English practice for beginners and advanced, that will inspire and refresh the anxious language student. Download the text and grammar notes for a complete language experience. You really can learn English well with this clearly spoken and delightful course.
Hello happy podcast listeners, I've missed you! However, I have resurfaced, as I have done in the past, with exciting news. I am going to run the New York City Marathon in November. I am both nervous and excited. I'm not actually a long distance runner; this is a new endeavor. I used to sprint, which means fast, short runs. At this point in my life, though, I would like to attempt something very special, and the New York Marathon is definitely that. It happens to be the 50th anniversary of the run, so the size and atmosphere of the race will be above average. It's a bucket list item, you could say. I am hoping that my 50 year old joints will cope with the impact of running 26 miles, especially as I have a little hip injury. So wish me luck while I get prepared. If any of you run, I would love to hear some good advice; I am all ears! One other reason why I am very excited about participating in this historical event, is that I'm doing it to raise money for The World Wild Life Fund. This is a very worthy cause which supports and funds educational programs that teach communities sustainable farming, land use, and life style, so people can eat what they grow for a long time, and develop an efficient and productive relationship with the land. Preserving our water sources and having food security, are the keys to global health and less wars. The charity does its part for plant and animal life also, so we can preserve this beautiful, fascinating planet. The NYC Marathon is obviously an international event with professional, and olympic runners competing from countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, amongst others. It has been limited to 33,000 people because of Covid, but thankfully is still due to take place, unlike others that have been cancelled. The winner's prize money for both men and women is $130,000. Well, I certainly won't be seeing any of that; I will just be happy to be there, and fingers-crossed, cross the finish line. I will certainly do a podcast to let you all know what happens. As I am doing this to raise money for charity, I would really appreciate any donations any of you can make, even pennies would help. Just head over to and click on the super-cute baby elephant if you'd like to do your part for this very worthy cause. If you donate, you will know that we worked together for charity in the 50th NYC Marathon. Thank you in advance for your help.
What do you do on your lunch break? Some people barely have one; they have to quickly grab a snack, eat for a few minutes, and then continue working. This summer, as my teaching job is over, I have been working as a medical interpreter in a local hospital, in rehab. I love it there. This job is such a contrast to teaching, and, of course, the environment is completely different! The day is divided up into 45 minute blocks of time when different therapists each visit the patients and work with them. Some of these patients only speak Spanish, so that is where I come in. I'm the interpreter in the middle, trying to be as accurate as possible. Most of these patients are recent stroke victims. Our task is to get their mobility and speech back to as normal as possible. The encouraging thing about the rehab department is that we see tremendous recovery every day. But the work is intense, even the interpreting. So a good lunch break is welcome, believe me. Thankfully, I have an hour! The hospital is located not far from the center of town, so in a short walk, you have access to shops and restaurants. However, my favorite place for lunch when I work there is in the hospital gardens. It is a medium patch of grass surrounded by trees, with a well maintained zinnia patch. Yes zinnias! If you have listened to my podcast over the years, you will know that they are one of my favorite flowers. They are hardy, and tolerate these dry, hot conditions. So, I sit in the hospital gardens, eating my food, and watching the bees make their rounds in the flower patch, a bit like the therapists visiting the patients.
Since my last podcast, I have started working full-time at a middle school. I am an eighth grade ELA and Social Studies teacher. ELA means English Language Arts, and is basically all about essay writing and critical thinking. Of course I feel very privileged to have this job, especially (1)in this climate of high unemployment! It's not (2)all smooth sailing, however. The hybrid system of teaching in person part of the time and via zoom the rest of the time is still evolving, so the curriculum is something we are having to develop from week to week. This might not sound like a problem, but, believe me it is a real headache. Also, we only have half of the students in school at a time. I cannot complain, though. (3)I am more than happy to be back in a teaching environment, and am slowly bonding with the students. There is talk now about the whole student body coming back to school full-time. We will find out in a week or two if that will happen. It seems that, as more people are vaccinated, the government wants to get young people back to a normal, learning routine as soon as possible. In order to do that safely, we will have to follow certain protocols, and, of course, be vaccinated. I had the first vaccine by Pfizer about three weeks ago, so I am due to have the next one today. Exciting.... I don't mind vaccines; I certainly believe in them. I see this next one as a gateway to getting back to a normal life, so I certainly don't mind a poke in the arm, even if I get a few cold-like symptoms for a few days afterwards. When I had my first vaccine, it was a drive-through situation where I didn't have to get out of my car. Afterwards, I had to sit in line and wait for 15 minutes before leaving, just so the nurses could see that I didn't have an allergic reaction. I didn't have one. So, it looks like I'm on target for being 'covered' as we say today. I will be less likely to get infected and less likely to infect. That gives me great peace of mind. I am encouraged by the news of the many different types of vaccines for Covid that are now available, and the numbers of people who are receiving them each day globally. 1. In this climate of ..... means in this general atmosphere/ condition of society. It is used figuratively. a. In this climate of political divide, it is refreshing to be able to debate amicably. b. In this climate of apparent accountability, I hope we can all be more transparent. 2. 'Smooth sailing' or 'it's not all smooth sailing' are wonderful idioms to show ease or the lack of it. a. After we organized the wedding and sent out the invitations, everything else was smooth sailing. b. Running your own business is not all smooth sailing. You might have more control and independence, but you have all the responsibility. 3. 'To be more than happy to..' is obvious in meaning, and a great addition to a sentence. a. I am more than happy to help you; just tell me what you need. b. We are more than happy to help that charity because it does so much good for the community.
