A Cup Of English

Friendly, everyday English to help the anxious language learner. Texts, grammar notes, and photos on the blog page. Another great podcast by LibSyn.com
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May 13, 2016
Apple Blossom Heat.

May in Wenatchee is the month when Apple Blossom is held. It's an annual festival that starts with a parade. There is also a food fair, a classic car show, and a medieval fair. A spin-off (1)of all these activities, is a 3 on 3 basketball competition at the local college. Students of all ages compete in teams of only three people, so the games are intense and exhausting. You're never really sure what the weather will be like in May either; sometimes it's windy and cool, but other times it's quite the opposite(2). This year, it was very hot indeed. I watched some of the games, and felt quite sorry for the players. As the day went on, I moved from one patch of(3) shade to another, trying to keep cool. There was lots of huffing and puffing, gasping, and calling out like, "Here, I'm open, pass, pass!" The crowds were kept happy with a DJ and food and drinks. Watching the athletes made me feel quite lazy, as I was perfectly relaxed, but they were fighting hard to win. Most of the young people who were participating have dreams of playing on the High School or college team. Many of them dedicate years to playing basketball, playing on both school and local teams. Perhaps that sort of occasion is a stepping stone for them; another stretch, another effort, and they might get closer to their goal.

1. 'A spin-off' is like a result of a process or event.

a. A spin-off of the Apple Blossom parade is the 3 on 3 basketball.

b. A spin-off from recycling is sometimes profitable business.

2. 'Quite the opposite' is a more definite way of saying 'the opposite'; it just adds a bit more character and confidence.

a. The evening was calm and relaxing; however, my first class in the morning was quite the opposite.

b. Her words seemed gentle and kind, but later her actions were quite the opposite. 

3. 'A patch' is used in many ways. It can be a section of material used to repair a piece of clothing. It can also be an area of grass, shade, light, or a figurative way of saying an approximate project.

a. I didn't repair the wall properly, I just patched it quickly.

b. We found a patch of grass under a tree in the shade, and we sat down and slept.

May 5, 2016

I have been working in a middle school for the past couple of weeks in the place of a teacher who is taking paternity leave. His wife has just had their second child, and so he is taking 5 weeks off of(1) work to be at home. So, I am teaching 13 to 14 year olds each day about essay writing and poetry. I usually only work a couple of days a week in the school district, so adjusting to(2) working every day has been a challenge. For the first week, after school, I would go home, sit down with my cup of tea, and fall asleep! Now that I am in my second week, however, I have toughened up(3). This week also happens to be 'Teacher Appreciation Week'. Parents and other volunteers organize a nice lunch, or small gifts for the teachers to show that they are appreciated. Teaching, after all, is not the easiest job. It can be stressful working with students of different levels of ability and motivation. However, there is satisfaction when you see your students learn, and also feel happy and relaxed in your class. Lunch was a great surprise yesterday. I went into the staff room, and found a long table full of delicious dishes of all kinds. Some parents were arranging plates, cutting cheese, mixing salads, and warming up desserts. Gosh, I suddenly felt like I wasn't at work! It was tempting to eat a lot, but I didn't want to feel sleepy during my afternoon classes. I went back to class in a great mood. We all need to feel appreciated, even if it's not with food, a thank you makes a big impact.

1. 'To take ....days/weeks etc off of/from...' means to take leave for a while from an activity.

a. The football player took two months off of/from training to rest his injuring.

b. The teacher was able to take 5 weeks off from/of teaching to be at home with his wife and new daughter.

 2. 'To adjust to' is something that we all do. It means to get used to something different.

a. The nurse had to adjust to her new night time work schedule (night shift).

b. Moving to the city from the country was something that was hard to adjust to.

3. 'To toughen up' means to become stronger, more resilient, adjusted. It is often used figuratively.

a. Biking every day has toughened me up and prepared me for a 10 mile race.

b. Living in a racist community toughened up the boy, and made him determined to work for tolerance.

Apr 28, 2016
Username and password.

The world of usernames and passwords is quite simple for some people. Choose both, and stick to them(1); don't change them unless you have to, and your life will be easy peasy. Most people I know, however, have a love-hate relationship(2) with the two words. First of all, it's easy to forget a password, especially if you haven't written it down somewhere, or if you've forgotten where you wrote it! Secondly, to reset(3) your password often requires a process of getting into a secondary email, which, again you need a password for. Now this isn't really difficult, until you find that some on-line companies require a password with letters, numbers, and special characters, like an exclamation mark, or a comma, but other companies don't require a special character. So, what do you do? Your ingenious plan of having  the same password for all of your on-line activities is ruined. One or two of them will have to be slightly different. Will you remember which accounts they are? Perhaps you can make them memorable like: 'Ihatepasswords99!'  or 'Passwordsareapain22*'. Unfortunately, it is totally necessary to make good passwords for our own security. I have to be more creative than 'anna123'; that just isn't secure enough. Another problem with them is that often one is needed immediately by someone in the family, which makes you automatically forget it. Once, when I was visiting my father in England, my son texted me from the U.S, wanting to know the password for his Minecraft game. It was three o'clock in the morning. Passwords can't wait, you know. 

1. 'To stick to something' means to not change your plan, idea, or situation.

a. We've accepted the offer on the house, and we're sticking with it.

b. Our company is going through a difficult time, but I'm sticking with it.

2. 'A love-hate relationship' is one which involves both emotions, or one in which you enjoy hating something.

a. I have a love-hate relationship with my car; I love having a car, but it causes me endless problems.

b. He and his neighbors have a love-hate relationship; they enjoy annoying each other.

3.'To reset' means to reprogram, or start back from the beginning.

a. I will reset my alarm clock as I have to get up extra early tomorrow.

b. I forgot my itunes password, so I have to reset it.

Apr 18, 2016
You want to join the circus?

My daughter wants to join everything. She loves football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, acting, dancing, and almost anything else. I don't know where she gets her energy from. Of course, I'm glad that she's energetic; its a sign of being healthy. Her friend, Lilly, has been involved with the Wenatchee Youth Circus for four years, and is a rope performer. She twists and turns (1) on two ropes that have a bar of wood joining them, like a seat. She hangs from the bar, spins, and does all kinds of acrobatics. For an eleven year old, she is very strong indeed (2). She spent the weekend with us, and as she had practice, my daughter went with her. The practice was two and a half hours long! When I went to pick them up, I expected to find two very exhausted girls, but they were still full of beans (3). Domini begged me to let her join the circus, "I'll think about it, Domini," was my reply. "It's not very likely though," I said. "You can't possibly do everything, you know," she gave me those big, disappointed eyes. I videoed her friend practicing her routine before we left. Her trainer called out names of moves and positions that she had to make. By the time she had finished, I could see that she was breathing heavily, and needed a rest. She will go with the circus all over Washington State to perform in various towns. It is a big commitment to be part of the circus, even though it is just a small one. It doesn't have any animals; however, it has a surprisingly large amount of acrobats, fire breathers, Spanish rope performers, and high wire riders. Some of these young people have been involved with the circus since they were little. It makes me wonder if Lilly will be performing when she is an adult with bigger circuses. Who knows? Domini and I will certainly join the crowds in Wenatchee when she gives her first performance.

