One of the things that I love about London is how multicultural it is. Every nation on the planet has some representation in London. So, living in a place that is so cosmopolitan, makes a person the same. You become totally at ease around people of all different ethnic groups. That's one of the things that I wanted to expose(1) my children to. As we live in a very rural and fairly isolated community, they don't get exposed to the rest of the world very much. So their trip to London was an 'eye-opener'(2) for them. As we travelled around on the number 9 bus, past shops, parks, monuments, and restaurants, we saw all sorts of things that we wouldn't normally see. Near Holland road, there was an Iranian restaurant with an Iranian shop next door. We first noticed the shop because it had a huge and luscious(3) looking fruit stand on display. "Wow, look at that fruit!" one of my boys said. The bus had stopped just opposite the shop, so I had time to get my camera out. But, what really caught my eye was the banner above the restaurant. It was wishing the best of luck to both the Iranian soccer team, and the English team during the World Cup. It said, "From Iranian UK." Seeing it made me happy. It was an expression of good will by people who themselves are in a foreign land. 

1. 'To expose' either means to uncover, or to bring something into contact with something else.

a. Our visitor from Mexico had never been exposed to a snowy winter before.

b. Keep your cut clean and covered; you don't want to expose it to germs.

c. Their trip to Japan was their first trip abroad. They had never been exposed to another culture before.

2. An 'eye-opener' is something that teaches you something new. It is implied that you are surprised or fascinated by the new information.

a. The first week of college was a real eye-opener for him.

b. I had heard the rumors about the case. However, it was a real eye-opener to sit down and read the facts.

3. 'Luscious' is a fabulous word that means 'juicy' and 'delicious'.

a. They call that actress 'Luscious lips' because she has full lips that are always painted red.

b. These mangoes are luscious; they are perfectly ripe!

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Direct download: Soccer_friends.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:50 PM
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Have you ever been on a long plane journey? It's quite an experience. Just getting on the plane takes a while. You have to arrive at the airport two hours before the flight. You have to check your luggage in, make your way through security, and have your passport checked and re-checked. Then you sit in the waiting room, and, well...wait. After lining up(1) with the other two hundred passengers, having your passport and boarding card checked again, and walking through the tunnel to the plane, you really need to sit down! Hopefully you can find a place in the overhead container for your carry-on(2) luggage. But be careful moving other people's bags around to make space for yours; you might get some suspicious looks or angry faces. Finally, you are sitting down and ready for the flight. You look to see who is sitting next to you. Hopefully it's someone nice, afterall(3), you have to sit next to him or her for the next 9 hours! You'd better introduce yourself and be pleasant; it helps. But then, what do you do for the next 9 hours? On the long, transcontinental flights, there is usually a television screen right in front of you, with a variety of films, programs, or music to choose from. It's called the 'inflight entertainment'. All the passengers are glued to the screens for most of the journey. As I don't like to sit down for very long, I get up and walk around, and stretch. It always fascinates me how so many people can sit down for so long. Their bottoms must really suffer! Mind you, if the in-flight entertainment is good, people forget about their bottoms, and their need to move, and they simply watch and watch. What else is there to do on a plane? I am always thankful for the screens when I fly with my children, because, for their generation, watching a screen is as normal as breathing. If there were no screens, they would feel as if a part of their bodies was missing. So thankyou to the airlines for our entertainment, and appologies to our bottoms.

1. 'To line up' means to form a line in order to wait for something. In England, we still use the verb 'to queue'.

a. We had to line up to get the tickets, and then line up to get it!

b. Some people are so impatient and find it difficult to line up.

2. 'Overhead container and carry-on luggage' are two nouns used all the time when you fly. The cupboard above your seat on the plane is called your 'overhead container' because it is over your head. 'Carry-on luggage' refers to the small bag that you are allowed to take into the cabin, or room where everyone sits.

a. The overhead container was full, so I had to squeeze my bag under the seat.

b. My carry-on luggage was too big, so I had to check it in.

3. 'Afterall' is a great word that is similar in meaning to: 'if you think about it', 'if you understand all the options'.

a. I can give you a lift to the university, afterall, we both need to be there at the same time, and I have a car.

b. I recommend you include fruits and vegetables in your cooking, afterall, it's for the health of your family.