Winter is a special time. I suppose all of the seasons are. I find winter to be a struggle with disappointment which is relieved by exciting and meaningful moments. The main reason for this is the climate I live in. Wenatchee is a semi-desert region, so it is very dry. However, in the winter we get a lot of snow. The surrounding mountains give us the opportunity to play! Skiing it all its variety is available, and many people take advantage of it. I, at the moment, am really enjoying skate skiing. I plan to do some downhill skiing as well, that is, if I can find the time. So what did I mean when I said that winter is a struggle with disappointment? Well, sometimes there is no snow, and therefore no skiing. At times, we just get the cold, dreary, grey weather, and none of the white, fun stuff. When it does fall from the sky, however, it is magical. It transforms everything that you see outside into another world. The celebrations during winter also create moments that are very special. Diwali, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year just some of the many holidays that are celebrated in winter around the world. We humans are very connected to the seasons, and see them as representing meaningful parts of our own lives, as well as being part of the natural world. As we approach February, I see small signs of spring here and there. In the shops, a few flowers have appeared. They were grown either in other countries or 'forced' to grow early in greenhouses. Either way, I appreciate seeing them in their rows in the stores. They contrast with the snowy winter conditions; they really seem out of place. But you know me: I love flowers! I'll buy them in any season. So when it is a disappointing, dull, snowless day, I can cheer myself up by looking at the flowerpot on the kitchen windowsill.
The frosty days of early winter are here, so most people are staying indoors. Covid, of course, has made that worse. However, everywhere I see people making an effort to get out of doors at some point so they can exercise. Our days are short now: at five o'clock it is dark. So, if you want to exercise in the daylight, you need to go earlier in the day, otherwise you won't get any rays at all! For a few days, I got up and actually went for a run. Now, that sounds impressive. It wasn't. I basically managed about twenty minutes to half an hour around the nearby neighborhoods. I felt great afterwards! As I stretched my hips and thighs I felt very proud of myself for doing something so crazy, especially as the mornings were frosty. There were other benefits that I found from jogging as well. I discovered a couple of lovely streets: Dogwood lane, and Castleview drive. These are very neat, elegant residential areas that have attractive homes, nice front yards, and mature trees. No all streets have those, so it's refreshing when you come across some that do. So, it was on Brandi lane where I discovered a type of maple tree that still has not lost its leaves. That is very unusual for deciduous trees here; they are all bare now because of the cold, but not these. I am aching to find out what their names are, because they stand out and look fabulous. It was a joy to run past them, and under them, with their masses of red and pink leaves hanging overhead, glowing in the sun. Whoever planted these along the road either knew how they would add to the beauty of the neighborhood, or that person simply got lucky. Either way, until all their leaves fall and they become bare, Brandi lane will be a road that I jog through quite happily.
Saddle rock is the name of one of the hills that overlooks Wenatchee. It's name comes from the fact that, from a distance, it looks like a horse's saddle. It is a popular hike for locals and visitors, and offers a wonderful view of the town, and the Columbia river flowing down from the North. I hiked up to its rocky crown a week ago, and sat for a while taking in the view. I only saw one other person, a lady hiking down the very steep trail, trying not to fall. The soil is loose and sandy, so it is easy to slip and slide(1), particularly when you are coming downhill. It's quite magical when you have the whole trail to yourself; it's as if it belongs to you. The Saturday that I hiked it was a perfectly still, autumn day at first. As I got to the top, the weather changed, the clouds moved, and I got rained on. By then, I was hot from the uphill (2)walk, so the rain didn't bother me at all; it was quite refreshing. The local authorities maintain the trails each year by fixing any erosion. I noticed that on the way up, there were signs of closure of certain areas. This happens every now and then, so the plant and animal life can be undisturbed for a while and recuperate(3) from the busy hiking season of summer. The local school district has regular trips for school children up Saddlerock. It's considered a 'field trip', or an excursion. It's a great way to get out of the class, away from books and computer screens, and to exercise out in nature, and learn at the same time. Often the school children will do a unit of study on the local, natural environment, perhaps learning about the type of rock and soil, or a subject like erosion. Then, they will participate in their field trip and see a real life example of what they have just studied. It really validates what they have learned in the classroom. And then there are other groups who will hike up there too. A physical therapy patient I was working with, told me that his boss has been trying to get all of his employees fit, so they can stay healthy and not miss work. He created an incentive for them to hike up Saddle rock 10 times: those who chose to do it would get a $500 bicycle from him. What a clever idea! The hiking gets people in shape, and the cycling maintains their health. Everybody wins! I will certainly keep hiking up Saddle rock until the bad weather gets here, and hopefully I will be able to do it alone and at peace. 1. 'Slip and slide' we tend to put these two similar verbs together to emphasize the sense of losing your footing and your balance. a. I got out of my car and slipped and slid on the thin ice. b. Be cautious coming down the mountain and wear good shoes, otherwise you will slip and slide all the way down. 2. 'Uphill / downhill' these are obvious words to use when talking about hiking. They are often used figuratively. a. Biking downhill is easy, but remember to use the brakes! b. That class was an uphill struggle for me; I had to really focus and study so I wouldn't feel lost. 3. 'Recuperate' is a great verb that means 'to get better', or 'to return to normal health/ strength.' a. If she rests adequately and takes her medicine, she should recuperate from her accident. b. Sleep is a key to help us recuperate from illnesses, exercise, stress, and surgery.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to finish my nurse's assistant training this summer because of Covid. The last part of the course was going to be 40 hours of work in a care center for the elderly in the little town of Cashmere. "How am I going to finish my course?" was really on my mind. A few weeks ago, however, I received an email from our teacher telling us that there was no more Covid in the center, and that we could go there to do our clinicals. We were assigned in pairs to work with one particular patient, to help in any and every way needed. The first morning, when I arrived at 5:55am, I was nervous and excited. I am not from the medical field, so this was all going to be new for me. Our teacher showed us around, gave us as much advice as we needed, I think, and let us get to work. My partner and I were assigned to a lady I will call 'J'. She had several chronic illnesses and required total care. She could feed herself, but other than that, the rest was up to us. Our duties included: getting her up, toileted, washed, dressed, lifted into her wheelchair, fed, and back to bed. We worked on a tight schedule(1). Another thing that we had to do was reposition her in bed every two hours. This is essential for patients who cannot move themselves because if they don't change position, their circulation will get cut off at certain points of their bodies, which could lead to infection and death. Another thing that we had to think about all of the time was infection control, keeping germs away from our patients and ourselves. So, needless to say(2), we were busy all day. It was exhausting but really rewarding because J was quite a character. She understood that we were there for her, and appreciated our help, but she was also very upfront, and quick to be sarcastic. I loved that! It's hard to sum up all of the learning experiences that you get in a clinical like ours. We had such close contact and communication with not only our patient, but also with many of the others who were in the longterm care ward. I actually feel privileged to have been there with these wonderful, fragile people. They each had so many stories to tell, but sadly most of them could either no longer speak or remember. So what now? I finished the course, but I still have to take the state exams in order to be registered as a nurse's assistant. Then, who knows? I definitely would like to work for a while in this capacity(3). It could very well lead to nursing, but as yet I'm not sure. Even if it doesn't, it was one of the most valuable courses I have taken, and has opened up a whole new area of human experience to me. 1. 'On a tight schedule' means that you have a lot to do in a given, limited amount of time. a. We need to feed all of the patients between 12 and 1pm; we're on a tight schedule. b. The builders of the cabin are on a tight schedule because it will snow soon. 2. 'Needless to say' is like saying 'this extra comment is obvious because of the context I have already given.' a. The dog got out, and needless to say, it chased the neighbor's cat. b. He was the most punctual and hardworking worker, needless to say, he was awarded 'employee of the month.' 3. 'Capacity' can mean one of three things: the potential for storage, a position/job, or an ability. a. The cinema was filled to capacity. b. He has the capacity to be a great doctor. c. She volunteered in her capacity as an interpreter, and really helped the project.
