like feeling sad about your situation. You feel pity for yourself.

a. The dog is feeling sorry for himself because he's lost his bone.

b. We all feel sorry for ourselves sometimes, but it is healthier to try and be thankful.

3. 'Gravel' is a noun that is used in the expression of having a bad voice because of illness. We often use the term, 'a gravely voice,' which describes a rough voice that is not clear, as if something is stuck in the throat. Some people might have this without being ill.

a. The old fisherman had rough, wrinkly skin, and a gravely voice.

b. My throat was feeling better; it wasn't sore any more, but my voice was gravely.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Nov 10, 2014
An Indian Cooking Class.

I love to learn, especially when what I'm learning is practical and meaningful. And, also, being from England, I love Indian food. Most people who are not from England think of English food as boring, or that we only eat fish and chips, or roast beef. Tut-tut. Oh, those stereotypes can be so wrong. For a very long time, our national dish in England has been curry, which, yes, is absolutely Indian. In fact, there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants in England. We're crazy about the spicy, rich food. And if you know your history(1), you will know that the English-Indian connection comes from the days when India was a British colony. Well, a few weeks ago, when I was having dinner in the only Indian restaurant in Wenatchee, I saw a poster there advertising Indian cooking classes. I quickly signed up. So, yesterday, I and about fifteen other people turned up at the house of the restaurant owners. We were each given a booklet(2) of recipes. Deedee, the master chef, did all of the cooking while we stood around and took notes. Her house filled with the smells of garlic, ginger, coriander, and masala. One by one(3), we had samples of each dish. The four hour class went by fast, and I drove home imagining myself producing these dishes for my family. The first thing that I'm going to make for them will be chicken curry, with cream and coconut milk. I can already smell it!

1. 'If you know your history'. This is an interesting phrase because of the word 'your'. The phrase doesn't  mean 'your own' history at all. What it means is 'the history that you should have learned', or 'the history that you should remember.'

a. If you know your history, you'll remember that the West of the United States was settled only about 150 years ago.

2. 'A booklet' is a small, paper book that is usually only a few pages long. The suffix 'let' indicates that it is small.

a. My new vacuum cleaner came with a booklet of instructions.

b. The local council produced a booklet about the statues in the local parks.

3. 'One by one' is like saying 'one at a time', but its use is more 'storybookish'. 'One at a time' is also used as a command, when you're telling people to take turns.

a. One by one the children stepped into the dark, abandoned building.

b. We let the balloons go, and one by one they floated up into the sky, their colors shining brightly against the blue.


Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Nov 7, 2014
How does he do that?

I'm sure that many of you who are listening to this podcast have been to Trafalgar Square. It is one of the most famous places in downtown London. In fact, if you visit London, you will find that all the major landmarks(1) are concentrated in the central area of the city. When I went there this summer with my children, we caught the bus every day to Trafalgar Square. The bus terminated(2) there which was perfect for us. So, the first day that we were there, we got off the bus and proceded to sightsee. My children were quite impressed when they looked around: the statues, the fountains, the great circle of architecture around the square, and of course, the lions. Everybody climbs on the lions to have their photo taken; it's a tradition. Another great thing about the square is the street entertainment. There is always someone doing something, either dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or doing something extraordinary(3). On this particular day, we found a man dressed in a silver suit, being extraordinary. He was sitting up in the air on what looked like nothing. He was suspended above the ground with nothing but a walking stick touching the floor. Was he magic? Or was his floating just a clever trick? My youngest children were fascinated. With smiles on their faces, they gave him some money and said, "How do you do that?" Of course the mysterious silver man couldn't talk; that would have destroyed the mystery. He simply lifted his hat as if to say "Hello, and thank you" and continued looking shiny and magical. I wonder how long he sat like that. And I also wonder if anyone saw him get down from his invisible chair.

1. 'Landmark' is a building or structure that is historically or culturally important.

a. Stone Henge is one of the oldest and most famous landmarks in England.

b. Look! There's some kind of landmark. Let's head in that direction.

2. 'Terminated/ to terminate' simply means 'to finish' but it sounds more official or not so every-day.

a. My contract was terminated suddenly.

b. This train terminates in New York at 7pm.

3. 'Extraordinary' is a wonderful word for 'out of the ordinary', 'amazing' or 'odd'. Notice that we don't pronounce the 'a'.

a. His photographic memory is extraordinary.

b. What an extraordinary creature! It is so strange that it's actually a bit scary.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Oct 24, 2014
Catching Fish in Scotland.

