Fri, 30 April 2010
Do you like to shop? I actually do not like to at all. I always find that I am in a hurry, I don't enjoy looking through aisles and aisles of clothes for just one piece that I like, and I get impatient when I have to wait in line. But, one thing makes a very big difference. If I can find a good bargain, then I am a happy camper. That means that I am quite content to do the shopping 'thing', just like everybody else. There is a place just over the river from here called Ross. It is one of a chain of clothing and houseware stores that sells new items for incredible bargains. But, how is that possible? As far as I know, the store buys out of season clothes and surplus items from big department stores. Now, I have a hobby of second-hand store shopping; getting ridiculously cheap items from stores that sell second-hand items. That is different all together. When you go into one of those places you never know what to expect. You know that you might not find anything suitable at all. You are very unlikely to lose money or feel cheated, because everything is so, so cheap. And, occasionally when you do find something worth buying, it feels like a major achievement. Ross gives a similar experience, but you also know that you are buying something that is brand new; it's never been used. It is brand spanking new. So, if you do happen to have some time to browse, it is worth making a trip to Ross. I bought a couple of bags worth of tops today, that I threw on in the changing rooms to make sure that everything fit well, and when I got to the check-out till, I had a smile on my face because I had managed to spend very little for what I had bought. "Good deal!" as they say around here.
Related vocabulary: a happy camper, the aisle, houseware, brand spanking new.
1. I am a happy camper today because I got so many bargains.
2. The clothes store was huge; there were ten aisles of jeans.
3. This is a houseware catalogue. You can find anything that you can think of for your home.
4. His shiny new car is brand spanking new; he bought it an hour ago.
Thu, 29 April 2010
Fire up the barby! The good weather is here, minced meat is on sale in the supermarket, and the nights are longer. It's time to clean the outside furniture, put a tablecloth on the table, buy propane for the barbecue, and decide what's for dinner. Our barbecue has spent the winter under a heavy duty, plastic cover. Now we can get it out, clean it up, put in a new tank of fuel, and get out the recipe book. The longer days are so much more cheery than the short ones of winter. Eating outside, 'al fresco', is a real pleasure, and always makes the food taste better. This weekend is a special spring celebration in Wenatchee; it's Apple Blossom weekend. There will be a parade through the center of town, a food fair in one of the parks, and a carnival in another. It is the perfect time to invite friends and family over, after the day's events, and have one of the favorites: hamburgers, hotdogs, marinated chicken, thinly sliced beef, vegetables on a scewer, or a vegetarian kebab. Yummy! A potluck is also a good choice. That's when each couple or family that comes over brings a dish of some sort. One person brings a salad, another brings a dessert, perhaps drinks can be brought, and then the host family supplies the main dish. You can eat and chat away until the sun goes down and the stars come out. I look forward to the days when it stays warm until nine or ten o'clock at night, so we can all stay out until we all get sleepy. A friend of mine barbecues all year long. She has a covered deck or patio, so even when there is snow outside in the middle of winter, she can barbecue whatever she wants. So, this weekend, tell your friends, bring some beer and some punch, and come and join us.
Related vocabulary: minced meat, propane, heavy duty, deck.