1. 'Twists and turns' go together very often, and the phrase is used figuratively.

a. English country roads are full of twists and turns.

b. He navigated the twists and turns of a difficult life, and finally found happiness.

2. 'For a/an + adjective +noun, main clause' this is a more common sentence structure switched around. The 'for a/an ...' is a great way to reintroduce, or point to character traits in the subject.

a. For an inexperienced climber, he did very well. * You can, of course, switch the sentence around and say:

He did very well, for an inexperienced climber.

b. For an old lady, she sang as well as the younger women.

(She sang as well as the younger women, for an old lady).

c. For beginning English students, they did very well on the intermediate test.

(They did very well on the intermediate test, for beginning English students).

3. 'To be full of beans' is an idiomatic phrase which means to be full of energy.

a. I hoped that the trampoline would make the kids tired, but they were still full of beans!

b. I have recovered from my illness, and am now full of beans.

Apr 11, 2016
Spring Work.

My house is almost surrounded by orchards of pears and cherries. On the west side, beyond my neighbor's house is the pear orchard, and to the north is the cherry orchard. It makes us feel as though we live deep(1)in the country. This time of year, the orchards are full of life. Of course, they are in bloom, but also there is a lot of human activity going on(2) inside the orchards. Tractors rumble away(3), along the lines of trees, spreading fertilizer, or spraying the branches and flowers. There is no time to waste! If the farmers want healthy, good looking fruit, they have to feed the trees important nutrients, and they need to find a way to keep harmful insects away. I have learned a few things about fruit trees since I have lived here. One interesting thing is that the trees are given a large dose of calcium, both in the form of spray, and also on the ground. This helps the fruit last longer, and it also helps to prevent diseases. There are lots of preparations to be made in order for the growing season to be successful. Pruning is another activity which increases the fruit production. In order for the pruning to happen, a large group of workers will come into the orchard, and cut off dead branches, and some of the healthy ones from the middle of the tree. Why do they do that? Well, it opens up the whole tree to the sun, so the tree can be productive, and the fruit can mature at the same time. The Wenatchee and surrounding area is still the second biggest producer of apples in the U.S, so spring time is busy time, and a very serious business.

1. 'Deep' is often used when talking about a location that is almost hidden, or really inside a certain area.

a. We have to walk deep into the forest to find the mushrooms.

b. The drug network is deep inside the urban area.

2. 'Going on' is a very common way of saying 'taking place' or 'occurring', and sometimes 'continuing'.

a. What's going on next door? They must be having a celebration.

b. Their arguments have been going on for years; when will they stop?

3. 'Tractors rumble away', ok 'away' here isn't necessary, but it does add a 'storybook' feel to the paragraph. The words 'away' and 'along' are used to do just that; they give the impression of time passing, and the activity continuing.

a. The boy yawned, grabbed his pillow, and drifted away into sleep.

b. We danced away all night; we didn't stop for hours!

c. He came along to help paint the house.

d. On saturday I could hear the lawn mowers humming along in the neighborhood.

Mar 29, 2016
Jumping Whales.

A shopping center called 'Whaler's village' was very close to where we stayed in Maui. At its entrance was a very elegant, metal statue of a mother humpback whale and her baby. You might know(1) that the water right next to Maui is the one place where humpbacks breed. The ocean here is called the Au'au channel; it is, remarkably, only 300ft deep at the most. Its name in Hawaiian means 'to take a bath', and that makes sense because the channel forms a circular area, with 3 islands around it, so it is sheltered as well as warm and shallow. These conditions make it perfect for the humpback whales who migrate all the way from Alaska where they have been feeding. They spend the winter here, mate or give birth, feed their babies, and then make the 3,500 mile journey back to Alaska. A very special event for anyone who happens to be(2) on Maui between November and April is the breaching of the whales which is their jumping. The mothers teach their babies how to do this. With one flip of their massive tails, they fly out of the water upright, and crash back down with a huge splash. My family and I went out on a boat especially to see this performance. We were very lucky, because about 20 minutes into our trip, the owner of the boat spotted a mother and her baby playing. All the people on the boat were saying, "Oooh!" and "Ah!" and clicking their cameras. The mother only jumped a couple of times; that's usually all they do. The baby, however, was in a very playful mood, and jumped and jumped until he got tired. He then made a circle above his mother and disappeared. The boat owner told us that this is a sign the babies make when they are hungry for milk. Once he was busy feeding, we moved on(3) to another part of the Au'au channel to find more whales. The baby whales get strong quickly; they are 10 to 15 ft long when they are born, weighing 1 ton, and drink 200 to 600 litres of fat-rich milk per day. They generally end up being 40-60 ft adults who weigh 44 tons or more. As you can imagine, it was both surprising and dramatic to see these huge creatures playing around. It's not every day that you witness such an event.

1. 'You might know (that)/ you might already know that' is a useful phrase that helps to engage your listener.

a. You might know that the first explorers from Europe who discovered America were the Vikings.

b. The presidential race is continuing; you might already know that Rubio is out.

2. '(A person) happens to be.../ you happen to be' is another  idiomatic phrase that is common.

a. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see the lunar eclipse.

b. So Michael, can you explain how your hand happened to be in the cookie jar when I walked into the kitchen?

3. 'To move on' means to continue on your way, or to finish doing something and to start doing something else.

a. We finished our paintings, and then moved on to our sculptures.

b. Ok, can we stop arguing and move on to the next subject?

c. We lost our house in an earthquake. We wanted to rebuild, but we decided to move on and find somewhere else to live.

Mar 25, 2016
The Banyan Tree.