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Direct download: Entertainment_inflight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18 PM
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When we stayed in London this summer, our apartment was on Holland Road. It was inside a row of typical London town houses: white with black window frames, and black iron fences. I love that simple, elegant style. However, this row of houses needed some TLC(1). New paint would have been good, a  bit of renovation as well. But, for our purposes, the apartment was fine. I asked the owner for his recommendation on getting to the center of town. He advised against using(2) the underground (the Tube), as in the summer it is packed with tourists. So, I got on-line, and found that the number 9 bus went from just around the corner, right to the center, to Trafalgar Square. It was comfortable, convenient, and cheap. We spent most of our time exploring London. Back at the apartment, we would have dinner and then go for a walk. Our street was very noisy, but just one street away everything became quiet, and the neighborhoods were much nicer. We stumbled upon a huge park, called Holland Park which had everything in it: large open areas, lots of trees and flowers, a play area for children, and even an opera house. It was a wonderful, green relief from a busy day in the city, a quiet place away from our noisy apartment.

1. TLC is short for 'tender-loving-care'. It can be applied to anything. We tend to use it when talking about inanimate objects, like houses. It means that the mentioned object needs to be cleaned up, repaired, or decorated.

a. The old house needs some TLC, so we'll start by replacing the roof.

b. That truck is in a terrible state. It needs some TLC.

2. 'To advise' can be used negatively or positively. When you advise someone to take action there are 2 ways of expressing it:

a. I advise you to talk to your teacher.

b. I advise talking to your teacher.

However, when you are advising someone to 'not' do something, the structure of the sentence is different:

a. I advise against you going to your teacher.

b. I advise against going to your teacher. * We don't say 'I advise you against going to your teacher.' It sounds bad; the against should come before 'you'.

If you don't want to use the word 'against', you can say:

c. I advise you not to go to your teacher

d. I advise you to not go to your teacher.

 

Any of these is correct.

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Direct download: 2_Holland.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:44 AM
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Point number 5 from yesterday's podcast was missing! Sorry! So here it is, plus a couple of extra pieces of English that are worth learning.

5. In the podcast, I wrote that my children 'had had enough of being with their mother 24 hours a day.'

It sounds strange to say , 'had, had', but don't let it intimidate you. Remember, the verb I am using is 'to have enough of something' which means that you have been over exposed to something, or are tired of a situation or person.

So, in order to use the pluperfect tense I have to use 'my children had had enough...'. Here are some examples using different tenses. *Note, this verb is usually used in the past.

a. I left because I had had enough of his arguing.

b. She yawned because she had had enough of the boring lecture.

c. I have had enough of the bad weather; I need to go somewhere sunny! *Note, this is present perfect, not pluperfect.

 

I also would like to share one English idiom, and one new English phrase, both of which I found on the website, Learn English Today (highly recommended).

Idiom.

To be 'all ears' means to be very interested in what someone is about to tell you.

a. I can't believe that she's going to climb Mt. Everest. Tell me all about it; I'm all ears.

b. Are the rumors true? Tell me all the details; I'm all ears.

New Phrase

A 'Black Swan' is an unexpected event of great magnitude. It can be a sudden natural disaster, or a political event that was not expected.

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Direct download: 5.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:51 PM
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This summer I disappeared for a while; you might have noticed(1). I left Wenatchee, with my children, on 22nd of July, and didn't return until 23rd of August(2). We escaped for a whole month! It was a trip that I had planned for a year, and what a trip it was!(3) We went to five places: London, Spain, Yorkshire, Scotland, and Iceland. I feel very privileged to have  traveled so much, and to have done it with my kids. It was very memorable, and inspiring. Before we left, I had been feeling like a deflated balloon, but now that I'm back, I am totally inflated again, full of adventures and things to write about. Probably the place that I found most exciting was Iceland, because I had never been there before. I will certainly write some podcasts about that mysterious country. It made a big impression on me, and I definitely would like to go back. By the last week, my children were moaning(4) to come home and play with their friends. They had had enough(5) of traveling and of being with their mother 24 hours a day! However, I think, for the most part, they had a really good attitude. As we look back at the photos of our trip, they have plenty to say. This photo of London is one of the best that we took. I was so happy to visit all the places that are familiar to me, to walk along the Thames as the sun was going down and the historical buildings were being illuminated. It was the first place we visited, and so I will have several podcasts about that great city for you to listen to soon.

1. 'You might have noticed' is like saying, 'Maybe you noticed.' The meaning is the same. Here are some more examples:

a. Your brother just left; you might have seem him leave.

b. The neighbors were having a party last night; you might have heard the noise.

c. The new teacher arrived today; you might have met him.

