Thu, 30 April 2009
Today I thought about tomatoes. You know when you have one of those days when you simply have to eat something in particular. I went out to my vegetable patch this morning to see if there had been any progress with my tomato plants. Not much. They were still alive, green, and standing up. That's okay; it could be worse. Spring in Wenatchee is quite windy, so if you put out your store-bought plants too early, often they get blown over. But mine were fine, ever so slightly bigger than a couple of days ago. I can be patient. I planned my tomato crop carefully this year. Last year I grew several kinds of tomato plants from seed, and it was a disaster. The plants that grew the best were the Cherry tomatoes. They grew abundantly and everywhere. My children weren't keen on them. They gave some to the neighbors, threw some around the yard, and ended up playing tennis with them. My husband and I ate as many as we could, but we prefer the huge Beef tomatoes. They are not only huge, heavy and fleshy, but they also have a rich flavor. Eating one is like having a meal. I remember going to the open markets in Spain and buying kilos of these large, odd shaped vegetables, taking them home, cutting them in half, and eating them with salt. Mmm, I can't wait for Summer.
Vocabulary: vegetable patch, store-bought, to be keen on something, fleshy.
Everyone in our neighborhood has a vegetable patch; we hardly need to go to the shops for food!
My brother is a carpenter. He doesn't like store-bought furniture, so he makes his own.
I'm really keen on gardening, but my favorite hobby is traveling.
Her baby is so fleshy! Look how chubby and cute he is!
My obsession with tomatoes led me to become creative in the kitchen. I think the good weather has made me reminisce about eating fabulous food in Spain. My mother 'invented' a recipe that is tomato based. We ate it often growing up in England. She is a spaniard, and so her cooking is very spanish. She uses garlic, onion, tomatoes, and red peppers as often as she can. Thank God for spanish mothers! It makes my mouth water, just thinking about her cooking. This recipe of hers is called 'Pisto'. If she is asked about it, she makes sure that you understand that it is spelled with an 'i'. "It's nothing to do with Italy. It's not Pesto," she will say. "Anyway, this kind of sauce could only come from Spain," she will add. She has every right to be proud of her creation. I even suggested to her that she market it. It would sell like hot cakes, I'm sure. You can use it as a pasta sauce, a dip (hot or cold), or a side dish for meat or fish. We could be rich and famous....or should we keep it as a family tradition, and pass the secret recipe down from generation to generation instead? Well, that's up to her; she's the boss. Anyway, I have had lots of practice making it, and tonight it turned out very well. I got the thumbs up from everyone at home. My kids even asked for seconds at the dinner table. It is made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, a little olive oil, and a few other things that I won't tell you. If you're not part of the family, then you're not privy to that all important information.
Common sayings: to sell like hot cakes; to be privy to ..., to get the thumbs up.
The new tennis shoes were so popular, they sold like hot cakes.
I don't know what will happen with the family's gold mine; I am not privy to that information.
The union worker got the thumbs up from everyone who heard his speech.
Wed, 29 April 2009
We continue our study of different countries of the world with Spain. This fascinating country makes up most of the Iberian Peninsula that forms the southwestern tip of Europe. Portugal is on its west, and France is on its northeastern border. Though Spain is famous for its beaches along its three coasts, the rest of the land is very varied. More than half of the land is hot and dry, in the central region called the Meseta. It is surrounded by several mountain ranges, from which come three very important rivers: the Tagus, the Douro, and the Guadiana. This country has many mountainous areas, from the Pyrenees in the north, the Sierra Morena, and the Sierra Nevada with its highest mountain, Mulhacen, at about 3,500 meters. About one tenth of Spain is heavily forested. These areas are found in the north where it is wetter. Farming and crop growing are, therefore, mainly found in the north. Spain is one of Europe's biggest producers of wine. Other major industries are: car manufacturing, steelmaking, shipbuilding, chemical manufacturing, and fishing.