I'm back in Wenatchee, and already missing Maui. We had such a wonderful vacation, and there were so many highlights(1). Some of you will know that I am into plants and trees, so it won't surprise you that a highlight for me was meeting the Banyan tree in the little town of Lahaina. I say "meeting" because it felt as special as meeting a person. It is about 150 years old, and was imported from India. It is from the fig family, and produces a little red berry that is not that good to eat. What is impressive about the tree is that it has spread through its aerial roots, and has become many trees. Its limbs(2) are massive, and it looks as though many trees have joined together. When we first went to the park, children were playing underneath the huge limbs, and running through the natural arches that the Banyan tree had made. The aerial roots are long and thin, growing from upper branches. They eventually touch the ground and attach themselves. These attached roots quickly get thicker, always maintaining their link(3) to the original tree. Compared to other trees, it must be considered a fast-grower because it has filled the Lahaina park in only one and a half centuries. It's right next to the beach, so it is ideally placed for people to hang out in its shade to enjoy the sea breeze. Lahaina is a tourist attraction, tastefully lined with shops, galleries, and restaurants, but you could say that the Banyan tree is its crowning glory.

1. 'Highlights' are special moments or places, or light-colored streaks in your hair.

a. He was the highlight of the show; his singing was amazing.

b. Your hairdresser did a great job. Your highlights make you look much younger!

c. The highlight of our trip was snorkeling with turtles and sharks.

2. 'Limbs' means parts of the body that project and are useful, like an arm or a leg, or a similar body part of an animal, like a wing. It is also another word for a branch.

a. The limb bones in a spider monkey are thin.

b. After rock climbing all day, her limbs were sore.

c. We must cut that limb off the tree before it breaks a window when it's windy. 

3. 'Link' is a commonly used word, especially in computer circles. It also means a physical or figurative attachment, and a piece of a chain.

a. Follow the link on my blog to see more pictures of Lahaina.

b. All his family members are creative, and he is linked to them by the same characteristic.

c. The metal chain on the gate has some broken links that we must replace.

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Mar 15, 2016
Aloha  Maui.

The fresh, warm morning air blew gently against my face as I looked out towards the nearest island. The sand between my toes was clean and soft, not irritating at all. As I let it fall through my fingers, it occurred to me that I was looking at the Pacific ocean. Now, that is something that I don't always do. It was still early; there were only a few people here and there, some jogging, some like me, experiencing the beach in the quiet of the morning. The birds up in the palm trees, however, were anything but quiet. They chirped and chatted noisily, arguing with their neighbors. The waves lapped softly on the shore; they were also waking up. I knew that later on the wind and the waves would grow, and soon become quite intimidating. But in this paradise, how could anything be intimidating? As I looked over at a hedge blooming with tropical hibiscus flowers, I couldn't imagine anything on this island being anything but beautiful and relaxed. I was soon to find out that there was a lot more to this island than I realized. I walked over to a beach hut to order a coffee. It had a view of both the beach and the high volcanic mountains that are at the center of the island, the two volcanoes that are responsible for the island itself. They are densely covered in trees, with their tops hidden by cloud all day. Apparently, the Haleakala Observatory sits way above the clouds, in the dry summit of the dormant volcano. There, far above human activity and artificial lights, the stars and planets are observed all year long. "Click, click, click,click," went a camera right next to me which made me jump. A man at the coffee bar was taking photos of the whales that were surfacing out at sea, not too far from the shore. It is the breeding ground for the humpback whales who come here every winter from Alaska. The ocean here is rich with sea creatures, and full of color. And it is the ocean that brought the first people to this island and the other eight that form Hawaii; the Polynesian and Tahitian came bravely on boats crossing huge areas of dangerous ocean. This relaxed atmosphere makes it easy to forget about the struggles of the first people, and the perfect weather makes you forget about the violent, tropical storms, and giant winter waves that crash into the island. Yes, there is a lot of beauty and peace to be enjoyed in Maui, but that is not all. Its volcanic beginning was violent, but like a mother, it nurtures life all around its shores. It stands strong against winds and storms, but it also reaches up through the clouds to gaze at the stars.

Mar 4, 2016

Dentist: Hello Liz. What seems to be the problem?

Liz: One of my small molars has been aching for a while. I was waiting, and hoping that the pain would go away, but it hasn't.

Dentist: You are due to have an x-ray, so let's do that and then talk about all your teeth.


Dentist: Ah, yes, you have quite a large cavity in the side of a molar. The hole in the enamel is small but deep. I'm afraid the pain won't go away until you have a filling.

Liz: Oh, ok. I'm so disappointed. I brush and floss my teeth twice a day, and I avoid sugary food.

Dentist: I know you have good dental hygiene. Well, because you have a brace, it is hard to clean in between your teeth. And some people have cavities, root canals, abscesses, and even gingivitis, while other people , don't have many problems.

Liz: That seems unfair.

Dentist: It's to do with the level of bacteria in your mouth which is affected by hygiene, diet, genetics, and even stress. I know that you have good dental hygiene because your teeth are healthy and your mouth is very clean. Generally speaking, brushing and flossing and avoiding sugar are the keys to cavity-free teeth. The good news is that soon we will be able to take off your braces; your teeth are almost completely straight. 

Liz: That will be a big relief!

Mar 1, 2016
Dentist or Orthodontist?

Every six months, my family members and I are supposed to go to the dentist for a check-up. I say "supposed to" because we don't rush to get there. Sometimes it's several months later that we have our appointments. I don't have a problem with going(1) to the dentist; I don't have tooth problems, and I like looking after my teeth. My children, however, have needed more of a push to take care of their teeth. Through the years, I have become familiar with the phrases and vocabulary related to dental hygiene: floss, cavities, fillings, molars, x-rays, enamel, and root canals. The dentist office is a scary place, if you think about it. Perhaps that's why the staff is so friendly, almost over-the-top friendly. Everybody smiles so much that it makes me nervous. Anyway, my son and I went to a different kind of dentist: an orthodontist. He is a person who corrects crooked teeth, an overbite, or an underbite. He doesn't pull teeth out, fill them, give injections, or fix any surface problems. Rather, he rearranges the position of the teeth by using braces and retainers. Robert doesn't have any of these problems, but he does have a canine tooth growing into the roof of his mouth. One of his baby teeth is in the way, and so the canine cannot grow into its space properly. I'm a believer in letting(2) nature figure things out as much as possible; the baby tooth will probably fall out, and the canine will grow in properly. I made a point of letting(3) the orthodontist know that I would rather wait than intervene. I noticed that he looked at my teeth the whole time that we were talking. That made me nervous as well. He, of course, is running a business, so intervening makes money for him. The conclusion, thankfully, in Robert's case, was to simply pull out the baby tooth, and then wait to see what happens. He has a lovely set of teeth at the moment, so maybe the strange activity in his mouth will correct itself. They told us to wait six months and then go back for another consultation. When we do, I'll make sure that our teeth are well polished, and we smile as much as they do.

1. 'I don't have a problem with + gerund'.

a. I don't have a problem with waiting for the bus.

b. They don't have a problem with paying extra for a room with a view.