1. This recipe calls for minced meat, just like the beef we use for hamburgers.
2. Propane is the gas that is best for barbecues.
3. I bought myself some heavy duty gloves; they are perfect for gardening and rough work.
4. I need to sweep the deck before our friends come over for a barbecue.
Wed, 28 April 2010
Grab your baseball hat or something else that will keep the sun out of your eyes, your sunglasses, a blanket, and a chair that isn't too hard. It's time to be a spectator. It's the season. You'll see these people, parking in the parking lot of a baseball or soccer field, opening up the back of their cars, and getting all kinds of equipment, blankets, coolers full of food and drinks, hats, gloves, newspapers. They've thought of everything. Spectating is a serious business. When a family member is involved in the sport that you watch, you don't want anything to distract you; you want to keep your eyes on the game, keep score, and not miss a thing. I made the mistake of taking my laptop to my son's game the other day; I had to do my podcast, and, I thought, while he was in the dugout (or not playing) that I could get some work done. Big mistake! I had all kinds of dirty looks coming in my direction. It is not the done thing, not kosher; it's breaking an unwritten rule. So, I won't do that again. It's interesting, you know, watching all the other spectators. Most of them sit quietly and occasionally cheer someone on, but some of them really stand out. You have the ones who are particularly loud, and yell instructions at the players, even though the coach is quite capable of doing that. You have the ones who have practically set up camp, who pass out food, chat through the whole game, and spend a lot of time setting up and packing up. And then there is always a scattering of people who have just got off work in time to see a son or daughter play; they rush to the field, coffee in hand, baseball cap firmly on their heads, nodding and saying "hi" to people here and there. It's generally a positive place, and friendly too. Everyone is enjoying themselves, even when their team is losing. I suppose it is a shared experience: the sport, the parenting; we are all in the same boat. How could I possibly think that a laptop would fit in here? I've had some good conversations with people at the ball park, and a good laugh too. It's one place in the U.S. where people can leave the rush of work, and sit and enjoy a sense of community.
Related vocabulary: a cooler, serious business, the dugout, to be capable.
1. A cooler is an insulated container that keeps food cool; you generally half fill it with ice and add the food.
2. Coin collecting is serious business for my nephew.
3. The dugout is the sheltered area where the baseball players rest when they are not playing.
4. My mother is good at fixing things; she is capable of fixing her car or anyone else's.
Tue, 27 April 2010
Helen the hippo is my friend at the moment. My little girl is learning how to read, and Helen is the type of character that is helping her to do so. It has been wonderful and fascinating to see the transition from knowing the alphabet to putting words together. Today, in the car, while we were waiting outside of the music school for my oldest son, Domini picked up some books that we keep in the back. To my amazement she slowly started to spell out the words, reading slowly. Every now and then, she would get a word wrong or guess it, but I noticed that she would recognize the first two letters in each word, and often the last one or two. In English, you have to use tricks like that because we have so many odd spellings: the silent e's, the silent gh's, the ph's, and the wh's that can be anything from 'what' to 'who'. Believe me, native English speakers have a hard enough time learning how to read English, not just the non-natives. My daughter squealed with delight when I would say,"Yep, you got that right." Her sense of satisfaction is tremendous; at last she can tell her brothers, who are all readers, that she too can do what they do. Good for her! Now I can get out the series of beginners books that I have used with the boys, and they can be kept in her room. Helen the hippo comes from this series, along with Olive the octopus, and Suzy the snake. The books work their way through the alphabet, introducing what we call 'sight words', those common English words that have to be memorized because they are essential, and a lot of them are irregular. Some of these words that you will be familiar with are: there, their, who, what, one, two, eight, night, and the list goes on. I've noticed, when I volunteer in Robert's class, that children's books use a lot of patterns, rhyme, and humor or surprize to keep the children's attention, and to make the words memorable. You'll find sentences like:
If you follow these podcasts it will not hurt,
Common expressions: at the moment, every now and then, good for (person), the chances are.
1. Professor Penguin is busy at the moment; he will be available shortly.
2. Every now and then, Lucy the lion will visit her neighbor Betty the bear for a cup of tea.
3. David, the doggy detective, cracked the case. He solved the crime, good for him!
4. If you play roughly with the kitten, the chances are you will get bitten.
Begeebees. Similar in meaning to completely, utterly, the tar, or heck.
1. I rubbed the begeebees (heck) out of the stain on the carpet, but it still wouldn't come out.
I rubbed the stain on the carpet completely, but it still wouldn't come out.