The history of Spain is no less varied than its geography. It's position on the map has made it vunerable over the centuries to invasion. The Romans first subdued Spain in the third century BC. It remained a colony until, during the fifth century AD, the Visigoths (Germanic) from the north claimed Spain. During this time, Spain was Christianized. In 711 the Moors invaded from Africa and established an Islamic civilization that lasted six centuries. In the ninth century, invaders from the north started the process of expelling the Moors, which was completed in 1492 when the royals Ferdinand and Isabella from the north unified Spain as a Catholic country. That same year, Columbus, under Spanish sponsorship, reached the New World. Spain conquered much of Central and South America and other parts of the world, gained great wealth, and became a super power. This ended at the battle of the Armada against England.
For the past two hundred years, Spain has gone through tremendous changes: wars with France and the United States, loss of colonies, removal of the royal family, civil war, a fascist dictatorship, and finally the reinstating of the royal family and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy in 1978. Phew! That is a lot of history in a couple of paragraphs. The spaniards are known for their friendship, warmth, great food, and love of life, art, and music. Their historical turmoils, and all the cultural influences they have had, have produced a rich and colorful national culture.
Vocabulary: varied, vunerable, to claim, to expel, sponsorship, dictatorship, to reinstate.
The school's curriculum is so varied; they have art, science, dance, music, and sports.
The baby Kangaroo is completely vunerable; it is tiny and defenseless.
He claimed that the car crash was the other man's fault; it was a lie.
They expelled the boys from school for destroying property.
I need sponsorship from someone to get money for this sports group.
Is this family a dictatorship, or can we all have a say?
The policeman was reinstated after he was found to be innocent.
Tue, 28 April 2009
"Okay, we're interviewing Robert today about his bubble wand, and the other things that he likes to do outside. Okay Robert, what did you find when you came home from school today, that I had bought you?"
"I found a bubble sword."
"A bubble sword. Okay. And how do you use it?"
"You unscrew it, and then spin around, and then bubbles come out."
"Oh, okay. Is it fun?"
"Yeh? Have you had other kinds of bubble makers?"
"Uh-huh. One was a ma-, one was a hand-held, and one was a big gun."
"And how did the big gun work?"
"You put the bubbles, you put the bubbles, you pour the bubbles into the gun, and then you shoot it."
"Oh right, so you pull the trigger. So, tell me, do you like the Spring? What do you like to do outside apart from blow bubbles? What else do you like to do?"
"I like to play with my friends at school."
"Yeh, and when you come home, what kind of things do you like to do outside, now that it's nice weather?"
"I like to run outside, and go on the computer inside."
"Oh, okay. And do you have a bike?"
"Yeh? And where do you ride your bike?"
"Uh, usually to the stop sign, usually to the stop sign and the trampoline."
"Oh right. Okay."
"Stop now" (in a whisper).
"Well, thanks for the interview!"
Because it's Spring, we spend a lot of time outside. We have even started to have barbecues on our deck. Often we will barbecue some steaks, chicken, or hot dogs, and have them with salad and baked potatoes. It is really a wonderful way to eat. The fresh air and the sunshine make the food taste even better. Mind you, it also depends on which way the wind is blowing. Our next door neighbors recently bought a miniature pony which lives in a triangular shelter right next to our hedge. It is a really cute animal, but when you are enjoying a mouthful of food, you don't want to smell horse manure at the same time. Thankfully, that doesn't happen very often. Now after dinner, the kids will run around in the garden and entertain themselves by playing different games. They have all kinds of equipment, from frisbees and balls, to chalk and bubble liquid. Blowing bubbles can be a bit tricky if you are small; it takes practice, good timing, and a bit of dexterity to get the maximum amount of bubbles. But, who doesn't love them? They make such a pretty picture, blowing around next to the trees and flowers.
Vocabulary: recently, manure, mouthful, tricky, dexterity.
Exs: This town is new to us; we moved here recently.
I mixed cow and chicken manure into the soil in my garden to help the vegetables grow.
Here, have some wedding cake. Take a big mouthful.
This project is tricky; if you don't let the glue dry properly, it will fall to pieces.
That boy has great dexterity; he can write with both of his hands and his feet.
Thu, 23 April 2009
Sorry folks, no podcast today. Please join me next week on Tuesday for more of English learning. Thanks and have a great weekend. Anna.
Wed, 22 April 2009
A Tour of Homes.