2. 'I'm a believer in + gerund'.

a. I'm a believer in getting up early to get organized for the day.

b. I'm a believer in exercising and eating well. *Note, I could follow 'believer' with the nouns 'exercise and good food'.

3. 'I made a point of + gerund'.

a. I made a point of telling him that I was leaving the party; I wanted him to notice.

b. The students made a point of going to the professor's office at the end of the year, and thanking him for his teaching.

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Feb 24, 2016
Advertising to Children.

Advertising is everywhere nowadays. Most of us are used to seeing advertisements every day. Having coffee with one of my friends a week ago, I saw an amusing advertisement for the coffee shop. It wasn't pushy(1), or overly dramatic, but just funny. It's actually the photo for today's podcast. It made me think of a unit of study that I was helping to teach recently. The students were learning about the science of advertising to children in the U.S. Apparently, there are no regulations(2) to protect children from the influences of adverts. Psychologists and child development experts are also employed by advertising agencies to make sure that advertisements for children are irresistible(3) to them. We watched a video series about the subject, and then the students and I had a discussion. So often, it seems, advertising is not accurate. And here there is an overwhelming amount of advertising, especially on television. We recently cancelled our television contract, so now, we don't have regular channels; instead, we have apps, so we can choose specific programs. Why is that better than television channels? Simply, there are no commercials, and no awful news flashes. If I want to hear the news, I listen to a podcast, or I watch a news app. I realized, just the other day, how much more peaceful our house is. Imagine a house with no commercials or advertising! It's like being on vacation. My youngest children ask for things less, because they no longer see products like toys advertised. When I finished teaching the unit, I asked the students if they will now have a different opinion of the advertising they see in shops and on television. "Oh yes!" was their group reply. Just by learning about it, they are now more informed about the big business behind the powerful machine of advertising.

1. 'Pushy' means 'aggressive' or 'insistent'.

a. I bought an iPad even though I didn't plan to. The sales representative was so pushy!

b. I feel as though she just wants to argue. She is so pushy about everything.

2. 'Regulation' is like a restriction that is the law.

a. If we build a house, we must follow the size regulation, otherwise, we'll get into trouble.

b. Seat belts and speed limits are all forms of regulation.

3. 'Irresistible' means that it is impossible to avoid or not want.

a. Lindt uses the very best ingredients in their chocolates; they are irresistible.

b. Our perfume is extracted from camels' ears and goats' nostrils; it will make you irresistible.

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Feb 19, 2016
The Transplanting Battle,

“Mum, what are all those scratches on your arms?” my daughter asked me with a look of fright. I laughed and told her that I had got into a fight with a bush. She frowned and looked at me with questioning eyes. “I transplanted a giant bush from Barbara’s garden into ours. It was a struggle, and I had forgotten to put on my long sleeve top(1), so my arms got scratched,” I explained. It had been quite a battle. Barbara moved a year ago into her home, and has been wanting to get rid of some of the plants since then(2). The very early Spring is, of course, the best time to transplant, just before the growing season. In the winter it would have been impossible to dig up the plants because the ground is frozen at least a few inches deep. Now that most of the snow in town has melted, the ground is much softer, so people like me can start working again in their gardens. My body is still aching a little from the effort! The bush was about five feet tall, round, and prickly. It was also right next to a wall, so it was very difficult to squeeze myself in between the bush and the wall. I used a super steel shovel which is made out of one piece of metal. It is moulded that way so it doesn’t have any weak spots. After clearing away the stones and cutting the landscaping plastic, I started digging. Because the bush was so big, I could be quite rough with it. It’s root ball was very large, so I know that it had a lot of stored energy in it. When plants are very strong like that, you can actually cut a lot of the roots, and it will still transplant well. Quite magically, now that the days are longer, the sun will stimulate the growth hormone in the plant, and it’s roots will recover. So I dug and dug, and hacked and hacked some more(3). It was like a war, a battle of wills between the bush and myself. Then, when I had cut through enough roots, as tar as I could see, I sat down on the ground with my hands behind me, and pushed the thick stem with both of my feet. I did this all around the plant until, “Crack!” What a beautiful sound, the bush was finally free from the ground. But that wasn’t the end of it. How was I going to get it into my truck? It was so heavy; I couldn’t possibly carry it. I had a solution to that problem. I had brought a plastic tarp with me which I laid out next to the bush. I pushed and pulled and rolled the plant onto the tarp, and then dragged the tarp with the plant on it, to the truck. I counted to three, took a large breath, and lifted the bush, making sure that I used my knees and not my back. What a strong woman! I hope my efforts were worth it. I will find out in about a month when buds start to form and flowers slowly appear.

1. ‘Top’ is often used in the place of t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, and even shirt.
a. I like your new top, where did you get it?
b. She wore a sleeveless top with a long skirt to the dance; it looked very elegant.
c. The boys have grown so much that their tops are all too short.
2. ‘Barbara ….has been wanting to get rid of some of the plants since then.’ This present continuous was used in the podcast because Barbara has mentioned several times during this year that she wants to get rid of the plants. It shows a long-term desire.
a. We have been wanting to join a gym for two years, but we haven’t had an opportunity yet.
b. Since the flood in their house, they have been wanting to move to a different house, but they haven’t found one yet.
c. He might get a job in the college. He has been hoping for two months to hear from them, but they haven’t made their decision yet.
3. ‘To hack’ is similar to the verb ‘to dig’ or ‘to chop’, but the action is not as accurate; it is more messy.
a. I had never chopped wood before. I hacked as much as I could, and then I gave up.
b. Oh my haircut is terrible. The lady hacked my hair at the side, just look at it!

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Feb 19, 2016

In an effort to(1) get my children away from computers and the television, we play games. Mostly we play cards, but we also have a cupboard full of games of different kinds. One of them is called Suspend. It requires calculation and a sense of balance. The main point of the game is to hang as many colored, plastic sticks as you can from a metal hook without any of them falling. This sounds easy, but its not. The sticks are long and wavy. Each stick has to go in a different place, so the places you can hang your stick become more and more limited(2). The metal hook is at the end of a long, straight metal stick that has a wide wooden base, and two stabilizers. There is also a spinner ( an arrow that spins around on a card that has choices). Each person must spin the spinner to see which choice it lands(3) on. For example: it might land on red 2, which means that you have to suspend two red sticks somewhere. It might also land on -2 which means that you have to remove two sticks. The winner is the person who manages to hang all of his sticks first. Of course, any game that involves the risk of a lot of things falling is fun. There are similar games that use blocks, such as the game Jenga. You start with a tower of blocks that is three blocks wide. Each person has to remove a block without the tower falling down. The bigger the tower, the more fun it is because there is a bigger risk of a bigger crash. In any of these games you can add to the excitement by placing bets of chocolates, candies, or even shells. You can also play the games in a different language, or take note of any mathematics that is involved.