This summer we went to visit my father in Scotland. He lives about 3 hours from Glasgow, but had arranged for us to meet him in the Highlands, a little place called Acharacle, near Fort William. We drove up from Yorkshire where I had visited my sister, spent the night in Glasgow, and continued our journey the following day. Acharacle is a very remote, beautiful area. It's a tiny village, with houses hidden all around it in the trees. It is very close to the sea, so that is where we spent most of our time. Several beaches there are unspoilt(1), and all of them are so clean. I took Robert and Domini with me to one of the smaller beaches to play in the white sand. As soon as we got there, they ran over to a rock pool and discovered a school(2) of trapped fish. It was as if they had discovered treasure. They could scoop up(3) handfuls of them with delight. I even did. They stayed in this rock pool for what seemed like ages, until their sleeves were wet and they started to get cold. Then we walked along the beach, collecting shells which we now have at home. Catching fish in Scotland is fun, especially when you can do it with your hands.

1. 'Unspoilt' when we talk about a beach or other geographic area means untouched by humans. The ending of 't' is the English spelling. In the U.S, they spell it with an -ed, 'unspoiled'.

a. I'm glad to say that area is unspoilt by tourism.

b. The forest used to be unspoilt, but now there are shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions here.

2. 'School' is the noun we use to describe a group of fish.

a. We saw an enormous school of silver herring from the boat.

b. We say 'a pack of dogs', but 'a school of fish'.

3. 'To scoop (up)' means to collect in a container of some sort. It can even be done by the hands. The word 'up' shows that you are collecting something from ground level and bringing it up level with yourself. 'A scoop' is usually a rounded quantity of the item you have just 'scooped'.

a. Shall I scoop the icecream? Would you like vanilla or chocolate?

b. The lady scooped up water from the river in her bucket.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Oct 20, 2014
Back to school.

I appologize for not releasing a podcast last week. There was good reason for my absence. I have started a university course which teaches and qualifies me to instruct English language learners. I have been buried in books(1) for a week! I started the course late, actually, as there was some sort of mix up(2) in my application. Well, that was all sorted out, and I was accepted as a student. Thankfully, all of the classes are online, which makes it very convenient for me. I have to keep track of(3) the reading requirements and the homework. The professor from Central Washington University is very friendly and knowledgeable. We have even had a live, online session where we have met everyone in the course, and have given presentations. I love it! I thought at first, that the lessons might be a little dry and boring. But, I'm happy to say that they are not at all. We are learning at the moment about educational theories and the psychologists that created them, and also what works best in a classroom. It's very stimulating. So, now that I am back on track(4), I will bring you more podcasts, and some of them will include the things I'm studying.

1. 'To be buried in books' means to have lots of reading to do. Students are usually 'buried in books'. Of course it is figurative, not literal. I think it is a great idiomatic phrase, and really gives a good visual of someone being covered in books.

a. My poor son is buried in books at the moment, as he has a science exam tomorrow.

b. I am swamped! I'm buried in books, and I need a break!

2. 'A mix up' really means a confusion and a problem. It can be used in any context.

a. There was a mix up at the airport, and I ended up with someone else's luggage.

b. There was a mix up at the restaurant, and I received the bill for the party of 30 people!

3. 'I have to keep track of the reading requirements'. To keep track means to pay attention, to stay on the correct path, to remember.


a. It's your responsibility to keep track of what you spend.

b. Let's keep track of her illness to see if she improves or not.

4. 'To be back on track' is related to 'to keep track of'. We use this phrase when we have returned to a desired routine.

a. I'm back on track with my running; I jog with my friend three times a week.

b. Now that I am over the flu, I'm getting back on track with the household chores.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

Oct 8, 2014
Photos of Washington State, 1.

The photo for today's podcast, comes from a calendar of Washington State that I bought yesterday. The photographer is Rick Schafer, well known and loved for his landscape photography of the Pacific Northwest. Though he lives in Oregon, much of his work is about Washington State. And he has his photos in well-known magazines, such as: Conde Nast Golf, Alaska Airlines, and National Park publications. One of my listeners had asked me a long time ago to show scenes of Washington State, as this is where I live. However, my photos are scattered throughout the house, and limited. So, when I found this calendar, I immediately knew that I needed to borrow these beautiful scenes (and of course, I give Rick Schafer all the credit). This is the first of 12 scenes in the calendar, and it's actually taken from the month of July. The photo is of the Columbia River Gorge, which is close to where I live. The two flowers you can see are typically found in these dry, semi-desert areas in spring and summer. They are wild, purple lupines, and small, yellow sunflowers. They contrast perfectly with eachother, and make a real show on the hills. The gorge area stretches over 290,000 acres, from southern Washington to northern Oregon. It's quite unique, and has its own Native American history, including tribes such as the Nez Perce which you may have heard about. There are 218 miles of trails that you can walk on to explore the area, 800 kinds of flowers, many different animals, and even 1000 historic buildings and archaelogical sites. I live in this area, and I haven't even seen a tiny percentage of all that is here. There's more to see and learn about if you wish to follow the link:Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Download my free ebook, 'The Golden Whisper'

Click the link for the Android app

Click here to buy or rate my app.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next » 28