2. The boxers beat the begeebees (tar) out of eachother, and had to be taken to hospital.
3. What the begeebees (heck) do you think you are doing?
Mon, 26 April 2010
"Mummy, can I pet the horses?" said my daughter as we crossed the road to the center of the town of Leavenworth. We had decided to spend a few hours in a nearby town, for a change of scenery. The horses in the road were attached to carts that were well decorated, intended for tourists. There were leather straps on the cart with bells and flowers, and the drivers were dressed in traditional German costume. "One day, darling, we'll go on one of those rides," I told my daughter as I took her by the hand and we all crossed the road. There is a restaurant on the main strip of Leavenworth called Pav's, a creperie, where I planned on taking everyone. I wasn't sure if it was open or not, with it being Sunday. Mind you, Leavenworth is a tourist town, so I had a feeling that it would be open. The children and I walked along the main road, past many shops of all kinds, and tourists who had obviously come from all over the world. I could hear people chatting to eachother in many different languages. What a refreshing change! We found Pav's, and yes, it was open. When we were seated, I told the kids that they could only have a dessert, because the dishes are huge, and there was no way that they could eat a main dish and a dessert. As the kids looked at the menu, I looked around at the decor: thick, heavy curtains in each room, dark, earthy colors on the walls, a massive mirror that takes up a whole wall, and lots of French pictures. The kitchen is in the entryway, and completely open. It is a restaurant that has a lot of atmosphere and character, which is important to me; I like to enjoy my surroundings when I eat. My husband joined us after a while; he had cycled up to Leavenworth. The food came and, oh my, what a feast! Two of my sons had ordered fresh pear crepes with vanilla icecream and whipped cream. The other two had chocolate gelato and lemon cheese cake. Hey, you have to make memories while you can. I actually only ordered a coffee, because I knew that my children would never finish their food, so, like a vulture, I would finish it off. After Pav's, we walked through the town and down to the park which has two bridges and lots of trails. We saw several deer and geese with their goslings. It was a magical day, a full Spring day with a feast for the stomach and the eyes as well.
Practice of the preterite with related vocabulary: the strip, to finish off, to take up (space), surroundings.
1. The main strip of Las Vegas was a sea of flashing lights and giant hotels.
2. The caterers finished off the wedding cake while everyone was still dancing.
3. The sofa took up too much room, so we got a smaller one instead.
4. All of a sudden, he found himself in unfamiliar surroundings.
Fri, 23 April 2010
I did a really unpleasant thing the day before yesterday. It was totally necessary; in fact, it was a service to my family. There is the most delicious yet simple meal that is very traditional around this area, but to make it requires getting your hands dirty. That special meal is barbecue chicken. Now, that doesn't mean that we actually put chicken on a barbecue outside. This type of barbecue chicken is cooked in the oven, the longer the better. For this dish, I use the drumsticks ( or legs). I have to, very meticulously, peel off the skin from the raw chicken legs, one at a time, before putting them into a deep oven-proof dish. I do about twenty to thirty at a time. This is the unpleasant part, partly because it isn't easy, but mainly because the skin feels slimey, and gets under your nails. But that's the sacrifice you have to make. You put the lid on the dish and into the oven it goes at about 400 degrees for at least an hour. No water, oil, or condiments are needed. You just bake the begeebees out of the drumsticks. The next step is to take the dish out of the oven, and to discard at least three quarters of the juice that has come out of the meat. Just throw it away. Then cover the legs with barbecue sauce, either one large bottle or two small ones. Honey barbecue sauce is a favorite around here, as well as smokey flavored sauce. Well, you cover the dish again and put it back in the oven, this time at 300 degrees for an hour, or even better, two hours. The meat wil be more tender the more you cook it. And that, my friends, is it. Simple, simple, simple. It goes really well with mashed potatoes, baked beans, and a crispy salad or coleslaw. The meat literally falls off the bone, and there is no fat or skin to deal with, so even children can tuck in without complaining. It is great if left overnight in the fridge, or even frozen for a while and then reheated. You can't really go wrong with it, as far as using it for left-overs. In fact, I had some for breakfast just yesterday!
Related vocabulary: meticulous, raw, the 'begeebees', to discard.