2. In this sentence I use the negative. I could have told you about my dates of departure and return positively though: I left on 22nd of July and returned on 23rd of August. So, why did I use the negative? I did it to add to the sense that I was gone for a long time: I didn't return until ..... adds to the idea that I was gone for quite a while. You can use this with the time, as well as with dates.

a. He didn't come home until 11:30pm. (The negative implies that he was late).

b. She didn't renew her driver's license until 10 years after its expiration date!

3. 'What a trip it was!' is an exclamation that needs no adjective, though you can have one in front of the noun if you like.

a. What an exciting trip it was! What a trip it was!

b. What a crazy party it was! What a party it was!

c. What a rude man he is! What a man he is!

4. 'My children were moaning to come home and play with their friends.' To moan is literally to make a complaining noise. We also use the verb to show that a person wants something.

a. He's moaning because he's hungry.

b. They've been moaning all day to go to their friend's house. 

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Direct download: View_London.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:16 PM
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The most delicious smell filled the house yesterday. My son, Cass had made bread. He has made it successfully many times, and I have had to go to the supermarket on many occasions just to get more flour. Of course, when he first started making bread, there were a few disasters. It took a while(1) to teach him to clean up after cooking, and to use the right ingredients and the right method of cooking and baking. However, with practice he has become an expert, and we all look forward to sampling(2) his baked goods. There was something extra special about yesterday's bread though. Cass had actually(3) grown the wheat, harvested it, and made it into flour for the bread. He's a purist, and like me, an avid gardener. He planted the wheat in the autumn, and waited patiently for it to grow. So far this summer, he has been checking it every day. When he saw that it was ready to harvest, he cut it all down, threshed it, and put the grain in a large bag. We have a grinding machine which he used to crush the grain into flour. So he went through the process from the very beginning to the end. He even cleaned the kitchen! It was a labor of love. 

1. 'A while', 'it took a while'. These phrases are commonly used in the same way as 'some time'. It's very non-specific, and good usage.

a. It'll take you a while to get used to those high heels.

b. It took me a while to learn French, several years actually.

c. He has been going to the gym for a while, ten years I think!

2. 'To sample' is to have a little bit of a larger item, often food. However, it can also be non-edible items like perfume, detergent, creams. The verb and noun are also used in science, when tiny pieces of substances are taken to be examined.

a. I sampled some unusual cheeses in the deli.

b. The sunscreen company sent me a sample in the mail.

c. The biologists took samples of the pond water and later examined them in the laboratory.

3. The use of 'actually'. It's a fabulous and common word. Here it's used as emphasis. We do this by putting it in front of the verb.

a. I couldn't believe that the two-year-old actually read the novel!

b. Everyone thought they would lose, but they actually won the race.

c. His friends were supposed to help him, but he actually did all the work himself.

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Direct download: Purist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:08 PM
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Peter: Hi Liz, are you just about ready?

Liz: Yep. Thanks again for giving me a ride. I appreciate all your help.

Peter: Oh, don't mention it. Anything for my friends!

Liz: You're so sweet.

Peter: So, your dad will pick you up at the train station?

Liz: Yes. She'll be in her aerobics class, so she won't know that I'm arriving. We'll pick up three more people, plus the birthday cake, and get back to the house before she comes home. Everyone else will be waiting there.

Peter: Oh, I love surprise parties.

Liz: Me too!

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Direct download: basic_34.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:28 PM
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I laughed when I saw the cartoon scene from this podcast, of a boy talking to his teacher, and giving a very weak excuse as to(1) why he hadn't done his homework. I remember telling a similar tale(2) to the principal of my elementary school. However, all those years ago, we didn't have computers, and we certainly had never heard of technology viruses. I told him that my mother had burned my homework. "She burned it?" he exclaimed, looking at me with judging eyes. Of course, he knew that I was lying, and I knew that he knew. Why did I even try to lie to my principal? I suppose I was scared of his anger; I didn't expect him to be ok with me not doing(3) the homework. Plus it's always easy to blame your mother when she's not around. I come across similar situations with my children, "Robert, why didn't you clean up your mess?" An answer to that is often, "Domini didn't clean up hers either." In English we call it 'pointing the finger'. We mention someone else's fault to make ourselves look better, and feel less guilty. Nowadays, of course, we are not limited to blaming our mothers, brothers and sisters, or our family pets  (children are known to say that the dog ate the homework). We can now add computers, printers, and viruses to the list.