Welcome back to our tour where we discover each and every room and object in the home. Remember, if you can learn and remember this vocabulary, you will have the advantage of being able to use words and phrases that make you sound natural and in-touch.
The second room that you might come to after the entryway is the powder room or spare bathroom. Some homes don't have these, of course, but here in the United States, it is very common for new homes to have one powder room. For the sake of hygiene, the floors in the newer homes are not carpet. Do you remember the names of the other types of flooring? Tile, wood, and painted concrete; there are also plastic floors called linoleum which are great for cleaning. Any liquids or dirt spilt on linoleum are easily cleaned up.
So, what do you and I and almost everyone on the planet visit a few times a day? The toilet! What a magnificent invention! It is here that I get my greatest inspirations! Okay, let me get serious again. We sit on the seat which is located over the toilet bowl. The water that is contained near our backs is in the water tank. Then we have the all important flush. It even sounds like the noise it makes, doesn't it? Fluuushhhh! We need toilet paper or toilet roll which is held on a toilet roll holder. Then it's time to clean up. Move to the sink, reach for the faucet or tap, turn it on and wash your hands. You need soap and water. The soap can be a bar soap, liquid soap, an anti-bacterial soap, or perhaps a pleasant smelling moisturizing soap. You apply the soap or pour it, work it into a lather with a little water, rub your hands together, and then rinse. I do know that you know how to wash your hands, but the terminology of how to do it is, I think, important. Fluency with these everyday words and phrases will give you confidence.
After you've dried off your hands with a towel, you might want to look in the mirror, brush or comb your hair, brush your teeth, use some dental floss to clean between your teeth, or just admire yourself. Another thing that we use a lot of in the powder room is air freshener for obvious reasons.
Tue, 21 April 2009
Once upon a time, in a land far, far way....no, hang on a minute, that's no good. All stories start like that. How about we have something different for this story. Mmm, I know: Very, very recently, in a place that is close to where I live, something strange and fascinating happened. It is a tale of mystery, that has changed our village forever. It all started on a warm Spring Sunday. It was a glorious, lazy afternoon. Church was over, and people were relaxing on their porches and in their gardens; children were running around playing, and the sound of birds chirping filled the air. It was approaching three o'clock. The bell tower of the local church overlooked the whole village, and when the hour was chimed, the sound would ring out in a clear and familiar way. Today, however, it was different. At first, the bells rang rhythmically, normally; nobody really took any notice as the sound was so well known and expected. But, suddenly, there was a huge crashing of metal, like the bells were being thrown together. High notes and low notes were screaming in a violent, angry chaos. It went on and on.
Everybody looked up, stood up, and turned their heads towards the church on the hill. What on earth was going on? Who was up in the bell tower? Was this some kind of joke? A couple of men ran up the hill to see what was happening, but the angry noise continued until they were almost at the church door, when suddenly it stopped. Running out of the church, with a crazed look on her face, came Mrs Brompton, the church bell ringer and cleaner.
"Help!" she cried, her face pale, and her hair sticking up in all directions. "Ooo, it's horrible! Just horrible!" she yelled, grabbing the beard of one of the men, and shaking his head, as if to make him understand. "Ow!" exclaimed Mr. Meads, prying her hands off of his beard, "Now, Mrs Brompton, what on earth is going on? What's happened?" At those words, Mrs Brompton went very quiet, she wanted to speak but she couldn't. She grabbed Mr. Mead's beard again with one hand and tried to say something. "....a curse!" came out in a whisper, and, at that, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she fainted, falling to the ground like lead.
After the ambulance took Mrs Brompton, the vicar and a group of men searched the church, every room, every nook, every staircase. They found nothing unusual. Even in the bell tower, nothing was out of place. The huge, metal bells hung silently, expressionless, but something about the room felt different. The group of men had assembled here again. Having found no clues at all, they automatically came back to the room where the chaos had started. They stood silently thinking. "Oh, Mrs Brompton's off her rocker, I'd say," said Jeffrey Mullins with a wave of his hand. But his humor wasn't reflected in the other faces. The vicar, Reverend Holtworth, had a particularly serious expression; his face was grey, and his eyes were heavy with thoughts. "It'll be nothing to worry about, I'm sure, vicar, "said Thomas Black. "I bet Betsy just had a funny turn and got tangled up in the ropes." But Rev. Holtworth said nothing in response.