1. ‘In an effort to..’ is a useful phrase to add variety to your English. It is like saying ‘in order to’, or ‘trying to’.
a. In an effort to organize her classroom, Mrs Brown bought ten plastic containers and labelled them.
b. In an effort to put the fire out, the local government asked all the residents to turn on their irrigation systems.
2. ‘More and more’ is also great occasionally for some variety in speech.
a. I don’t think he likes his job; his attitude is becoming more and more negative.
b. We need to employ more workers because our farms are producing more and more vegetables.
3. ‘To land’ is to arrive at a geographical spot, or by plane. It is also used a lot in games when and arrow points to a choice, or a game figure/piece arrives on a part of a game board.
a. I won Monopoly last night; I kept on landing on the best streets, so I bought them all!
b. Spin the spinner and see where it lands.
c. In the game Snakes and Ladders, if you land on a snake, you have to slip down it and go back several spaces. However, if you land on a ladder, you can climb up it and go forward several spaces.

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Feb 13, 2016
Party Central.

Isn't it fun when you stumble across(1) something interesting or worthwhile in a very unlikely place? Perhaps you have gone for a walk through a forest, and along the way you find a beautiful stone statue. Or you are at the beach, and you find a small cave with hieroglyphics in it. These are exciting things to find. My daughter and I found the largest party store in the whole of the U.S in a small town called Moses Lake. Ok, it's not historic, or beautiful, but it is fascinating. If you heard my previous podcast, about Moses Lake, you will know that it is really in the middle of nowhere. And it isn't even a very populated town. So why would the company called Party Central decide to build their biggest store in this out-of-the-way(2) place? My answer is really that I don't know, but I'm assuming(3) that the company has a good reason. Domini had finished a weekend of basketball and wanted to have a quick look in some shops. This store looked entertaining so we walked in. From the outside I couldn't tell how big it was; however, when we went in, it seemed to open up into a huge, cathedral-like place that was filled with plastic this and plastic that. There were enormous shelves on every aisle that must have been at least 20ft tall, and about 200ft long. And there was aisle after aisle of party supplies: plates, hats, cutlery, masks, balloons, makeup, presents, prizes, oh the list goes on to infiniti. I noticed that the employees who worked in this store were quite slim; its not surprising, seeing as they probably walk for miles each day just around the store. My daughter and I had a good look around. We only bought a Valentine's card and a small box of candies. I really didn't want to buy anything; I found the huge quantity of products quite off-putting. When I went to pay, I said to the employee, "This is the biggest party supply store I have seen!" That's when he told me that it is the biggest in the U.S. "Really? In Moses Lake?" I asked, wondering why it wouldn't be in a big city like Chicago or Los Angeles. Hmm, I'm still puzzled. Perhaps the middle of nowhere is the best place for a huge party.

1. 'To stumble across/ upon' means to find accidentally.

a. The children stumbled upon a purse in the mud. It looked like it had been there for years.

b. While she visited her grandmother, she stumbled upon a family secret.

c. Howard Carter and George Herbert, with the help of many workers, stumbled upon Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.

2. 'Out-of-the-way' means remote.

a. Even in the middle of nowhere, in this out-of-the-way place, you can places find to stay.

b. After getting lost on the moors, the travelers took shelter in an out-of-the-way abandoned farm.

3. 'To assume' is to have an idea about something without really knowing facts.

a. He comes to see us every weekend, so I'm assuming he will this weekend.

b. I assumed that he was an athlete because he is tall and strong, but actually he is a dancer. 

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Feb 11, 2016

Liz gets pulled over for speeding by a policeman.

Liz: Hello Officer. What seems to be the problem?

Officer: Well, Miss, you were going eleven miles per hour over the speed limit. Can I see your driver's license please?

Liz: Yes, of course. Here it is.

Officer: Also, I need to see your car insurance card.

Liz:Ok, let me find it. I think that its mixed in with all of my papers. Ah yes, here it is. Gosh, I didn't realize that I was going so fast; I must have been distracted by the music on the radio....

Officer: Please stay in your car. I need to go back to mine to radio-in this information.

Liz: Ok Officer.

Officer: Well, it looks like you have a clean record, no outstanding fines. I will, however, have to give you a ticket for speeding. This is a fast highway, and speeding makes it more dangerous.

Liz: $70? Wow. This will teach me not to get distracted.

Officer: That's the one good thing about fines, they make you think. And if we think, then we become safer drivers.

Liz: That makes sense. I've  certainly learned my lesson today. Have a good day Officer.

Officer: You too, Miss.

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Feb 9, 2016
Chief Moses.

Moses Lake is a town that is situated about an hour and a half from where I live. I don't usually choose to go there; however, in the winter, my children will often have basketball tournaments there once or twice. The journey there takes you through flat farmland, and then through miles of dry open areas of, well, nothing really. The type of land is called 'scabland' where there is very little rainfall(1), and a bush called 'sagebrush' grows everywhere. Geologically speaking, it's part of the largest lava plateau(2) in the world, and it stretches for miles and miles and miles. Part of the road to Moses Lake travels along side the Columbia river which is impressive. But as the road turns away from the river, the land stretches out for miles with no sign of trees or houses. Moses Lake has, of course, a very large lake which initially provided fish for the inhabitants of the town. It was named after Chief Moses, the leader of the Sinkiuse tribe, who had to negotiate with the U.S government to give up the land in exchange for a reservation. The High School is named after him. His picture is on the walls, and a point of pride for the town. As each basketball team has a name, like The Wenatchee Panthers, Moses Lake High School athletes are called the Chiefs, meaning the leaders in Native Indian tradition. The rest of the town doesn't seem to reflect much of its Indian roots(3) which is a shame. It has an important airplane training base, and some farming, but the town itself is not very attractive. I can imagine, however, Moses Lake transformed by some good planning and creativity. It could become an attractive reflection of Native Indian history, and modern progress.

1. I used the word 'rainfall' in the podcast instead of 'rain'. Why? Its because I was talking about the average amount of rain in a year. You can also use the word when talking about a shorter amount of time, like a month. It implies a measurement.

a. The rainfall in Seattle is actually a lot more than in the U.K.

b. The rainfall each Spring causes floods in town. (Here you could use 'rain', but I wish to indicate volume).

2. The word 'plateau' is a geological term that is sometimes used figuratively.

a. The castle is situated on the edge of a plateau that sits in the middle of the valley.

b. The computer sales plateaued after three weeks, and then went down.

