Wed, 21 September 2011
It was during this Summer vacation that my family and I came across the best toy shop that I have ever been to. It was in the town of Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho, the state that is to the east of Washington State, and next to Montana. As we were only on vacation for a few days, we had a very short time in this particular town, a few hours in fact. The town itself is very clean and organized, with lots of greenery, and right on a lake. It's a tourist attraction, and has a seaside feel to it. It's main street is called Sherman Avenue and is a quaint mix of cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops. It was a hot day, so we stayed on the shady side of the street. You could tell that it was Summer; there were people everywhere, especially in the outside seating areas of the cafes and restaurants. As we walked down towards the lake, I noticed several children a little further down, getting excited, pointing at one of the shops, and going in. My kids soon picked up on this*, and before I knew it, we were inside 'Figpickles Toy Emporium'.It wasn't my intention to buy anything, “We're only going to look,” I said. Well, you know how that goes*, don't you? It was an impressive place, not because of its size (it was a fairly small shop, but long, and divided into different sections). There were ornate, wooden decorations attached to various parts of the ceiling, creating the theme of a magical ship. The shelves that were on every wall, reached to the ceiling, and were completely full of modern, classic, and old fashioned toys. I assumed that they would have the typical toys that you find in big department stores, but they didn't. This was definitely a specialty shop. There were books, puzzles, and building kits about ancient civilizations, pirates, and major battles. I think that my children became so engrossed*, that they forgot about their parents completely. I stood back and watched. The 'girls' toys were tasteful: detailed wooden houses, paper doll kits, dressing up clothes. And actually, most of the toys were unisex*. We must have spent about an hour there. We couldn't leave because the young man who was working there that day was playing with the toys himself. He was using a rubber bow and arrow, firing it from one end of the room to the other, over the heads of the customers! He was having a whale of a time*! So, how could you not get involved when the employee was having so much fun. Thankfully, my kids got hungry after a while, so they were willing to leave. We did buy a couple of things, not because we needed any toys, but more to commemorate our visit.
Related vocabulary and expressions: unisex, engrossed, you know how that goes, to pick up on something.
Mon, 12 September 2011
This past weekend was very special. We had friends to stay. What made the weekend special was that, at the beginning of their stay, we actually didn't even know them. This unusual situation started back in June. There was a knock at the door, and when I opened it I found a blonde, young man, with a shy smile, and an armful* of books. "Hello," he said in an accent that I couldn't exactly place. "My name is Mikhail. I wonder if you have five minutes for me to show you these books that I'm selling." I didn't want to buy any books, but neither was I in a hurry to do anything else, so I asked him to come in. It turns out that he is from Estonia, and has spent the Summer going from door to door, selling educational books made by a company called South Western. Mikhail was charming and friendly, and immediately attracted the attention of my children, who proceeded* to crowd around him and ask all kinds of questions. Well, he showed me the benefits of using these books during my children's school years, and how they help to prepare them for exams, including college entrance exams. I decided to take the plunge* and buy them. He told me that they couldn't be delivered until the beginning of September, and that he would personally bring them to us. Fine. Well, Summer came and went, and the last thing on my mind at the beginning of term were books. I received a reminder card from him about his return, but because baseball season is here, and we are up to our eyeballs* in practices and games, I forgot all about Mikhail and the books. Then, a few days ago, he turns up as he had promised, with our set of books and DVDs. He looked tired. He still had a car load of books to deliver, and time was running out. It was 100 degrees that day, some of his customers hadn't paid yet, and he didn't even have a place to spend the night. My husband and I agreed that they could stay with us. We have a roomy, spare lounge which the kids use as a playroom. It would be cool, comfortable, and if they got bored at night, they could always play with the kids action figures.... They quickly became part of the family, infact, we were all disappointed to see them go. We talked about our countries and cultures, about work and families. In a week, they will go to New York, as a reward for their hard work. They also have the chance to win a trip to another country; those who sell the most books get to go. Mikhail's friend, Olev, who stayed an extra day with us, told us that this kind of Summer work is very hard. It forces you to grow up, become industrious, to persist even when you get a lot of negative responses from people, and to learn self control. These are qualities that he hopes to use in his career back in Estonia. They told us that their Summer experiences were completely varied. "I have been bitten by dogs, and had a gun pointed at me," said Mikhail. I laughed in shock when he told me that. "But in contrast to that," he continued, "we've stayed with some really kind host families." I hope they experience kindness for the rest of their trip, and perhaps, one day, they can show us around their home towns in Estonia.
Related expressions: an armful of, to proceed to, to take the plunge, up to your eyeballs.
1. He walked through the door with an armful of potatoes; the harvest has been good this year.
2. The birds flew into the orchard, and proceded to peck at the cherries.
3. We took the plunge and bought the house. It wasn't cheap, but we can imagine staying here for a long time.
4. I'm up to my eyeballs with bills; it's really too much.
Thu, 8 September 2011
Summer has been and gone, can you believe it? For me, it has flown*. I suppose you have been wondering, "Where on earth is Anna? Has she fallen off the planet? Has she given it all up*, moved to Nepal, and become a monk? Or is she just enjoying her Summer too much?" The latter is the correct answer. Yes, I have enjoyed my Summer. I've taken long breaks from the computer. But, you know, to tell you the truth, I have felt the pull back to podcasting. Something in me has missed doing it. I must admit, sometimes it's therapy for me! And the best part of all, is when I make connections with you listeners. One young man called Denis, emailed me from Russia recently. His English is very good, and he uses my podcasts for a little extra practice. Great! That's exactly what they're for. Good luck in Boston, Denis! Well, I have lots to tell about the Summer, but I'll start by telling you what I'm doing right now. I'm sitting in my favorite spot, which is the front door step. It's quiet and fresh; there's nobody around, so I'm admiring the plants and trees, sipping coffee, and writing for you. It's still warm enough to sit outside without a jacket, thankfully, though that will change soon, I'm sure. I don't know what the weather is going to do, come to think about it*. It has been a very unusual year. The heat of Summer came very late this year. Even the bees were late out of their hives. I have loads of green tomatoes hanging on their vines, which usually, by now, would have ripened and been eaten. Fingers crossed* that the frost doesn't come too soon. I've been hoping to show you photos of my spectacular anemones, but they haven't even budded yet. "It's the coolest Summer in twenty years," I heard someone say the other day. I will certainly enjoy this Autumn season, as it's my favorite. Apart from the garden, which you know is an obsession of mine, it's the routine that I appreciate. Summer, with the kids at home, is a wonderful time, but a bit random. It's hard to feel as though you are achieving very much. But today, all the little monkeys are back at school, I have their baseball practice schedules on the calendar, and I'm feeling pretty organized. I also have signed up for substitute teaching again, as I am no longer homeschooling, and I've already had a week's work, with promise of more. So, the lazy days of Summer are gone, but Autumn will be a time for achievements.
Related expressions: flies/ flown (with time), to give it all up, come to think about it/of it, fingers crossed.
1. I can't believe our vacation has finished; the time has flown!
2. He was a CEO of a major car company for ten years, then he gave it all up, moved to the Bahamas, and opened a tattoo salon.
3. I need to get some money out of the bank today. Come to think of it, I don't have a penny on me!
4. I hope we get a good price for our house when we sell it. Fingers crossed!