The sun was low in the sky as they left the church. The men headed down the path back to the village. Thomas Black stayed behind to talk to the vicar. Standing there, they could hear Jeffrey Mullins, "The old bat has given everybody something to talk about, hasn't she?" he said with a loud laugh, and the others joined in. Black and the vicar stood in silence for a few moments. "I'm sure when we hear from Betsy it'll all turn out to be nothing," Black said as if asking a question. The vicar said nothing in response, but gave Black a weak smile and a quick nod, as if to reassure him. "If you need anything, you know my number," called out Black as he headed down the path. The sun was setting now, and the birds had fallen silent. Rev. Holtworth stood staring at the bell tower, and uttered under his breath, "There was nobody in the bell tower this afternoon."
Thu, 16 April 2009
A Tour of Homes.
What is the name of the first room that you come to when you walk into a house? It's the entry way. This room varies from house to house. Some are big; others are small. Either way, it is a space in the house which is used as an introduction to the rest of the house. In Western homes, the entry way is not usually an enclosed room. There could be several openings that lead to other rooms. We walk through the front door. There are many types of these: solid wood, glass, a windowed door, double doors, arched doors. And part of the door that is important for its style is the hardware. That is basically the metal parts: the hinges and the door handle. Occasionally there will be a knocker which is metal and with which you knock. Nowadays, most people have a door bell instead. These are the 'ding-dong' type, or an electric buzzer of some kind.
Often there is a door mat infront of the door, to wipe your feet on. You walk through the doorway and into the entryway. As you look around you will see a place to hang up coats, perhaps a closet or a coat hanger. Sometimes there is a mirror on the wall, and a long, slim table under the mirror which is elegant or, at least, decorated in some way. The entryways that I have seen have flowers in pots or baskets, framed art on the walls, and even chandaliers hanging from the ceiling. Often, there are photos of family members here and there.
The floors could be any of various materials: wood, tile, carpet, or even painted concrete. The most popular rugs that one tends to see on the floor are called Asian, Indian, Persian, Traditional, or Native of some kind. Lighting is important, of course, to create atmosphere, and so you don't crash into something and get hurt. So, apart from the occasional chandalier, there might be a standing lamp, or a table lamp, and some are touch on touch off, clap on clap off, or plugged in to a timer. The lamps usually have a switch that you flip or turn, or a button that you press. There are even hallway lights or 'night lights' that one plugs into the electrical sockets, so when the other lights are off, you can still see the floor and where you are going. Electrical sockets or outlets are so useful, especially for plugging in the vacuum cleaner or decorations at Christmas time.
Some people keep their keys in the entry way, so it is easy and quick to pick them up on the way out in the morning. There are key holders of various types and shapes that do the job.
If shoes are taken off in the entry way, then they are put either on a shoe holder, on a shelf, or in a closet. A beautiful thing to have in your entry way also is a chest. This is a big box, usually made of wood, in which you can store anything you need.
My entry way is quite simple, relatively small, and empty. It has a mirror, a glass table (which, by some miracle is still in one piece), a standing lamp, and tile floors. Think about your entry way, and if you have words to add to this list, let me know.
Wed, 15 April 2009
I love doing this podcast every week. What I enjoy most of all, is getting feedback from my listeners. Recently, some of my listeners have sent me E-mails asking how they can improve their English. It's a very good question. I think about how I can improve my language skills when I study French or when I practice Spanish. Being half spanish, I speak the language well, but I do realise that there are holes in my knowledge. How much do I really know? And, probably a more important question is: 'Do I know the most usable and natural sounding parts of the language?' In my effort to speak Spanish to my children, I find myself looking, time and time again, for words that I have never learned before. For example, the other day, one of my children was helping me in the kitchen. We were baking. Oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies are a great favorite in this house, and my two oldest boys are experts; they know the ingredients, the method, and even the cooking time. As we were talking, I wanted to say in Spanish, " Get the sieve for the flour." Well, did I know the word for sieve? Unfortunately not. It made me realise that there are hundreds of ordinary, everyday words that we should know if we want to feel confident and also if we want to sound like a native.