3. 'Roots' here in the podcast refers to the Native American ethnic heritage. The use of the word is figurative, but of course we use the word literally as well.

a. Cutting down the tree was easy, but pulling up all of the roots was hard work!

b. They have just moved to a new town, and hope to eventually put down roots there.

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Feb 7, 2016
Sniff The Dessert.

Have you ever walked into a house when someone has just made a delicious dessert? What is it that most people do in that situation? Yes, they sniff. I know that when my family comes home from school or work, they are hungry(1). So, when they walk in the house and smell some good food that is ready, I know that it brings a smile to their faces(2). One such dish that smells really good is baked apples. It is a super easy, and healthy alternative to other desserts. The key is to choose the right kind of apples. When apples cook, they go soft and a lot of their juice comes out. Therefore, its important to choose apples that are not too juicy, otherwise, after cooking, you will be left with a very small dessert, and a lot of juice!

After washing the fruit, you have to remove the core, which is tricky(3). The typical kitchen vegetable peeler works well for this job because it has a rounded end that helps you dig out the flesh from the middle of the apple. It is only a small kitchen tool, but it really does the job. Next, the apples go in a glass or ceramic dish with the holes facing up. You pour a mixture of saltanas or raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon into the holes, and then you put a square (knob) of butter on top, like a little lid. Put the dish in the oven at about 350 degrees for twenty minutes. And that my friends is that. The smell of the cinnamon and cooking caramel will fill your house and make everybody sniff, sniff, sniff.

1. 'Family' with 'is'. Ok, family is a singular noun, so we use a singular verb with it, 'is', 'was', 'goes' etc. However, it implies more than one person, so a sentence that expands on that idea could say, 'they are ...' Think about the sentence in my podcast:

'I know that when my family comes home from school or work, they are hungry.'   I could not say 'it is hungry', - that just doesn't sound correct at all. HOWEVER, I could say 'my family is hungry'; that sounds very good. 

I could change the sentence to something like this:

'After school or work, my family is hungry.' Let's see some examples of using 'they' or even 'we' after family.

a. When my family gets together for Thanksgiving, they all help with the washing up / or 'everybody helps with the washing up.

b. When my family had a disagreement, they talked about it until they found a solution. 

c. When their family goes on vacation, they always choose to go to the beach.

2. 'To bring a smile to someone's face.' This means to make someone happy; it shows the action of the subject on the person who becomes happy.

a. That photo of you really brought a smile to my face.

b. When she sent me a friend request on Facebook, it really brought a smile to my face.

3. 'Tricky' means difficult in many ways.

a. That History exam was very tricky because the questions were worded strangely.

b. Doing the Rubick's cube is tricky; you certainly need to practice it a lot.


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Feb 2, 2016
Secret viewers.

In our modern societies, its quite normal to coexist quite happily with other species: dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, and many other kinds of pets. I have seen people take their animals into shops, take them into restaurants, and even travel with them on planes. I think it is becoming more common. Being a pet owner myself, I understand the strong attachment that some people have to their animals. However, there are some places where you don't expect to find animals of any kind. I picked up my daughter from the cinema the other day, and found that her friend's teenage sister who had accompanied them had secretly taken her pets as well. She reached in her pocket and brought out two very colorful geckos. I was shocked. First of all I was surprised that they hadn't escaped, as I know that they can move very quickly. If they had, it would have been a disaster, because the cinema is huge and it would have been impossible to find them. Just imagine them running around on the floor of the dark viewing room, around people's feet, and slipping into someone's handbag or up a trouser leg. Ugh! The thought makes me shudder(1)! Secondly, I couldn't stop thinking about salmonella bacteria. I hope Maria, the owner, wasn't eating popcorn while watching the movie and stroking her pets at the same time! Well, she seemed perfectly healthy. She then told me that the reason she had brought them to the theater was that she didn't want to keep them at home. She had a four year old cousin staying at home, and he was a bit rough. She didn't want to risk (2)them getting hurt. So, she sneaked(3) them into her pocket without anyone knowing. Maria loves reptiles and wants to be a responsible pet owner. As I drove home I realized that we were lucky that she didn't own any snakes!

1. 'Shudder' is the verb which means 'to shake' with horror or disgust. 

a. Elizabeth looked at the large cut on the man's face and shuddered. She knew that she could never be a nurse.

b. The new boy shuddered to think of sitting next to the school bully on the bus.

2. 'To risk' plus a verb in the present continuous, is a shorter version of saying 'to run a/the risk of + verb in continuous.

a. I left early because I didn't want to risk being late / run the risk of being late.

b. The prisoners escaped quietly so they wouldn't risk waking the guards / run the risk of waking the guards.

3. 'To sneak' has a very different ending in the past tense in the U.S compared to Britain: 'snuck'.

a. The children sneaked into the cinema without paying (British).

    The children snuck into the cinema without paying (U.S.)

b. The cat sneaked slowly up the tree while the bird was away from its nest (British).

    The cat snuck slowly up the tree while the bird was away from its nest (U.S.)

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Jan 28, 2016
Leavenworth Winter Sports.

I have written on several occasions about Leavenworth. It's about 30 minutes by car from where I live, and a very popular destination for tourists. Because of its mountainous landscape(1), it receives more snow than we do, and stays a few degrees colder. There is a skiing area in Leavenworth that is busy each winter. It offers regular downhill skiing, tubing, nordic skiing like cross country and skate skiing, and also a ski jump. We usually go tubing there. It's the easiest of all the activities because it just involves sitting down! You sit on an inner tube, which is the inside rubber tube of a wheel. An assistant hooks you onto a pulley that pulls you up the hill where you are detached, and then you slip down the hill very quickly indeed. It's great fun, and even young children can do it safely. The other skiing activities are spread out over(2) three different locations: on the ski hill itself, along the river, on a golf course, and in the central park. In fact, when there is enough snow, you can see people moving around the town, going here and there on skis, because it seems to be safer than walking. One sport that I think I will never attempt is the ski jump. Instructors are available so beginners can slowly learn to make little jumps, gradually increasing the length of the jump to 15 meters. Those who are more experienced(3) and confident can graduate to 27 meters. I think that would make me dizzy! The Leavenworth ski jump is actually the only one on the West Coast of the U.S, so it's very special. Some people like heights, and enjoy the feeling of flying through the air, so it's perfect for them. I, however, like to have my feet on the ground...Then after a few hours of tubing, or some good exercise skiing, you can't go home without having hot chocolate in the ski cabin.

1. Different kinds of landscapes:

a. Because of the arid landscape, water is expensive, and the farms are irrigated.

b. The flat landscape of Texas makes it prone to tornados.

c. The mountainous landscape of the highway becomes dangerous in rain storms, resulting in landslides.