1. The use of 'as to' in the first sentence. It's a little bit old fashioned, but still sounds good in sentences that we are trying to stretch out, or lengthen. It means the same as 'regarding' or 'concerning'. It also sounds less formal than 'regarding' or 'concerning' and that is often why it is used.

a. I'd like to hear an explanation from you as to why you fired Jim and then hired Bob.

b. I understand the project, but I don't have a clue as to how it will be financed.

2. 'Tale' means a story. It is often used as a kind way of saying 'a lie'.

a. I don't believe what she was saying; I think she was telling a little tale.

b. The fishermen always tell tales about the giant fish that escaped from the net.

3. 'To be ok with something' means that a person is comfortable or agrees with a situation.

a. Are you ok with me coming to your house at 10pm?

b. I'm not ok with this situation; it makes me feel uncomfortable.

c. I can't believe that you're ok with your noisy neighbors.

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Direct download: excuses_sound.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:05 PM
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While substitute teaching in a local school for an art teacher, I came across junk art. I had heard of it(1), but I had never really looked into it. Actually, elementary school art often involves items that are for recycling, like boxes, bottles, or packages. However, there is a difference  between using recycled objects for art projects, and junk art. In junk art, the object used is not disguised by colors, shapes, or textures. Pablo Picasso was the first well-known artist to include junk in one of his pictures, in fact, he stuck a piece of a chair onto a painting. Later, junk art was practiced and perfected by(2) Marcel Duchamp. As I looked around the art room where I was teaching, a red glow caught my eye. The color was coming from(3) a string of fairy lights that had been placed inside empty, red cartridges that had been used in a shot gun. Usually, these are just thrown away. However, someone must have had the idea of saving them for a creative reason. I think that the idea of using shot gun cartridges as a string of lights is delightful. Its use in art is so different from its original intention; it's a great contrast.

1. 'I had heard of it' and its variations can be used in conversation to increase the impression of your fluency.

a. I had heard of him, but I had never met him.

b. I had heard of the book, but I had never read it.

c. We had heard of them, but we had never met them.

2. To have something 'perfected by' a person.

a. My grandmother created the recipe, and my mother perfected it.

b. He came up with the idea, but you perfected it.

3. '....was coming from...' is used in this podcast to add a bit of description to the text, and is good to use in conversation.

a. The noise was coming from next door; I don't know what was going on.

b. There's a strange smell in the garage; it's coming from one of the storage boxes.

c. What beautiful music! Where is it coming from?

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Direct download: junk_art_sound.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29 PM
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Our recent camping trip turned out to be more interesting than I had expected. My family and I drove up to a remote forest area near Lake Chelan. There were no houses nearby, and only a few signs of human life(1). We set up our campsite next to a dirt path, overlooking a spectacular view of some distant mountains. It is very dry this time of year, but there are enough trees to offer some welcome shade(2). We rode our dirt bikes, built a campfire, the boys did some target practice with their BB guns, and we generally relaxed and explored. Some friends also joined us, one of whom is a hunter, and a bit of an animal expert. When he arrived, before he even said, "Hello," he presented us with a snake that he had just found on the property. "It's a kind of Boa," he explained. We all leaned forward to have a better look. It was small and green, and seemed to be a very gentle creature. It doesn't eat, bite, or sting humans, so I was quite happy to hold it. My daughter, who is an animal lover, borrowed it for quite a few hours. It curled around her hands, wrists, shoulders, and even her neck. I think it appreciated her warmth(3). The snake is now in a very nice terrarium back at the house where it is being thoroughly spoiled, and is growing longer and fatter.

 

1. 'Only a few signs of human life,' shows how remote the place was where we were camping. ' A sign of/ a few signs of' is an effective way of expressing the lack of impact of humans. It can also be used with many other subjects. It is similar to using the expression 'traces of'.

a. As we walked through the forest, we could only see a few signs of the fire that had happened five years ago. 

b. There were signs of animal activity in our garden: bear tracks and claw marks on the trees!

2. 'Welcome' is used as an adjective in the context of something being  appreciated, a help, or a relief.

a. At the end of my marathon, I was offered some cold water. It was truly a welcome drink.

b. The old men meet at the coffee shop where they have a welcome conversation.

3. The verb 'to appreciate' can be added into conversation easily and effectively to show fluency.

a. Thanks for helping me with the paperwork; I really appreciate it!

b. I appreciate how you listen so well.

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Direct download: Snake_in_hand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:54 PM
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