The Goldfinch is the Washington State bird. I learned this from my enthusiastic mother-in-law, who was trying to encourage me to get a specific birdfeeder. She has one that attracts mainly Goldfinches, and has spent many hours sitting and watching these yellow, social animals fly in and out of the area, fighting for a space on the birdfeeder. I didn't buy the bird feeder, but Margo turned up one day with it in hand, as well as a bag of seeds, and a laminated poster about Washington State birds. She was obviously adamant that(1) we have all the equipment. The birdfeeder is just outside of the kitchen window next to some trees. We have another one a few feet away for the general population, and a hummingbird feeder next to the sunnier side of our deck. So we are all set up to birdwatch! Well, you know what happens when you're ready to photograph animals, - nothing. Days went by and I didn't see a bird at all anywhere near the feeder. It wasn't until Margo came by several days later, that birds started to turn up. It was odd; as soon as she walked into the kitchen, three Goldfinches appeared and clung to(2) the feeder. We watched in amazement at their sudden appearance and their brightly colored feathers. Then as soon as she left, they did! She must be the Goldfinch woman.... Since that day, we have had a daily flock of them, mainly juveniles; they are so small! It's very satisfying to watch them. Not only are they beautiful, but they are so energetic and feisty! There is always a pecking order(3) in each crowd; someone always has to be the boss! This little bird only grows to about 5 inches long, with a wingspan of 8. It's unusual in that it molts twice a year, gaining new, bright yellow feathers just before the mating season, and again before Autumn. It only eats seeds, and loves sunflowers and thistles in particular. Thankfully, humans don't bother the birds. In fact, they are quite happy with us. Many eat and live in backyards, and also in cleared forests that have become fields, as they like open spaces. So what we have with the Goldfinch is a lovely, beneficial relationship. 1. 'To be adamant that + subjunctive' means to insist on something. a. They are adamant that their daughter break up with her boyfriend. b. The teacher is adamant that all her students read one book a week. 2. 'Clung' is the past of 'to cling' which means to hang on for dear life! a. I'm right here; you don't have to cling on to me! b. The cat clung on to the top of the curtain while the dogs barked at it underneath. 3. 'A pecking order' means a ranking, someone at the top who is most 'important' and then a descending order of others. a. The lion is the top of the pecking order in a pride. b. He would like to determine who is at the top of the office pecking order, but he doesn't have the authority.
I've been busy for a few weeks, as you might have noticed. I didn't mean to abandon you, but I had to for a short while. As you can see from the photo, I have been spending time with a boney friend. He has helped me learn about the body, and understand more about all of the body systems. I was really ignorant about these before I started the Nurse's Assistant course. I went to the local college for about a month, twice a week, to practice serving ill and elderly people. The other days of the week, we had classes via Zoom, to keep a social distance. It all worked very smoothly, and I believe we all passed. However, we were supposed to have two weeks of clinicals in a local retirement center, to get real, practical experience of working with patients. The Coronavirus interrupted that, unfortunately. As many residents suddenly got infected, the clinicals were postponed. Never mind! Washington State government is allowing us to do our clinicals while we work, that is(1), if we manage to get a job. That will be my next goal: to get a job. It's not the easiest job in the world at all; you have to be tough. But as I am a tough Brit, I think it will suit me. There are lots of people in retirement homes in this area who need good, kind care. My parents are elderly now, and I think that if I were(2) not available to help them, I would want them to have the best, efficient, and kind people to look after them. The course was taught by an excellent teacher called Tina. She has been a nurse for over 20 years, and has such insight into the job! I liked many things about the course. Firstly, getting to know the body on a level that I was unfamiliar with was very exciting. I don't have a science background, and I had never taken the time (3)to learn anything about anatomy. So, a new world opened up to me. Then came the practical application of the nursing process: observing patients, diagnosing problems, and forming a plan. Again, very exciting stuff. It's a tremendous responsibility to do these things with weak, ill people. They are so vulnerable. And then, at the end of the course, Tina worked her teaching magic, and made the knowledge we had gained very personal. We had to do a project, imagining ourselves as 87years old, living in a retirement center, and dealing with normal age related body changes. It was the perfect way to end the course, by developing empathy and understanding of patients. I will let you know if I get a job; I'm sure that will be quite an adventure. 1. 'That is..' is a little phrase that shows that we are going to restate something, or add pertinent detail, or a condition. a. I will find out what his plans are, that is, if he ever calls me! b. Economies should open up in a couple of months, that is, if everyone social distances in the mean time. 2. 'If I were not available to help them, I would want them to have the best.' This is subjunctive, right? Let's see some more: a. If they wore masks (if they were to wear masks), they would be safer. b. If he spoke that way to my mother, I would give him a piece of my mind! 3. 'To take the time + infinitive'. This idiomatic phrase is self-explanatory. You have spent some time deliberately doing something: studying, planning, thinking etc. a. Why don't you take the time to read that book; I think you'll find it worthwhile. b. We took the time to get to know our new neighbors. I'm so glad that we did. They are now our best friends!