2. 'To spread ... out over/to be spread out over ...' is a very useful phrase that can be applied in many situations.

a. The talks will be spread out throughout the day, so we can have breaks in between.

b. The fire fighters spread out over the whole area, trying to surround the fire.

c. The gypsies are an ethnic group that is spread out over many nations.

3. 'Those who are more .../ the ... who are more...'

a. Those of you who are more athletic can climb the 259 steps up to the Whispering Gallery; the rest of you can explore the main level of St. Paul's Cathedral. 

b. The children who are more studious will be picked for the advanced math competition.

c. The women who have access to good medical care will do well in their pregnancies and have healthy babies.


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Jan 22, 2016

Mr. Brown: "Did you want to see me, sir?"

Principal Stevens: "Ah yes, Mr. Brown, do come in, please."

Mr. Brown: "Do you want me to close the door?"

Principal Stevens: "Yes, if you would. Don't worry about the broken handle; it doesn't work. The custodian was going to fix it, but he didn't. I don't know what he does with all of his time... Make yourself comfortable; you can take your coat off. I'll get the secretary to bring us some coffee."

Mr. Brown: "Thank you. I'll keep my coat on; its a bit chilly."

Principal Stevens: "It does feel cold in here, doesn't it? Don't tell me the heating isn't working now! I'll have to see what the custodian can do about that as well."

Mr. Brown: "Do you need a copy of the class grades? If you do, I have extras."

Principal Stevens: "No, don't worry. I have it all on my computer. I'll get to the point, Mr. Brown. The counselor has told me that she doesn't have any concerns about the girls in your class, but she does about the boys. We expected them to do well on their exams, but they haven't. The girls have done well, very well. That group of boys that you have just hasn't done a good job in anything: attendance, projects, or studying. Do you know why?"

Mr. Brown: "Well, they had a plan of working together to finish their projects, and also to have study groups. That didn't work out because they have been so ill with the flu. They had done a lot of traveling together for basketball. One of them got the flu, and so all of them did. They had done quite a lot of work before the basketball season started, but they hadn't done enough to get a good grade. I gave them an alternative test that involved working in a group, but it didn't improve their grades. I don't know what to do at this stage."

Principal Stevens: "It sounds like you've done all that you can. Sickness is sickness, I'm afraid. I will talk to the superintendent to see if we can give those boys a pass or fail for the year, instead of a grade. We do do that sometimes, when it's necessary. And don't worry, Mr. Brown, I don't see this as a reflection of your teaching abilities. You have always done a good job."

Mr. Brown: "Thank you Principal Stevens. I did urge the parents this year to vaccinate their children. When the boys got sick I realized that they hadn't done that. "

Principal Stevens: "Well, there's nothing else you can do, really. I'll let you know as soon as I do about the grades. Thanks for meeting with me."

Mr. Brown: "Thanks for your time, Principal Stevens."



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Jan 21, 2016

Liz calls Barbara on the phone:

Liz: Hi Barbara, are you up for yoga tomorrow at 7?(1) I know its a bit early, but it'll be worth it. 

Barbara: I'm really sorry Liz, but I can't go. (2)I threw my back out yesterday, and I'm really miserable.

Liz: Oh, you poor thing! How on earth did you do that?

Barbara: You know I work in the library on Wednesday's. Well, I had to carry boxes of books from the storage room and stack them on the shelves. I overdid it, of course. That kind of thing always throws my back out.

Liz: Do you need to see a doctor or a chiropractor?

Barbara: Not really. I'm taking meds for the pain because I think that the injury is just muscular. When my muscles finally relax, I'm sure the pain will go away.

Liz: What have you been doing to help it?

Barbara: Apart from the pain killers, I have been lying flat on my back with my head on a small pillow and my knees up a little. I've also iced my back. Last night I wrote my essay lying down. I probably looked ridiculous!

Liz: Well, who cares what you look like? The important thing is that you feel better. It sounds like you're doing everything you can. I hope you get better soon! I'll miss you at yoga!

Barbara: Yeah, have fun!


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Jan 20, 2016
Sushi or sashimi?

My husband and I have developed an addiction to Japanese food. We are so happy that a few Japanese restaurants have finally opened in our town. Though we don't often have the opportunity to go out to dinner alone, when we do, we choose to eat at one of those restaurants. For a long time, we have enjoyed shushi, with its mixture of sticky rice, vegetables and a small amount of raw fish. It has been our only experience of eating uncooked fish, as I am British, and my husband is American, we are accustomed to(1) only cooked meat and fish. However, we have come to really appreciate the extremely clean taste and soft texture of the raw fish. Also, after eating shushi, our stomachs always feel satisfied but not bloated at all. So, the other day, when we went to Iwa's restaurant, all we wanted was raw fish(2). We ordered a plate for two people which had a variety of different fish. When the waitress gave us our plate, I was impressed. It was beautifully presented, and looked artistic and colorful. I ate some tuna and salmon which I am very familiar with. Then I tried the mackerel which had a flaky texture, similar to cooked fish. I wasn't sure about the octopus, however. I did eat a piece, but found it really chewy. It's surprising how filling raw fish is! We couldn't finish the plate. One of the many reasons we keep returning to Iwa's is because we trust the chefs. We can see them working in their spotless(3) kitchen, and the fish is always cut carefully with very clean knives and very clean hands. And that, I think, is the philosophy of making sashimi: getting an amazing taste from the freshest fish, and the cleanest hands.

1. 'To be accustomed to' is like saying 'to be used to' but it implies a cultural habit.

a. I am accustomed to having coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

b. He is accustomed to watching American football every Sunday during the winter.

2. The word placement of 'All we wanted was raw fish' is worth mentioning. The sentence could be written the other way around: 'Raw fish was all we wanted'. Both are perfect sentences, but there is a subtle difference between the two. The first sentence shows more focus and intent; it feels more exclusive (no other food should be considered). However, in speech, you can always emphasize a word or parts of a sentence as you wish in order to make an impact.

a. Peace and quiet is all I want.

All I want is peace and quiet.

b. To pass the last exam is all he needs.

All he needs is to pass the last exam

c. Money is all they ask for.

All they ask for is money.

3. 'Spotless' is absolutely clean. It can be used figuratively.

a. She spends a lot of time cleaning her house; it is always spotless.

b. As a business owner, he had a spotless record of paying his taxes on time and treating his employees with respect.

