Wed, 30 November 2011
Those of you who have been listening to my podcast for the past three years, will know that I have complained about my camera on quite a few occasions. Though it has been both useful and practical for my podcasts, and small enough to fit in my handbag, I have been frustrated with it most of the time. I've described it as a 'dinosaur' more than once. This is a term we often use for an out-of-date piece of technology, such as a computer, or an old cell phone. Well, my little camera is going to be handed down to one of my kids, recycled you could say, because I've got a new one. It's a Cannon, a birthday present from my husband. And, let me tell you, it was love at first sight!*I actually hadn't spent any time researching the best buy*, nor had I asked anyone for advice on the matter. However, I did have a mental list* of prerequisites*: 1. It should be compact enough to fit in my handbag (I'm more likely# to lose it if I have to carry it in a second bag), 2. It needs to take good quality video so I can get action shots of my children playing sports, and also be able to upload video easily to my app., 3. It needs a powerful focus to pick up small detail very clearly. I'm really into# detail when it comes to photos. You know the kind of photos that show the middle of a tiny flower, with pollen on the stamen, and by comparison the petals look huge; that's the kind that I would like to take. I'm going to experiment with my cannon, and find out just how much detail is possible. Perhaps I can focus in enough on a small flower, to be able to get a tiny bug sitting on a stamen. Or even better: I could shoot the hair on the back of the tiny bug that is sitting on the stamen! Wow, that would almost be ridiculous. Seriously, I would be quite happy with clear, close-up detail. I tried out# my camera the other day when we went for a walk up one of the local hills: Saddlerock. Most of it was a steep climb, but it was a perfect day, and everyone was enthusiastic about the exercise. Though the path was really muddy all the way up, the views of the town and surrounding hills were impressive. We reached the top, and sat down at a rocky outcrop. As the children played with the dogs, and my husband tried to spot deer, I took lots of photos. The ones that I like most from that trip, were those of the rock formations and the lichen. If you see the picture on the blog or the app, you'll be able to make out the cubic, stair-step pattern of the rock, and the different colors of lichen growing on it. Marvelous. I'm hoping to upload some impressive photos from now on. I'm so excited about the camera that I bought another, bigger handbag to make sure that all of my stuff plus my camera, can go everywhere I do. Well, that's my excuse.
Related vocabulary: Love at first sight, the best buy, mental list, prerequisites, (to be likely to, to be into, to try out).
1. Cinderella and the Prince looked at eachother, and it was love at first sight.
2. I got the best buy on this oven; three magazines say it's the best, plus it was on sale.
3. I've a good memory; I can make a mental list of what I need in the supermarket, and I remember everything!
4. The most important prerequisite we are looking for in a store manager is to be personable.
**If you join me on Facebook, at Anna Fromacupofenglish, you can read the last 3 items of related vocabulary.
Fri, 18 November 2011
The tenth of November was a day of great excitement for my son, Hudson. He had been waiting for months for a new video game to be released. Skyrim is a game of battling dragons, strange worlds lost in time, heroes, enemies, and lots of gore*! It was going to be released at midnight, so the very beginning of 11, 11, of 2011. Skyrim is one of a series of games called the Elder Scrolls, made by Bethesda. It's appeal is basically a concoction of everything that teenagers, and some adults, like in a game: knights, weapons, spells, fights, castles, and graphics guided by endless imagination. The music is awesome as well. You could say that it is epic and mythological. I'm actually a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so perhaps my son gets the love of such things from me. Well, it just so happened that all the schools in our area were going to be closed on Friday 12th because of Veterans Day. Perfect timing! Hudson could look forward to not only the whole weekend of playing his game, but Friday as well. However, someone had to go with him to the store, and wait in line. Now, who would that be? I can only think of one person: me. Of course I would do anything for my kids: climb the highest mountain, fight the fiercest dragon (or neighborhood dog), or even jump infront of the school bus if I had to. But lining up at midnight, in freezing weather, outside a video game shop didn't seem as heroic or appealing. But I did it. Infact, I did it twice. You actually had to turn up at ten o'clock and line up to get a ticket with a number on it. Then you had to come back at midnight, line up in numerical order*, hand in your ticket, and get the game. Well, it just so happens that Hudson had fallen asleep at about 9:30, so I had to drive over