Spring is notorious(1) for changeable weather. Over the past month that is certainly what we have been experiencing. We have had hot, still days, rainy, cool ones, and even a huge wind storm. It's the latter(2) that is worth writing about because it caused so much destruction! It happened in the evening when I had gone out with my husband to a friend's house. He and his wife happen to live on a hillside that overlooks the town. It is a great spot to sit and enjoy the view while having a beer or a glass of wine. We all knew that a storm had been forecast, so we decided to remain outside for as long as possible to watch it pass over the valley. Normally, here, storms involve thunder and lightening, so that is what we were expecting. As we talked, the wind picked up. It plummeted(3) down the hill, thrashing the trees around, and pounded against the windows. We could see that no one was outside in the valley; that would have been unsafe. And the storm went on and on. We eventually had to move inside as the rain was falling sideways on us, and we got the impression that debris could easily cause an accident. We needed to get out of the way, and into safety. So, we sat inside, next to a wall of windows, looking out onto the hillside. At one point, the scene looked as if we were underwater, the trees and grass waving and shuddering as if ocean waves were overhead pulling at them. After a couple of hours, the storm finished, it had grown dark, and we left. The next morning we were going to Seattle to pick up our oldest son from university, so we got ready to leave. As is my morning routine, I drank my coffee while looking out of the back window into our large garden. I noticed that there were a lot of green leaves from one of the trees all over the grass. That wasn't normal. And as I looked around I was surprised at how bright it was on our north facing deck. And then I saw it. One of our thirty foot trees was completely missing! I ran outside, and there it was, down on the lawn, snapped at the roots, without having caused any damage at all. I was shocked, and impressed! It was an Aspen, which has masses of round leaves that quiver in the wind. It had been dying back for a couple of years; I think this altitude and climate don't suit them actually. They are native to high, cold, dry mountains. My husband and I walked around the fallen tree, amazed at how perfectly it had fallen. "Well," said Tom, "at least that's one tree that I don't have to cut down," he smiled. Ours wasn't the only tree in town that had been blown over; there were many. And for the next few days, workmen all over Wenatchee were busy, cutting up trunks and branches, and hauling everything away. The hole where the roots had snapped has not been filled in yet. In fact, when I first found the tree down, I reached in the hole to examine the roots, many of which were rotten; they easily broke just like cork. I thought it quite symbolic of events that are taking place in the world at the moment. If something has rotten foundations, it is just a matter of time until it falls. And its when a particularly strong wind comes, that it will happen. 1. 'Notorious' means 'known for', it has a connotation of evil or bad character. a. He was notorious for exaggeration; you could never believe everything he said. b. The park is notorious for night time drug deals and other illegal activity. 2. 'The latter' means 'the last mentioned'. It is often used in a sentence with 'the former' (meaning the first mentioned). a. At the crime scene three people were found: the butler, the cook, and the gardener, the latter being highly suspected of criminal activity. b. She has a cat and a snake, the latter being the easiest to take care of. 3. 'To plummet', 'to pound', 'to thrash'. These three verbs are action verbs which denote violence and speed. 'To plummet' really means to fall extremely quickly, often with implied weight. 'To pound' is to beat repeatedly, and 'to thrash' is to attack or shred. a. The meteorite plummeted to the earth, making a huge crater in the High School field. b. The artist pounded on the metal sheet consistently until he had created an even pattern. c. The dogs escaped and chased each other through the neighbors lilies which they completely thrashed.
Mother's Day in the U.S. is May 9th. It's supposed to be a day when people show their appreciation for their mothers in different ways. Some people will take their mothers out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, others will buy them gifts, or perhaps have a special celebration at home. At my home, my family organized a special day for me. My oldest son turned up from university unexpectedly just for the day. We were going to go on a hike, but it would have been a hard one, and I really didn't fancy making a lot of effort. So I said, "Change of plans everyone, let's just go for a walk in the park, and take the dogs to the dog park." Walla Walla park is right next to the river, and has wonderful walkways with some lovely shady areas of mature trees. It was the perfect amount of 'effort' for me for Mother's Day. The walkway goes past new apartment complexes, Pybus Market, and pleasantly landscaped office buildings. Then the terrain changes a bit, and gets drier as you walk past a more industrial area. Here you get a glimpse of what Wenatchee is naturally like without irrigation. The drop-off to the river is steep, sandy, and rocky. And here you can often see ground hogs. These are big rodents that are well known. They form part of the tradition of bringing in the Spring, and predicting when it will start. They are nervous creatures, like most rodents, and certainly don't like dogs, who tend to charge after them. Ironically, these animals live right next to the dog park. Ah, but they have the advantage of a big, metal fence in between them and the dogs. This dog park was made just a few years ago to satisfy the dog lovers of Wenatchee; it's a clever way to use up dry, unusable land. It's a very large enclosure with gravel, trees, and a few benches. It's a dog's heaven, as it's their place to socialize. And, as it is enclosed, no one has to worry about dogs running off after a ground hog, or jumping in the river. I think also that the dog owners enjoy socializing with each other almost as much as the dogs do. So our Rottweiler and Border Terrier had a wonderful time. We even took a back carrier just in case the old lady, the Terrier, got tired and needed to be carried back to the car. She did. So we strapped her onto my son's back, and she rode in style, like a queen, ignoring the ground hogs, and the less fortunate dogs. She's not a mother, but she looked as though the day was all about her. 1. 'To fancy' means to feel like, to want, to be attracted to. a. Gosh, look at that chocolate cake. I fancy a piece of that! b. I didn't fancy going on a hike; it was too hot, and the thought of it made me tired. c. I fancy buying myself those new sandals that are in fashion right now. 2. 'To tend to' is to be in the habit of doing something. a. He tends to interrupt everyone when they are speaking. b. I tend to drive slowly; I just want to be careful. c. My grandma tends to suck her teeth after her meals; I don't think she realizes that she's doing it. 3. 'It's all about + noun' is a general comment (it) meaning that the focus of a situation is either a person (or some other noun). We often use it negatively to tell someone to not be selfish. It also has an existential meaning: the main significance/ what is most important. a. "Thanksgiving is not about you, Johnny, getting what you want; it's all about the family." b. I read the book in 3 days. It's all about health and wellness. c. The exhibition is all about the artist's blue period. d. It's not about just amassing wealth, is it? It's all about enjoying this gift of life, and helping others, right?