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Jan 19, 2016
Rainy Olympia

Last Tuesday, I had an impromptu trip(1) to Olympia, the capital of Washington State. I have been taking exams to become a medical interpreter in Spanish and English, but those exams can't be taken in Wenatchee. If you want to take the test, you have to sign up online when a spot(2) becomes available, and that doesn't happen very often. You usually have to wait for at least three months. I have become impatient with the whole sign up process, and all the waiting involved, so when I found an opening(3), I immediately signed up. I had only a week to prepare, and then a three and a half hour drive to get there. The drive was easy enough as I drove on main roads the whole way. I also took the opportunity to record a lot of vocabulary and sentences to listen to in the car. As I approached Olympia it poured with rain. I could tell that the area receives a lot of rain each year as the trees are covered with moss. This was quite a contrast to where I live now.

I arrived in plenty of time to find the testing center. It was in a very large social services building, up several flights of stairs. The closer I got to the exam room, the more nervous I became. "Now calm down Anna," I said to myself. "If you don't pass it this time, you'll just have to try again." The lady who administers the test was very nice. She made me feel comfortable, and she also gave me some good advice about relaxing and speaking clearly and slowly.

After the exam I headed over to the State Legislative building which is the main landmark of the city. It was surrounded by mist, and looked as if its domed roof was going to disappear into the clouds. I didn't stay long, as I had a long drive home. I just wanted to catch a glimpse of this political center, and the beautiful building that represents it.

1. 'Impromptu' describes a sudden and unplanned or unexpected event or other kind of noun.

a. Our get-together led to an impromptu group singing.

b. As I was volunteering in the class, I became an impromptu teacher because Mr. White, the English teacher,  suddenly felt ill. 

c. After talking on the phone with her brother, Mary bought a ticket and took an impromptu trip to see him. 

2 & 3 'A spot' can mean an available place or appointment, as can 'an opening'. Opening, however, is more common, and applies better to appointments. In speech, we can often use both in the same sentence.

a. She had a spot on the radio show where she read a few lines and sang a song.

b. Finally there was an opening to see the dentist; I had waited for weeks.

c. There were a few openings for the exam to choose from: 11am, 2pm, and 4:30pm. I chose the 2pm spot/ opening.


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Jan 8, 2016
Winter vocabulary, a story.

The old man woke to the sound of his dog barking. He knew that his companion could smell the deer outside, so he slipped his winter boots on, and opened the door to let him out. The biting cold wind blew on him; he shivered and closed the door. Thunder, his Karakachan Bear dog, could be heard in the distance barking at the deer. He didn't feel the cold because he was so fluffy, a true winter dog. It could be far below zero(1), and he would still want to play and run in the snow. 

The old man stoked up(2) the fire and looked out of the window. Icicles hung from the roof blocking his view of the mountain road. He looked through the evergreen forest to the distant glacier that always seemed to look back at him, another wilderness companion. His son and family were coming to visit; they did so often. They loved to go snowshoeing together and build an army of snowmen. But today was bitterly cold, and the road was probably blocked. "I'd better snowplow down to the main road, or they'll never get here." he thought to himself. Sometimes, the snow was so deep that he would have to transport his family, two by two, on his snowmobile, from the main road up to his house. For years his son had tried to convince him to move into town. "Why do you insist on living in such a place?" he would ask him. "You've already lost two fingers to frostbite." But the old man would no longer even reply. This was his place in life, in his cabin, on the mountain, through the storms, the snow, the freezes and the thawing and melting of the Spring. He couldn't imagine a better place to be.

He pulled on his winter boots, buttoned up his fleece coat, and grabbed his gloves and ear muffs as he left. Oh yes, it was nippy. The wind chill factor(3) made the cold feel sharp against his face. His eyes watered, and he pulled his warm hood over his head and buttoned up the neck. He pushed the fresh snow off of his snowplow, and started the engine. Thunder came running up behind him enthusiastically, ready for an adventure. "Come on boy!" said the old man. "Let's get to work!"

1. 'Zero, zero degrees, below zero, far below zero.'

a. It's below zero but the snow is still melting! The ground must be warmer than the air.

b. As the sun went down, the temperature dropped to far below zero. Everything was dark and frozen and still.

2. 'To stoke up the fire' means to make the fire bigger. It can, of course, be used figuratively. 

a. The fire has died down. Let's stoke it up! I'm getting cold!

b. His words stoked (up) the argument. They were not very helpful.

3. 'The wind chill factor' is how the wind can add to the effect of the temperature.

a. The temperature didn't seem too bad, but the wind chill factor made quite a difference when we started hiking.

b. The movement of the air on your skin chills you more than just the outside temperature.

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Jan 5, 2016
One to One Hundred Birds.

Two days ago, we were hit hard(1) by snow. It snowed all night, leaving a thick blanket that seemed to insulate everything. The entryway, driveway, and neighborhood road looked like they had been carpeted with white. The back garden has got deeper and deeper with snow, as we don't clear it. There is nothing to do in the garden now that it is winter, nothing other than playing and building snowmen. There is, however, one place in the back that I have to keep clear of snow. That is the bird feeding area. Because we live in the country, and our neighborhood has many trees, there is a huge variety of birds that live here. The ones who stay in the winter need food, and that is where I come in(2). I like to help them a little, even though I know that they are very capable of helping themselves. I put a couple of dishes of bird seed out for them, and then I made frozen balls of bacon fat and seed. I hung these balls from the trees, and hurried back into the kitchen to watch from a comfortable spot. Gradually more and more birds swooped into my garden and came to the feast. They were little round birds who hopped quickly, fought with each other, and twittered(3). They acted like excited, young school girls at the shopping mall. Before long, the seed was gone. I hunted around in my garage for more bags, and managed to find just enough for the birds' second course. I decided to add some dry dog food to the mix. The birds came in a second time, but then suddenly flew away. There was an ugly squawking sound, and suddenly, I saw four beautiful blue jays. They swallowed up the dog food in no time, and left as soon as it was gone. Bird watching is proving to be quite addicting, especially when these loud but lovely birds come to visit.

1. 'To be hit hard by ...' is a phrase that can be used in the context of weather, financial problems, or many other kinds of changing situations.

a. We were hit hard by job losses when the factory closed.

b. The whole state was hit by a heat wave that dried up the farms.

c. A migraine hit me hard, so I had to pull over and take some medication.

2. 'That is where ...come/comes in' is a casual and slightly playful way of introducing something into a clear context.

a. The skiers will come in the restaurant looking for a warm meal. And that is where the new chefs come in. They will have hot stews and soups ready for them.

b. Tourists typically try to see the most historically significant places in a city, but it is difficult. That is where a guide comes in. He can save the tourists a lot of time and frustration.

3. 'To twitter'. It must be one of the most well-known words at the moment because of the social media giant, Twitter. It describes the quick, chatting noise that a bird makes which is different from its singing.

a. I love the spring, but oh my goodness, the birds start their twittering at 5am!

b. What are you two twittering about?                                


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