by myself to make sure that we got a ticket. Now, we did also have the option* of having a normal night's sleep, and just buying the game first thing in the morning* on Friday 11th. But where's the fun in that? This was special, so we had to do it the exciting way. Seeing that Hudson was asleep, I got in the car and drove to the video game store as quickly as possible, too quickly actually, because I forgot my coat. As I parked, I realised that there was already a long line of customers waiting, and they were all bundled up in warm clothes. I looked around the car in a panic, hoping to find an extra coat. There was one, belonging to my eight year old son. I took it and quickly lined up. Time went by really slowly; I stamped my feet and wrapped the small coat around my shoulders, finally squeezing the little hood onto my head. Of course, I looked ridiculous, but I just wanted to stay warm. An hour and a half later, I was handed my ticket: number eighty two. Phew! What a relief! I felt sorry for the other one hundred people behind me, but I was mainly thinking about getting back into my warm car. I drove home, picked up Hudson, and back we went. When we arrived, there were even more people there, still waiting for their tickets. Thankfully, we were able to walk straight into the store and get the Collector's Edition of Skyrim; I even took a photo of the occasion. Mission accomplished. I had proven my love for my son by braving freezing weather, and battling lines of evil customers. Now, it was time to kill some dragons.
Related vocabulary: gore, numerical order, to have the option, first thing in the morning.
1. I dont' like all that gore in the movies. There is far too much blood and guts!
2. We will announce the winners in reverse numerical order, from fourth place to the overall winner.
3. You know, you have the option of flying instead of driving; it's more expensive, but it will save you a lot of time.
4. The best light is early in the day, so we'll get up first thing in the morning and set up the camera.
Thu, 17 November 2011
Those of you have been following my podcasts over the past few months, will know that my husband has recently 'got into'*hunting. He is now fully licensed, fully equipped, and on his way to becoming an experienced hunter. Today, instead of leaving at six in the morning, as he usually does, to go to work, he spent the morning with me. He has taken a few days off to go with a friend to Minnesotta to hunt White Tail deer. He deserves a small vacation, so I have enthusiastically watched him pack all of his gear*, and listen to his plans for a successful hunt. Because he was ready ahead of time, he had a couple of hours to kill*, so we went up to the local shooting range to try out a couple of his rifles. I am a novice*, so I was quite happy to watch as he shot at the targets. It was freezing cold, and I had bundled myself up in three coats, a scarf, and a bobble hat: not exactly the right fashion sense for a tough shooter. The first rifle that Tom used was extremely loud; thankfully we both had heavy duty* ear protection on. The funny thing was, each time we said something to eachother, we couldn't hear; we spent the whole time saying,"What?" and having to repeat everything in loud voices. As Tom tested his rifles, I had a good look around. There wasn't that much to look at. The range is basically a long roof that shelters the marksmen. There are a few chairs here and there, but no houses around (who would want to live next to a shooting range?). There was nobody but us there; the hills surrounding us were bare, and there was no wind, not even a sound. Well, the only sound was the horrendously loud noise of the rifle, but other than that, it all felt desolate. I imagined someone whistling the theme tune from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but then I realized that with my woolly bobble hat, I had destroyed any image of cowboys. I did notice, however, some very interesting signs, three to be precise. Obviously, from the looks of them*, some people who come to practice get silly with the guns, and do dangerous things. I read the word "don't" over and over. Apparently, some people shoot beyond the shooting range on to private property, or they shoot at the ground (which is dangerous), or at objects that they shouldn't. T-t-t-t-t-t, very naughty. Someone needs to have his gun taken away, doesn't he? And someone needs to be put in time-out*. I'm glad that I'm not at the shooting range when other people are there; it's potentially very dangerous, and I wouldn't trust other people's sense of safety. Anyway, before we left, I had a go shooting a lighter rifle, one that would be good for hunting birds or rabbits. I found it hard at first to look through the scope, but I go the hang of it. I calmed my breathing, and tried not to move. The cross was over the bullseye, and POW! What a shot! Not bad at all; almost right on the bullseye!. That felt good. I continued, each time thinking carefully about keeping still and controlling my breathing. POW! POW! BANG! WHAMMO! And another BANG! Hey, I'm not a bad shot at all. I even brought the target home to prove it.
