Sat, 17 December 2011
It's that time of year when a lot of people are waiting to go South. Normally, by now, we would have snow, lots of it, and icy roads. This year, however, has been very strange. We experience hard frosts at night, but sunny days. Everyone is talking about how strange the weather is. Children have their winter boots, gloves, and hats at the ready*. At the first sign of snow, they will frantically get dressed, and run outside to play in the glorious white stuff. But, it's just not happening. By now, also, most migrating birds have left to go to either California, Florida, Mexico, or some other sunny destination. But, even some of them are hanging around* the town still, waiting for the snow to come. I was coming out of Walmart the other day, when I saw a cloud of birds swirling around in the sky, 'practicing' moving as a group. They looked playful, and amazingly skilled*. They moved to and fro* effortlessly like hundreds of acrobats working in unison*. As I got closer to my car, I saw that they had settled on a radio tower across the highway. I took out my new camera to zoom in and get a closer look. There were hundreds of them sitting on the metal poles. It was like a chatty, nervous group of people, waiting excitedly for something. I'm not surprised that they were excited. The thought of going somewhere sunny is very appealing right now. Many people I know have already made plans to spend a month or two in Arizona. They are usually retired, and therefore can afford to take off* for a long time. Younger people can usually only go for a couple of weeks because they have to come back and work, of course. Golf or tennis are usually the planned activities for those Winter vacations. And, when the travelers come back, they show off their tans to the rest of us. I'm sure, even though the weather is strange this year, the migrating birds will soon be gone, and our retired family members and friends will have packed their bags and left too. Perhaps a heavy fall of snow will come a month late, so we can enjoy a little more sun for a little longer. Either way, we'll cheer up our long, dark nights with Christmas lights, and stay cozy by the fire.
Related vocabulary: at the ready, to hang around, skilled, to and fro.
1. Water pistols at the ready! The water fight is about to begin!
2. A group of suspicious young men were hanging around our neighborhood last night. We should find out who they were.
3. Look how skilled the potter is! The detail she puts on her ceramics are amazingly fine. She is excellent and exact at what she does.
4. I watched the bird go to and fro from its nest, bringing worms and bugs to feed to its babies.
Mon, 12 December 2011
My morning routine has ups and downs*. First thing in the morning, I find myself rushing around like a frantic woman, trying to get my children up out of bed, and off to school. I'm usually still in my pajamas (pyjamas)* when I drop the kids off, and I drive off quickly before anyone sees me. But, when I get home, I can slow down a little before I start the chores of the day, or run errands. I take my time over my morning coffee, stretch, pet the dogs, check my emails and Facebook, have a bit more coffee, and then plan my day. I was doing that this morning, when there was a knock at the door. A Federal Express delivery man handed me a package, a large box. I had to sign in order to receive it, and then he went on his way. I assumed that the package was for my husband, who buys a lot of cycling and hunting equipment on-line*. However, it was addressed to me! I was instantly awake, and opened the box quickly. The side of the box said 'Greenvale Scottish baby potatoes'. I knew that I hadn't ordered any potatoes; why would I? But the word Scottish gave me a clue as to what was inside, and who it was from. My father lives in Scotland, on the West coast. And, yes, it was from him. Thankfully, the box wasn't full of potatoes, but rather, it was brimming with Christmas presents. I was so surprised! He and his wife had wrapped up all of the gifts in traditional wrapping paper, with colors of red, green, gold, and white. I took them out of the box, and tried to guess what they were. " The children will be so excited to see them under the Christmas tree when they get home," I thought to myself. This is their last week of school, and they are beginning to anticipate# the holidays. I noticed that one of the wrapping papers had one of my favorite English Christmas carols on it: The Holly and the Ivy. The first two lines were visible under the bow. It says: 'The Holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. And the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer, the playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.' It really sets the scene for Christmas. I must rush out and send off a package as soon as possible to Scotland. I hope it gets there on time!
Related vocabulary and expressions: ups and downs, pyjamas, on-line, (to anticipate at Anna From A cup of English on Facebook).