Online group chats have become so common in the recent few months. And is it any surprise? With so many people staying at home, and travel paralyzed, the only way to do any group work or meetings of any kind is by using online platforms(1). People I know have told me about Zoom, but there are many others: Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, EZ Talks, Gotomeeting, and the grandfather of these platforms, Skype. And of course we can also use Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp on our phones. We have never been so connected. I have a friend who is very 'techy' which means that she is proficient in her use of computers and their software. She happens to be a teacher, and for many years has incorporated online work into her lessons. Now that students are at home, and school is online, she has transitioned effortlessly into teaching from home. Other teachers have not found the change comfortable at all. I suppose it depends on what you teach as well. Imagine being a woodwork and metalwork teacher. How would you convert your very physical classes, to online ones? I suppose, you could supply lots of links to fabulous sites that teach techniques, tools, and perhaps even the history of those art forms. I suspect that if teachers use the internet in their online lessons now, the teaching could become global in its perspective, and they could tap into sites of experts in their fields. My teacher friend, Jody, encouraged me to join one of these groups last week, to chat in French. I was delighted. The platform we used was Google Meet. There were only four of us, but one gentleman joined us from Normandy, in the north of France. I had no idea that he would be part of the group; it was a lovely surprise. Our session didn't have any glitches(2), thankfully. Everyone was able to get the link for the meeting. The cameras and sound were all working well. And after we had finished our introductions, we quickly, and naturally got right into conversation. I loved it. I felt connected in a meaningful way. We hope to continue these meetings once a week, and I hope to take a leaf out of(3) Jody's book, and become comfortable and proficient as a techy. 1. 'Platform' is a word that has multiple meanings. The first that springs to mind is a platform of a train station, which is where you wait and line up for the train. Platform is also used figuratively to describe a place or space that gives you an ability to work or perform. a. Skype is one of the oldest platforms for video chatting. b. Miss World has a great platform (of influence) which she can use to talk about girls' education. c. A large, rectangular platform was raised up to the church ceiling so the painters could repaint it. d. The Conservatives decided on their platform, hoping that it would appeal to the general public. 2. 'Glitch' is a noun that means a technical hitch or problem that stops proper functioning. a. A computer glitch made us lose all the sound. I think it was a software problem. b. The delayed plane was just a glitch in our plans. We eventually did fly. 3. 'To take a leaf out of someone's book' is a wonderful idiom. 'Leaf' here means a leaf of paper, or one of the pages. So, if you take a page from someone's book, you are wanting to use the information that they use, or imitate them in some way. a. I took a leaf out of my violin teacher's book, and started practicing for 30 minutes daily. b. Why don't you take a leaf out of your brother's book and get your homework done as soon as you get it?
One of the great distractions of this time of year are the dogwood trees. Like many other kinds of flowering trees, their display is brief but stunning. I have four in my garden that keep me company while I'm working outside. They look like pretty ladies showing off their new dresses. The traditional dogwoods in this part of the world are fairly round, with masses of medium sized white or pink flowers. The Korean dogwood, of which I have one, is upright, and has huge, creamy white flowers that come to a point. The climate here in Wenatchee seems to suit these trees. They put up with the dry climate and the heat, and seem not to suffer because of the cold winters. That's just as well, because I can't imagine my garden, or the town without them. Many people take photos of them; they create a great background for selfies or family photos. As I was driving my daughter to pick up one of her friends, I kept pulling over to video the trees whenever I would come upon a particularly perfect looking one. All you need is some sunlight, and a little breeze that moves the branches, that way the colors of the flowers show themselves well. Because of the Coronavirus, the spring parade for Wenatchee was cancelled. It's called Apple Blossom, and is a quintessential American parade with Highschool bands, floats, horses, motorbikes, and dancers. It's great business for the town, and brings in a lot of tourism. This is the 100th year anniversary of the festival, so it's really unfortunate that it has to be missed. The apple blossoms have come and gone, and so has the month of April. Fortunately the dogwood blossoms are here, and in every part of the town. So this spring is definitely quieter for Wenatchee: no bands playing, or people lining the streets and clapping while the floats pass by. But, at least we have the gorgeous dogwoods. They cheer everyone up, and are a brief touch of perfection.
Here are some of my thoughts on the stay-at-home mandate because of the Coronavirus, and how I have been feeling about it. First of all, I must say that I am really thankful that the virus hasn't impacted my family, apart from a cousin in Madrid who is now recovering. The demographic here is spread out, and small and rural, so the infection rate has not been high. This is unlike many areas around the world where it is densely populated, and people are therefore more at risk. I'm also thankful that we are now in spring. If the virus had hit us as we approached winter, it would have been twice as difficult and depressing. However, we have glorious colors of flowers, trees, the blue sky, and the sun to comfort us. And to be honest, I think we all need comfort right now. Every morning the world seems so different, and we don't really know what to expect. I am very fortunate that my husband still has work. Mine has disappeared completely, and I find myself floating with no routine. Sometimes I will plan a routine of great things to do daily, like pray, exercise, garden, practice French, cook something unusual, work on some art, contact a friend, and perhaps dust off the violin and squeak a piece of music into the atmosphere. That all sounds really good. Honestly, if I could do those things every day, I would become extremely accomplished. The trouble is, the next day I sort of rebel or lose energy. Have you found the same thing happens to you? Perhaps you are more disciplined than me. I was speaking with a butcher a few days ago in a supermarket who was telling me how thankful he is to have a job, and how he knows so many people who have no income, none. So what about food for their children, and the bills? When I consider the hardship that some people are facing, I certainly can't complain about my lack of routine, or lack of work. One of my Facebook friends posted about how the virus has impacted people so differently: some people have time to watch films, wear comfortable clothes, drink wine, and not worry about much, whereas others either have no money, work for less, or are worried about whether there will be enough food to feed the family. "We are all in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat," was what she said. Something else I have felt, as many others have, is the psychological impact of the virus. This sudden change, sudden loss of control, is very destabilizing. It makes me acknowledge my mortality on more of a daily basis. It has me turning to my faith, and rethinking my priorities. These are all good things, excellent things. I have more time to rest, to communicate, and to see life through eyes that are not busy. And I have to deal with emotions that come up from my subconscious which I am usually too busy to deal with. The writer Victor Frankl talks about this in his memoirs of Auschwitz: "When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves." That, for me, has actually been the hardest thing, to dig deep and consider my view of myself, and the path I am on. It's a time of reflection for me, to get myself in alignment with my creator. I am not a health worker, nor am I a food producer or essential service provider, so I am at home, floating, thinking, thankful for the work of others, and reshaping who I think I am.