Useful phrases: most of all, recently, time and time again, hundreds of.
Exs: My favorite holidays are spent in the countryside, but most of all, I enjoy hiking through forests.
I am usually full of energy, but recently I have felt so tired.
I asked the telephone company time and time again to come and check our phone lines, but they haven't yet.
At the concert there were hundreds of people.
It's an exciting time for my podcast, my dear listeners, as I have decided to make a few changes. I am making these changes with both you and me in mind. Going to New Zealand has made me consider other countries that I have never visited. If it were up to me, I would go to every country on this planet, but obviously that is impossible. So, why don't you and I visit each country through my podcasts? Together we can get to know the geography, history, and culture of each unique country, and, perhaps, along the way, get a greater understanding of this wonderful planet that we share. It will be our way of traveling. So, every other week, or, as we say in England, 'every fortnight', I will bring you a brief but concentrated view of a particular country.
Another regular podcast will be called, 'A Tour of Homes.' Once every two weeks, I will walk with you through a typical home, from room to room, object to object, to really make sure that we know the ordinary and very useful words. Knowing this vocabulary makes you feel and sound confident. Just like when I was looking for the word 'sieve' in Spanish, I will spend a podcast or more in the kitchen, so one day, you will be able to look around your own kitchen, and say most things in English.
A third and final podcast that I will add to this list is 'Story Time'. Oh, I love stories. I also love to write them. Sometimes what I write becomes very silly, but, you know, that's okay. Being silly is a good way to learn a language. If it is funny, you will remember it much better than if it is boring, don't you think? So, expect stories of all kinds from Anna: goofy, scary, annoying even, but I promise you that they will catch your attention and improve your English.
Useful vocabulary: in mind, if it were up to ...., along the way.
Exs: I had my mother in mind when I bought those flowers; I knew she'd love them, they are her favorites.
If it were up to me, the bus driver would be fired. If it were up to the bus driver, he would be driving a limousine.
I walked with my cousin to the restaurant, and along the way, we discussed our plans for the next vacation.
Tue, 14 April 2009
"Oh, no!" you say, "she's going to talk about New Zealand again." Well, in a way I am. This part of today's podcast is about a perfect day in Christchurch. A day when I experienced many of the things I like most: good company, historic buildings, great music, quiche, gardens, and tea! Ah, what a dreamy day. It was one of my last days in New Zealand, my brother didn't have to work, so we decided to hang out in the center of town and enjoy ourselves. We walked around quite a bit, went back to visit the Botanical gardens again, and window shopped. I got hungry after a while, so we found a cafe just a couple of streets away from the main square. I ordered a quiche, a juice, and a pot of tea, and we chose a table outside. The weather was perfect, sunny, a slight breeze, and joyfully bright. We sat there and watched the world go by. Then a lady with very red hair who was standing on the sidewalk*started to sing. She sang jazz. Wow, she was good. She sang many songs that we recognized. She stopped often and played the saxophone. It was wonderful to sit and be entertained. " Just think," said my brother, "if you had a voice like that, you could travel the world and make the money you need by just singing."
Preterite: walk-walked, go-went, get-got, find-found, watch-watched, is-was, start-started, have-had.
Exs: She walked down the street, went into a shop and found a dark corner to hide in. She watched to see if the man was following her. He was. She started to panic. She had to find a way to escape unnoticed.
* Sidewalk (Americanism) = pavement (British).