Related expressions: to get into something, gear, heavy duty, a novice.
1. She really got into sculpting a few years ago, and now is quite good.
2. To rock climb, you need the right gear. You should also check your gear after using it to see if any of it is worn out.
3. I need some heavy duty earplugs; my husband snores like a rhinoceros.
4. Novice hunters are potentially dangerous; the experts are much safer.
Tue, 8 November 2011
I had never heard of a Round Robin, until this past Sunday. My friend, Jody, invited me to a ladies' round robin in the town of Issaquah which is on the outskirts of Seattle. We left at about eight o'clock, stopped for coffee on the way, and reached the town of North Bend at about ten thirty. Jody had decided to expand our day trip to include an hour of shopping, and North Bend is a great place to do that. There is an open mall area that has many discount, name brand stores; we call them 'outlet'* shops. The items are new, but very reduced in price, possibly because they are a season or two old. I rarely* go there, but I know many women will make the two hour trip, just to get some bargains. My mind wasn't set on shopping; I was intrigued about the round robin coming up. I was also distracted by the beautiful countryside. Going over the Cascades towards Seattle from Wenatchee is awesome, if you love miles of dense forest, and high mountains. Of course, as you approach Seattle, there is a drastic climate change; the area obviously gets lots of rain. There is nothing but green, and trees everywhere. Overlooking North Bend is the impressive Mount Si, a huge mountain that seems to appear out of nowhere. We got back on the road*at about eleven thirty, and reached our destination just before twelve. Walking into the house was quite surprising. The place was packed with ladies, all wearing different hats (everyone was told to wear a hat as a conversation starter). The house itself was intensely decorated, and filled from floor to ceiling with memorabilia, ornaments, photos, and collectibles. I have never seen anything like it in a private home. I have been to a few antique and collectible stores that were chock-a-block* with items. After being introduced to the host and several other ladies, I turned to Jody and said, "This place must be a nightmare to dust!" Every piece of wall was covered with something, and shelves were full to overflowing with things. We were all called to sit down in the main lounge, have vodka and orange, and introduce ourselves. The point of a round robin tea party is to get to know everyone in the room, at least for a few minutes. So, a five course meal was served by the host's husband, and with each course we were to sit in a different room with a different group of ladies. Each course took about half an hour, and during that time we ate, drank far too much tea, and chatted. Some of the ladies had done this for years, and others like myself, were experiencing it for the first time. And, you know, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had the opportunity to briefly get to know some fascinating ladies. One of the most fascinating was the host, Mary. She had started having parties at the age of seven, and had arranged them ever since. She fills her calendar with gettogethers, parties and trips, for the whole year, and organizes who will be there, and when the invitations go out. It's amazing. Her husband is as amazing as she is. Most men I know would want to live in a house that is like a 'living scrapbook', and certainly wouldn't be interested in serving lunch to a large group of chatty ladies. But, thankfully, it takes all sorts*.
Related vocabulary: outlet shops, rarely, to get on the road, chock-a-block (chock-full), it takes all sorts (to make a world).
1. There's no point buying a coat for full price at a regular shop. Go to the outlet shop instead, and save money.
2. "Do you drink?" "Rarely." "How often?" "Once a year."