Staying close to home to exercise is one of the mandates that we have to follow to combat Covid-19. I see people biking, jogging, and walking, trying to de-stress, and stay healthy. For the most part, they are sticking to(1) social distancing (staying at least 6ft apart). I have also noticed that everybody who has dogs, seems to be walking them. Those dogs have probably never been walked as much in their lives as they are now! I took Rosie, our 11 year old boarder terrier, for a walk yesterday, up the hill, around the cemetery, and back home. She is old, so I walked slowly, and let her sniff and pee wherever she wanted to. "Well, I don't have to rush home for any reason," I thought to myself. I have practically no work, everyone at home can cook for themselves, and there are obviously no plans to go out anywhere, so I decided to let Rosie dictate the walk: how slow it would be, and every direction or change of direction. Well, that is easier said than done(2)! The first thing she wanted to do was to stand in the middle of the road and sniff the air. That was fine until a car came, and I had to pull her against her will, to the side of the road. Then she found a patch of grass and decided to spend the next 15 minutes eating it. "Oh come on Rosie!" I complained after 10 minutes, "I'm getting cold!" She's deaf, as it happens, so there was no point me saying anything. She just looked up at me and continued to munch on the grass. She was so happy. Finally she started to walk up the road and to head in the direction we usually take: the cemetery. She knows the routine. She stopped, sniffed, and peed on every corner. Finally, we started to walk at a decent pace, and I warmed up. But then, she put the breaks on; her little legs and grey body came to a definite halt. She decided to go in the opposite direction. "Ok," I said. "You lead the way; I'm just along for the ride(3)." So, I adjusted my pace to Rosie's, and everything that she did gave me a chance to observe something I hadn't noticed before: a knot on a tree, a carving of a flower on a gravestone, a blue jay looking down at me from up high in a pine tree. Rosie was relaxed, and finally I was. As we walked home, she still dithered about, but it didn't bother me at all because I had given up control. She walked painfully slowly across a busy road, so a kind woman in a car stopped to let us cross. She smiled and waved; she could tell that I was being lead by an old lady. We continued down the road and turned into our neighborhood. Normally by now Rosie is panting and looking exhausted, but she wasn't. She was definitely ready for a rest, but she hadn't been rushed or pushed, she had done exactly what she had wanted to do. And as it turns out, it was the best experience of walking a dog that I have had; the old, grey, lady had taken me for a walk, a proper one. 1. 'To stick to something' this idiom is often used in the gerund to express the idea that a person is committed to an action, a thought, or a perspective. a. The story I told you is the same one I told the police, and I'm sticking to it. b. They decided on their plan of action, and they're sticking to it. 2. 'That's easier said than done' is another useful phrase that is common, but quite self explanatory. a. During the stay-at-home mandate I decided to learn how to do a headstand. That's easier said than done! b. We decided to save money by giving our dog a hair cut instead of taking her to the pet boutique. That was easier said than done! She looks terrible now! 3. 'To be along for the ride' is an idiom that means a person is taking part in an activity or event just because it is convenient for him to be there, and he is mainly an observer. This person is passively involved. a. You can order whatever the rest of you are having for me; I'm just along for the ride. b. "What's the name of the next dance troupe in the show?" "I have no idea. I'm just along for the ride."
With all that is going on around the world with the Coronavirus, I have felt overwhelmed recently, probably you are too. If you are following a mandate to stay at home, like I am, then the challenge becomes what to do with one's time, and how to occupy the mind. I am so fortunate to have a large back garden. Normally, during March, I am thinking to myself, "How will I find the time to tidy up this huge garden, and get it ready for the spring?" With plenty of work outside of the home, it is always difficult to get projects at home finished. Well, all of that has changed now. With just a tiny trickle of work left, I now have no excuses but to finish everything I haven't at home. So, at the moment the garden is my focus. Working in it is like a mental health break for me. It's exercise, fresh air, sunshine, birds singing, and seeing progress. All of these things combat anxiety. I don't tend to be anxious normally, but we are living at the moment in a stressful situation globally, and quite honestly, I think we all must be feeling it. So I have raked leaves, pruned blackberry bushes, dug up grass, sown flower seeds, and transplanted some perennials. Wow! It felt good. Part of the benefit of physical labor in a garden is the fact that you are planning for the future, it's a sense of control or at least hope for the coming months. Even if you don't have a garden, perhaps you live in an apartment, a tiny bit of gardening can be done in a container. All you need is a pot, preferably a proper plant pot that has a drainage hole in it. Put it on a plate to catch the excess water, fill it with earth, and put some seeds in it. Grow something you love, perhaps even something you can eat. One of the most satisfying plants to grow from seed is a green bean. Why? The bean seed is big, very visible, and it germinates quickly. And they are not fussy, as far as seeds go. As long as they get some water and some sun, they are guaranteed to grow, and are therefore rewarding. Planting a seed is an exercise in faith, I think, because you trust that germination and growth will happen as it has for millions of years. It's a process we see all around us no matter what, and we can rely on it continuing to be there, and to be normal, even if our lives at the moment are not. That, to me, is a comfort.