While my brother and I were listening to the talented, red headed jazz singer outside the cafe in Christchurch, I remembered something. A chapter of my youth came to mind, and I was reminded of something I did in my teens. I must have been only 19 years old, and in college. I joined a rock band. One evening, in the college bar, I had met a very friendly group of German students. We chatted for a while, and then they told me that they were looking for a backing vocalist for their group. "I'll do it!" I said, not knowing at all just how much work was involved. Well, I tried out for the position, and they said that I would do. It was very exciting. I had never done anything like that before. I had an idea of fame, and lots of record contracts. Well, one of the young men on the group had met a music manager who said that he had been one of the managers for the famous Ozzie Ozborne. Mmm, I don't know if that was a good thing, but, at least it was a connection to the music world. He arranged for us to have three performances in different pubs around London.We actually got paid for it. I don't even remember what our group was called, but I do remember that we would dress in black, and look very cool. Our sound was not so cool, thanks, in part, to me. It wasn't until we played in my own college, in front of my friends and other students, that I realized that being a famous singer was not for me. It was very embarrassing. One of the electric guitar strings broke half way through the concert; I sang a very corny, romantic song that I had written, which sounded terrible. And, afterwards, when we listened to the recording, we laughed so hard that we cried. You could say that it was our final debut. There is no substitute for talent. So, we decided to stick to studying, and leave the singing to the naturally talented.
Preterite continued: remember-remembered, remind-reminded, join-joined, chat-chatted, pay-paid, realize-realized, try-tried.
Exs: My friend reminded me to go to the acting audition. I remembered to practice my lines. I joined the line of other actors and we chatted nervously. Many had paid a lot to travel here. I realized that I just had to relax. I tried my best and got the part!
Related vocabulary: vocalist, backing vocalist, recording, contract, manager, debut, encore, performance, concert.
Thu, 9 April 2009
I know that you podlisteners have heard about my trip to New Zealand, but, I'm afraid, you will have to hear more. There is much more to tell. One of the things that it is interesting to learn about when you go to another country, is the wild life. My brother, Richard, as well as being a teacher, is a photographer, and, as such, is a wild life fanatic. Every chance he gets, he will take a picture of a bird or another creature. In fact, it is not unusual to find my brother totally dressed in green and brown camouflage clothes, hiding in a bush in a forest, sitting for hours on end, waiting for an opportunity to take the perfect picture. He's a perfectionist, and his photos reveal that about him. He enouraged me to go with him to a wild life sanctuary just outside Christchurch to see some native and non-native species. We had a great time. One of the cutest things we saw was a Wallaby. It is just like a Kangaroo but much smaller. The ones in this sanctuary were quite tame. My brother was able to pet one of them, and it didn't seem scared at all. We walked along a quiet, forest-like path and saw lots of different birds and other animals. Then came the most special experience of the trip. A Kiwi sanctuary. They are nocturnal and very shy. It was quite a thrill to see one.
Related vocabulary: camouflage, fanatic, sanctuary, species, native.
Exs: The soldier in the forest was dressed in camouflage, but we could see his red underwear.
My cousin is a fanatic about cleaning; her house is always spotless.
That church is a sanctuary; a safe, quiet place to think and pray.
There a many species of snake in this country. Some are even poisonous.
Some of the flowers in my garden are native of Nepal.
I knew nothing about the Kiwi bird until I went to New Zealand. I didn't realize that it is a nocturnal bird that is completely defenseless. It doesn't fly, so if there are any predators near them, they don't stand a chance. Apparently, before the European settlers arrived in New Zealand, it was a country of birds. There were no predators of any kind, so the birds were safe. There are still no major predators like wild cats, bears, or wolves. However, with the settlers came rats and stoats, both of which eat birds and their eggs. This severely reduced the amount of Kiwis. Because they don't have sharp teeth or strong claws, they are weak in a fight. Also, they have a huge disadvantage of being flightless, so they can not escape. The poor things are sitting targets for the rats and stoats. But now, they are very much protected. All out war has been declared on their predators. Anyone who wants to kill a rat or a stoat at any time, is more than welcome. Also, science is being used to get the Kiwi numbers up and into full production. One of the small coastal islands that form part of the territory of New Zealand is being cleared of all rodents, and will be dedicated to the Kiwi. I think it is significant that such a gentle creature is the national symbol of this beautiful and humane country.
Related vocabulary: predators, defenseless, rodents, disadvantage, a sitting target.
Exs: In this country, there are some pretty scary predators: Grizzly bears, and Cougars.
The poor little butterfly was quite defenseless against the spider.
I hate rodents; they carry diseases and are very aggressive.
Peter realized that his lack of humor was a disadvantage.
The duck was frozen on the pond; it was a sitting target.