1. That cake decorator is meticulous. You should see the details she puts on wedding cakes.
2. We cannot eat the turkey; it is still raw on the inside.
3. The boxers beat the begeebees out of eachother and had to go to hospital.
4. Open the package and discard the little packet of silica inside; it must be thrown away and not eaten.
Thu, 22 April 2010
Just opposite where we live is a cherry orchard. It must be about four or five acres. In the late winter or early spring, the trees get pruned. Excess branches are cut off in order to make the trees more productive. That system works, and is understood by everyone around here. It is part of being effective when growing fruit. The trouble is, that habit of seriously pruning fruit trees has crept into the rest of Wenatchee. Although Wenatchee is a dry valley, people over the years have made the effort to plant quite a number of trees. We also, thankfully, have quite a few very large trees that were planted by the first settlers. In a hot climate you need your shade. Most of the oldest trees have been left alone. They are splendidly huge, and spread out nicely. Of course, every now and then a limb must be cut off if it is diseased, or weak enough to blow off in a wind storm. However, if you look at the photo in the blogpage, you will get an idea of the crazy pruning that I have seen in quite a few places here in town. It alll started when I saw, in the main outside mall area, a shocking sight of big trees that have been cut in half; their top halves have been chopped off. It looks like a war zone! What were these pruners thinking? Who gave the instructions? Were these people actually licensed? Ever since then, as I drive around town, with my camera at the ready, I have noticed more and more butchered trees. Then, about two weeks ago, a tree expert wrote in to the daily newspaper to comment on how unnecessary the pruning is, how it weakens the roots of a tree, and makes it more of a hazard. Being a tree lover myself, I am very alarmed, and I will certainly send in my thoughts to the towns newspaper, along with a number of photos of the disfigured trees of Wenatchee.
Related vocabulary: productive, to creep, a settler, a limb.
1. There are many methods of making an orchard productive; pruning is one of them.
2. The cat crept into the pantry and started sniffing around for food.
3. The first settlers who came here planted fruit orchards, and also many shade trees.
4. That limb needs to be cut off of the tree. It looks weak, and could be dangerous in a storm.
Wed, 21 April 2010
A strange type of creature has been appearing in Wenatchee recently. Apparently, it comes out when the weather gets nice. It is very tall, furry, and generally has a smile on its face. Unlike most other animals, it likes to be close to people and traffic, rather than near trees and bushes. It is also very friendly to humans, just like dogs, but instead of wagging its tail, it waves its hand. Have you guessed what these creatures are? They are the happy mascots of different businesses around town. They stand on the street corners, or just outside where they work, and they wave at the passing cars. I drove past a drive-through coffee business, and found a panda dancing around on the corner. His black and white costume caught my eye, and I suddenly heard, "Mum, please, please, can we go and hug him?" coming from the back seat. So, I pulled the car around and parked in the parking lot. We got out and hugged the silent panda, who is best at hugging, so there is no need for him to talk. My daughter was thrilled. I haven't quite figured out if she knows there is a person inside, or if she chooses to believe that this really is a special kind of creature. Then today, as I was waiting at a traffic light, I spotted another furry salesman, dancing around outside a fast food hamburger business. I don't know how much business he had encouraged, but he certainly looked happy. Cars were zooming past him, but he just kept on waving. It actually got quite hot today, and I wondered if these furry salesmen were doing okay in their very warm coats. Perhaps they had been able to have a cold diet coke or an iced latte to cool them down. I have seen mascots at ball games, and in High Schools, but it seems that more and more are getting employment in Wenatchee these days. They are obviously willing to do the work that the natives do not want to do.....
Practice of the past with related verbs: to catch someone's eye, to figure out, to spot, to zoom.