My son was flying home. Thank Goodness! He was coming back from Sevilla, Spain where he had been studying. "I'm really sad to be leaving, mum," he texted. He had had such an amazing time, even though it had been cut short. His flight from Sevilla to London went according to schedule. However, once he got to London, things got chaotic. His flight was cancelled last minute. He ended up staying in a hotel, and I scrambled to get him another flight. Actually, from my end here in the States, it was almost impossible to talk to any airline sales assistants, or even the travel agency. "We are experiencing a higher than normal amount of calls, so if you are not flying in the next 72 hours, please call back," the recorded messages would say, and then they would hang up! A second flight was booked, but during the night that was also cancelled. I was getting stressed! Suddenly, though, I received a text from my son telling me that he had found a ticket and immediately bought it. He was on his way. Phew! So we drove to Seatac airport to pick him up. The airport didn't feel like it usually does. It was very empty, echoey. There is usually tonnes of human activity, noises, conversations, movement, the sound of luggage wheels rolling everywhere, kids making typical noises. There was none of that. It was a new kind of quiet, a new kind of empty. Even baggage claim was sparse, just a few bags here and there. The stress of a typical airport was not apparent either, in fact, the security personnel were standing in a group chatting and laughing. We found our son, got back to the parking area, and left. He was tired from his journey, of course. Unfortunately, we couldn't bring him home. He had to go to a different location to self-quarantine for two weeks, just in case he has the coronavirus. We will know soon enough. I've taken him groceries, of course: steak, chicken, bread, eggs, lots of fruit and vegetables. You know, I'm a mum. And he is quite good at entertaining himself. His university classes are online, so he can do those whenever he wants. He also group video chats with all of his friends. It's such a tremendous advantage to have access to messaging apps, especially videoing ones. I think if you can see the face of a loved one, it really helps when you are far away. So, we carry on with life, and wait another week or ten days to see if he develops symptoms. We're prepared for anything, but hoping for the best.
As I work in the schools in Wenatchee, I see, on a regular basis, all kinds of posters in the classrooms. They are designed to encourage the students to be positive and responsible. They're also attractive. I have been impressed over the years with the choice of posters that teachers make. Some of the sayings quoted are from well-known, historical personalities who have made an impact on society. For example, I saw one by Benjamin Franklin that said, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." I like that. It really resonates with me. And what about this quote from Coco Chanel, "Success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."(1) I suspect that only the oldest students in the High School will appreciate such quotes, but I could be wrong(2). I know that the teachers certainly appreciate the encouragement that they see on the walls. It can be a good practice to surround ourselves at work with positive words, so we remember our goals and our potential. I think it is easy to forget those things when we are tired or under stress(3). I suppose they could also serve as teaching points that can be shared with the students, at one point or other. Einstein is a person who is quoted a lot in schools, and not just in the Science departments; his picture is recognized everywhere. Even little children in elementary school know that he was a genius of some sort, even if they don't know everything about his life. One of his many quotes that I enjoy is about acceptance and individuality, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." This is a good one for a school environment. The children are emotionally immature, of course, so they might judge themselves or others far too harshly, instead of embracing differences and uniqueness. 1. 'Inevitable' means that something is definitely going to happen. We also use it in an adverbial form a lot. a. If the builders don't build the house according to code, there will inevitably be a disaster. b. He is the most qualified and experienced for the job; it's inevitable that he will get it. 2. 'I/you/he/she ... could be wrong' this is a wonderful extra sentence that we add onto a preexisting one. It states something obvious in order to show a little humility, and familiarity. a. Your house will probably sell in the spring, but I could be wrong. b. We think he will give up his candidacy, but we could be wrong. 3. 'To be under stress' is the same as 'to be stressed'. I think it sounds more native because it is more of an idiomatic phrase. a. I'm sorry I'm so tired; I'm just under a lot of stress recently. b. They must be under a lot of stress because their business is not doing well.
As I looked through my photos today of my recent holiday, I came across one of a bar in Sevilla. I hadn't gone inside, but I certainly did look in from the pavement for a long time. It was a gorgeous, very old rock building with wooden beams, hanging lamps, and bulls heads mounted on the walls. It had incredible atmosphere, and was very elegant. It was a restaurant and tapas bar. Tapas, if you don't know, are small portions of various, tasty dishes that are served in Spain to accompany drinks, like beer or wine. It helps to have a little something to eat at lunchtime when you drink alcohol, especially if you are going back to work afterwards; the effects of the alcohol are less. The food is so good, however, that many people have tapas for dinner. They order a variety of dishes, and simply share them. Olives, are a like a staple in Spain. Often you don't even pay anything for them when you have them with a drink. Tapas, however, are quite special, and chefs take pride in making high quality dishes that people will recommend. One of my favorites is 'croquetas'. These are a deep fried, tube shaped mass consisting of either creamy potato or béchamel sauce, with meat or fish of some sort. This is then covered in bread crumbs and deep fried. They are very flavorful and filling. My second favorite is 'ensaladilla rusa' which is like a potato salad with super powers. The ingredients that make it special are: boiled egg, tuna fish, peas, and a garnish of roasted red peppers. It is a meal in itself, and goes down so well with a light beer! It turns out that my son and I were in one of the best places in Spain for tapas: Sevilla. I have come across tapas bars in other countries, but as my Spanish mother always says, "No, the tapas just aren't the same." I would have to agree with her. They're not the same simply because they're not in Spain. You could have one of the best chefs making tapas in London, but they still wouldn't be 'the same' as the tapas in Spain. Atmosphere and location add to the experience of eating, I must insist. Perhaps we expect the tapas to taste better in Spain, and therefore they do. Mind you, I'm sure that it also makes a difference when you are using locally grown red peppers and olives as they do in Sevilla, compared to imports. Freshness of produce and the pride of tradition will always make Spanish tapas a little better than those found elsewhere.