1. We all have ups and downs; sometimes we are positive and energetic, and other times we are the opposite.
2. Pyjamas is the English spelling. Pajamas is the American spelling.
3. I do a lot of my work on-line, which is very convenient. I can even do it in my pyjamas.
Tue, 6 December 2011
Do you ever watch the programs (programmes) on television that show the funniest international advertisements? They generally come out about Christmas time, and provide an hour of side-splitting* entertainment. Advertising is to be scrutinized*. Even my children will comment on whether or not an advertisement is any good. Some are very clever, some are downright* annoying, and some are confusing. I've found that as my children's critical thinking develops, so do their comments about anything in the media. "That advertisement sucks," one of them will say. Obviously 'sucks' is slang for something being awful or of very poor quality. I will ask why it 'sucks', and the answer will be something like, "It's not convincing," or "there's no point to it," or perhaps even, "they're trying to be funny, but they're not." I suppose the whole point of advertising is to catch the attention of the public, and to convince us to buy something. So, everyone should be a critic, and we should use our own brains to decide how good an advertisement is, and if the product is really worth buying. Sometimes the simplest advertisements are the best. I remember a series of Australian beer commercials for Foster's, that were really funny. They were very basic, showing how rugged* Australia is, and then indicating that Foster's beer is also rugged. The commercials used exaggeration to get their message across, and they did a good job. The other day I came across an unusual form of advertising: a large pretzel hanging in a tree. It sounds a little strange, doesn't it? It was outside a bakery, in the town of Leavenworth. Several pretzels were hanging on several trees along the street, and they had obviously come from the bakery which displayed pretzels. I thought that this was a genius idea. I went inside and asked a lady who was arranging cakes if there was a story or tradition around# the pretzel hanging in the tree. "Oh no," she said, "it's just for advertising." It had certainly sparked by interest. Infact, whether they intended it or not, that bakery had established its own tradition through advertising.
Related vocabulary and expressions: side-splitting, to scrutinize, downright, rugged (a story/ tradition around on Facebook at Anna Fromacupofenglish)
1. The comedy night at the local club was side-splittingly funny. When I got home, my stomach and my sides hurt from laughing.
2. My neighbors scrutinize everything that I do: how I park my car, when I mow the lawn, even how often I walk the dog.
3. She is downright lazy! She sits around, watching tv, and expects everyone else to work!
4. The men who live in this area are rugged; they are tough, hard working, and basic.
Mon, 5 December 2011
What kind of characteristics or behavior can get you the title of Student of the Month? What would you imagine them to be? Intelligent? Avid* reader? High scorer? Or, are there other qualities that can get you noticed by teachers and rewarded. It looks as if there are many traits* and behaviors that can get a student both noticed and appreciated. Recently, in my childrens' middle school, there was an awards ceremony for a group of students who had 'stood out'* as community builders. By community, I mean the student body*, and the overall atmosphere that it carries. When I received the letter from the school, that my son Cass, had been nominated by his teachers for a community award, I was intrigued. I assumed that he had done something for the community of Wenatchee, perhaps for a charity. When I asked him what it meant, he told me that he didn't really know. Knowing that the principal would give some kind of speech about the award, I decided to wait and see what he had to say. The ceremony took place at ten in the morning, during school. The students who were nominated were excused from their various classes, and joined the parents in the assembly hall. The principal introduced himself, and then started to talk about what 'community' actually means within the school, and why it is so important. He talked about students having a positive and caring attitude, and being the 'glue' that holds the student community together, and helps to create a generally positive environment. As I listened to what he was saying, I realised that, yes, community is essential in school. If the student environment is safe and friendly, the young people can learn so much more, and feel free to be themselves, and perhaps even enjoy their school days. The last thing that students need is stress, so if the school system rewards community, I suppose it elevates the comfort level of all members. I took lots of photos of Cass and the other students, who had all been nominated by various teachers. They stood on stage in a group, holding their certificates proudly. After the ceremony, there was time for refreshments#, and mingling# with the other families. I read Cass' award which said, "His maturity, friendliness, and willingness to accept all kids makes him a wonderful member of any group." I felt very proud. I have his award on my desk now, and plan to frame it and put it in a place where everyone can see it.
Related vocabulary:avid, traits, to stand out, student body (refreshments, mingling - found on Facebook, at Anna Fromacupofenglish).
1. He is an avid bird watcher; it is his main passion.
2. Characteristics and traits really mean the same thing, though traits can automatically mean physical features.
3. He stood out in the crowd; he was much taller than most people, and was wearing unusually colorful clothes.
4. The student body is putting on a play next week. Every student has his or her own part.
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