1. The colorful clown caught my eye as he walked down the street, holding a large handful of
2. My son hasn't figured out the math solution yet; it might take him some time.
3. I spotted my mother's car outside her favorite antique shop; I know what she was doing......
4. The airplanes zoomed past our house. They seemed to be very close to our rooves!
Tue, 20 April 2010
The financial crisis has hit Wenatchee quite hard in the past year or so. Businesses have closed, some people have lost their homes or jobs, or both. Everyone seems to be more careful about spending, and it has become normal to be frugal, or very careful or thoughtful about money. My husband and I have been trying to find ways to cut costs. One expense that was easy to lower was our television bill. The cable and satelite companies here in the U.S sell packages to their customers: a certain amount of channels for a certain amount of money. The more you pay, the larger the choice of channels. Well, I realized a while ago, that we only watch a few channels, but we pay for a lot that we don't even like. After calling the company we use and lowering our package, I was happy to find that we saved about forty dollars a month. Good savings! But, I knew that we could do even better. I signed up for an on-line, instant television and film viewing network called Netflix. It's monthly cost is less than ten dollars, you can instantly view on your computer from a list of thousands of items, or you can have them send you, at no extra cost, DVDs in the mail, one after another. Brilliant! It works, and we love it. The next step was trying to hook my PC up to the tv. "Well, that shouldn't be a problem," I said to everyone confidently. Oh my goodness. I had to make four trips to Radio Shack, where they sell all kinds of cables, plugs, and computers. Each time I went I experienced great service, but I came away with something that didn't quite work. I was so frustrated. By the forth time, I was absolutely determined to get the right stuff, even if it meant buying a thousand cables. Okay, I'm exaggerating. I bought a package of cables that is used specifically to hook up a PC to a tv. I was almost scared to open it. When I did, I was horrified to see what looked like an ocean of cables. There were so many of them! The instruction booklet was so difficult to understand that I looked everything up on Google to get my step by step instructions. Thankyou Google! After plugging everything in, putting the tv on the correct setting, and changing the display setting of my PC, suddenly what was on my PC screen, appeared on the tv. Hurray! I did it! Now, we can instantly view programs and films that we like on our big tv.
Practice of 'should' and 'could' with related vocabulary: frugal, package, to hook up, booklet.
1. We should be more frugal these days and think carefully before we make a big purchase.
2. We could save money by getting the phone, the internet, and the television all in one package.
3. If he wants to make a speech to the crowd, he should hook up the microphone to the speakers.
4. The instruction booklet is hopeless, but you could google the instructions.
Mon, 19 April 2010
Ah, Spring is here, and we are back to the normal good weather activities. This weekend, we had a couple of the kids' friends over for a 'sleep-over'. You can probably tell by the name what a sleep-over is: the kids come and play in the evening and end up spending the night. It is the latest thing that seems to be extremely important to my children. If only one of them can have a friend over, then it's just not fair, so we have to have at least two to keep everyone happy. The next morning, all the kids were running around outside, playing 'army' and climbing trees. My husband busied himself by mowing the lawn and fixing an irrigation pipe that was broken. I noticed that he was gathering wood and dry brush from the garden, going back and forth, back and forth. What was he up to? It got to late afternoon and he was still out in the back garden. I went to check on the children who were now playing in the front garden, when Hudson suddenly yelled, "Hey look everyone, a fire!" We ran over to the fence that separates the front yard from the back yard, and, sure enough, there was a big fire in the firepit. The plan was to burn a few things in the firepit, and then, as the fire died down, we would sit around it and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. This was cause for a lot of excitement! The idea of fire and sugar always excites the kids. Okay, so,let's get organized. Get the chairs, get the food, and get the long sticks to put the hot dogs and marshmallows on. When we had everything together, we sat around and gazed at the fire, while the kids held their special treats over the flames. The trick with marshmallows is to get them nicely browned, but not burned. If one catches fire, it is done for. So, you hold the stick over the fire, and slowly turn it, to cook the food just right, keeping an eye on it, so it doesn't get overdone. The packet of marshmallows soon ran out, the fire died down, and I could hear people starting to yawn. What a perfect way to spend a Spring evening. Fire and sugar, what a combination!
Common phrases: to busy oneself, it's not fair, sure enough, to be up to...
1. They busied themselves by setting up camp and preparing the dinner.
2. He has a bigger slice of cake than I do; that's just not fair!
3. The lady wasn't looking where she was going, so, sure enough, she tripped and fell.
4. What are you up to kids? How come the cookie jar is empty? Have you been up to no good?