3. We need to get on the road (be on the road) by six, so we'll get to the office on time.
4. His room is chock-a-block with books and magazines; you can hardly walk in the room, it's so full.
5. That man goes everywhere on a unicycle. Oh well! It takes all sorts!
Fri, 4 November 2011
Paying bills can be such a pain. It's a necessary evil. It's also something that keeps us honest: when we have to look at our true expenses in the face*, it makes us consider our life styles, and whether or not we are being responsible. But still, it's a pain. I have to have peace and quiet to do it properly: no one around, no music, no tv. Like other people, I have a system that helps me. Daily, I sort out the bills from the junk mail. The junk goes into the recycling bin, and the bills go in a neat pile on my desk. Then, later on, I'll open the bills and sort them out chronologically, so the ones that need to be paid soonest go on top of the pile. The system cuts down on paperwork, and it makes me feel as if the job is already half done. So, when I eventually sit down to pay the bills, I'm organised: I have stamps, stickers with my name and address, extra envelopes, and the bills. What else do I need*? Enthusiasm.... The bills that take up most of my time are from the credit card companies that we use. Why? Well, it's because I pay a lot of my bills automatically with my credit card. It saves me* getting a late fee because I've forgotten to pay, let's say, my electricity bill, or my phone bill on time. It's convenient, and nowadays, most credit card companies have security arrangements, so you only pay what you really owe. If there is a charge to your credit card that you're unfamiliar with, you can always question it, or even stop it. Suspicious charges do crop up every now and then, and so it's important to check all of the charges on your monthly statement. That has been my experience. Even today, as I looked over the list of figures, I saw a substantial charge from a company that I know I owe nothing. I had previously bought a product from them, but had paid 50% of the total cost when I placed the order, and the remaining 50% when I received the product. "Gosh!" I said to myself. "They're charging me a third time!" I got on the phone, and told one of their billing specialists. Surprisingly, she was not apologetic at all, quite the opposite; she was abrupt and impatient. Perhaps she'd been hearing from lots of people about the same issue. She asked for my credit card number in order to reimburse* me, and we said goodbye. I wasn't satisfied, however. So, I called the credit card company and asked them to make a note that I don't owe anything else to this particular company. The lady said that customers, like myself, need to be vigilant. It is our responsibility to keep checking to see if the reimbursement has taken place. "It can take three days, or even up to 28 days, depending on the company." I was glad that she told me that, and have decided to check every few days to make sure that these suspicious bills don't crop up again.
Related vocabulary and expressions: to look something in the face, what else, it saves (a person) or (a continuous verb), to reimburse
1. He looked his laziness in the face, and decided to take action and do his laundry.
2. We've got everything for the trip: passports, money, credit cards, hotel reservations....what else do we need? Oh, luggage!
3. Pin the socks together before they go in the washing machine. It saves searching for the other sock afterwards. OR It saves your mother time!
4. I was overcharged when I bought the sofa, but after telling the company, they reimbursed me.
Wed, 2 November 2011
The Skagit Valley is a beautifully dreamy green valley located between the Cascade Mountains and the Puget Sound. It is very close to the border with Canada, and right next to the West Coast. I went there a few months ago with my husband, as he had a business meeting with some potato growers. We drove along miles of tree-lined coastal roads, and finally came to a large, flat, lush valley that is farmland. It was cooler and more moist than Wenatchee. There was a consistent breeze coming from the ocean, and everywhere you looked was green. As we drove along, I tried my best* to take photos of the shady lanes and coastal views with my cell phone, but as with many photos, they do not do the beauty of the landscape justice*. We finally arrived at Wallace Farms. It is located in a fairly remote part of the valley: there's not much else around other than potatoes and more potatoes. As this was a business meeting, I decided not to sit in with my husband and his fellow company workers, as I would certainly be the odd one out*. So, I hung out* in the vestibule, and read all about the Wallaces. The family originally came from Scotland. They settled in Ireland, where they grew potatoes on the rolling hills of the far West coast, overlooking the Atlantic. In the 1800's they immigrated to Skagit Valley, and put their farming experience into practice. This particular area of the country is one of the best in the world for raising potatoes. The climate is mild and moist; the land is rich, and there is no lack of water. These happen to be the best conditions for growing this root vegetable. And they do it well. Their farm produces rich, healthy varieties with very smooth skins. The colors range anywhere from very white, to bright red, and to deep purple. They grow conventionally and also organically. I browsed through the well-known Cosco recipe magazine, and Wallace potatoes were recommended for several recipes. Having a mention from Cosco is like having a stamp of approval put on their product. As I waited for the meeting to finish, I thought about how popular potatoes are. Let's face it, everybody loves them. Have you ever met anyone who doesn't? And think how their use has spread from central America to the rest of the world. The simple potato is quite grand, if you think about it. And the high quality ones produce a lot of business.
Related vocabulary and expressions:to try one's best, to do something justice, to be the odd one out, to hang out.
1. He tried his best to fix the car, but it was too worn out to be repaired.
2. That photo doesn't do her justice; she's far more beautiful in person.
3. They all knew about knitting, and I don't know anything about it; I really felt like the odd one out.
4. While I see the dentist, you can hang out in the waiting room.