The news is full, these days, of reports about the Coronavirus, now called COVID-19. There is a sense of panic in the reports, as we hear about more and more people getting infected. But what is it, and what are the risks? Well, apparently, there are many coronaviruses which are similar to the cold or flu viruses. Most people in the United States, for example, will have had a coronavirus at one time in their lives. These viruses are spread from person to person by inhaling droplets that someone has coughed or sneezed, or by touching a doorknob or a tap that an infected person has touched. Once the germs have been touched, they can enter the body if that person rubs his eyes, or touches his mouth or nose. The symptoms you get from COVID-19 affect your upper respiratory area: your nose and throat, and usually the infected person will have a fever. As with other viruses, rest, lots of fluids, and anti-viral medications which can shorten the duration of the virus, are all recommended. The best way, of course, to prevent viral symptoms is to get the vaccine if it is available. The flu is a good example of this. However, at the moment, as far as COVID-19 is concerned, there is not yet a vaccine. So what has become an epidemic in China, is beginning to look like a pandemic, which means that it has spread to other countries and other continents. The fatalities have occurred when the virus infects the lungs in particular, causing pneumonia. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most likely to get the worst symptoms. So, for those of us who are wondering what we should do to stay protected, basic anti-virus hygiene is recommended. This is mainly: 1. Stay away from sick people, or those who have recently travelled to areas of infection. 2. Wash your hands often during the day with soap and plenty of water. 3. If you are around a lot of people, feel free to wear a face mask to cover your nose and mouth, to protect yourself. Of course, if you have a cold or flu virus, stay at home, and that way you will reduce the risk of spreading that particular virus to others. There are some encouraging statistics about COVID-19 believe it or not: out of the more than 60,000 reported cases, 84% are only mild conditions, and of the 7,300 who now no longer have it, 81% made a full recovery and were discharged. So, let's protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community by being careful, hygienic, and proactive.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my son to Sevilla in Spain. He is staying there to study Spanish and the culture. What a place! I had been there a long time ago, and it was so marvelous to return. Of course, it was almost the perfect time of year: 70 degrees during the day, and the streets filled with orange trees full of fruit. Before we met my son's host family, we stayed spent the night right in the old center, next to the cathedral. We were offered a free upgrade to our room; another room with a balcony overlooking the cathedral was available, so of course I said yes. It was so special. As I gazed over the magnificent building that was all illuminated, I thought, "I cannot leave Sevilla without seeing inside." So, the next day, after meeting Cass' host mother, we wandered around the center, and went back to the cathedral. One thing I hadn't done was read about it. I had done no research at that point about its history, or the art inside the building. That lack of research lead me to get a really big surprise. Breathtaking is a word that comes to mind when I think of Sevilla's cathedral. I have been in many around Europe, but this one really is quite overwhelming. Cass and I slowly walked around taking photos, and reading information about different statues etc. After a while, I noticed a lot of people near a wall, under a large clock. I had actually never seen a clock in a cathedral before, and so I thought it odd to find one there. I went over to have a look, and as I approached, I saw a dark, but extremely elegant statue. It was of four kings, carrying a coffin. I knew that there was something special and different about this piece of art. It was subtle, powerful, and very regal. "What is it?" I thought to myself as I searched for an information placard. I looked and looked, and finally found a little piece of paper that was stuck to the base of the statue. I took my glasses out and put them on, as the letters were quite small. 'The tomb of Christopher Columbus,' it said. I gasped. I felt a lump in my throat. "Cass!" I called out to my son, "This is the tomb of Christopher Columbus!" "Woah!" he said in astonishment. We were both bowled over. It was quite a moment. Obviously, if I had read about it beforehand, it wouldn't have been such a surprise, so I'm glad that I hadn't. I knew there was something special about the monument. Since then, I have read that there is debate about whether all of his body is in the tomb. Well, as far as I'm concerned, all 206 bones don't need to be inside. Even if only one of his little finger bones is there, that would be enough for me. The piece is stunning, and it was built to commemorate someone whose destiny affected the world, and the royalty who sponsored him. That is enough for me.
Have you ever met anyone who is afraid of airports? If you have, he or she is probably a person who is not familiar with them. It takes a while to get used to moving through an airport, and finding your way. Children for example can be intimidated such a large space. I think parents can be equally intimidated because children can get lost easily in such a huge building, so they must be over protective. The solution for everyone is basic training on how to use airports properly. Because I have regularly used airports for many years, and I have also been a nervous parent, I would say one of the most important rules is just to look up. All the information a person needs is up high. Do you need to know which direction to go in? Just look up. Where is security for the check in area? Are you hungry or thirsty? Do you need to use the toilet? Again, you just need to look up and find the signs. Children find the experience very exciting when you can point out and explain to them what everything means: where they find their flight in departures, the gate they must go to, and the number of the flight. It is a valuable lesson for them to see how their tickets and boarding passes correspond to information that is displayed overhead. I suppose for children, it is a little like searching for treasure. The other most important thing I would stress for children nervous adults is simply to ask for help. There always many people in an ambulance who are trained to help. Thankfully I have found on many occasions that a variety of people can always help, from the stewardesses, to cleaners, or those who exchange your money. So if you feel lost, you can always try asking people who work in the airport. They probably know where everything is, as they work there every day, and will probably be more than willing to help.So a place that at first seems so intimidating, where you can get lost and confused, turns out to be a place that is full of information, and people who can guide you to your destination.
Have you ever heard of the word ‘tacky'? This a word that I love. It's actually more of an American term than an English one. I thought about this word yesterday as I was driving with my daughter. She was driving and I was looking out of the window at the different buildings and building signs. Here in the United States, business signs can tend to be very big, very tall, and very brightly colored. We had stopped at a traffic light, and on my right, I saw a hotel sign that said Super Eight. This is a chain of popular, cheap hotels here in the US. The sign was very high, very large, and bright yellow with red letters. I thought to myself, “How tacky!” Now tacky means two things. The first and original meaning is sticky. The second meaning is cheap, and bad taste. I decided to look into the etymology of the word, meaning it's history. Interestingly enough, it was originally used to describe a weak horse. Perhaps there is a connection between a weak horse and the word tacky because of the production of glue from animal bones. That is just my guess. It is interesting how words develop and change their meanings over time. Nowadays in the United States it is very normal to hear the word ‘tacky' describing something that is cheap, gaudy, and very bad taste. Personally I like the sound of it. It is easy to say, and sounds like a slap. Often we use the phrase, “That is not tacky (at all)” to sarcastically call something tacky, to point out its tackiness. Examples of these sentences can be quite amusing. Examples of ‘tacky': 1. The paint is still tacky, so don't touch it yet. 2. I can't believe that she wore that beach dress to the funeral, how tacky! 3. It's tacky to give a present that someone else gave you. 4. Put the glue on the wood first, then, when it has dried a little, and is tacky, you can put the new countertop on. 5. So many souvenir shops are full of cheap, plastic, tacky items. 6. I see that you decorated the Christmas cake with broken, plastic reindeer. Ha! That's not tacky at all! to go to my Youtube channel.
When I walked into my mothers house yesterday I smelled something wonderful. “What is that smell mom?” I asked. “Well you know what that is,” she said. “They are the cloved oranges that I've been making, you remember!” The smell was coming from oranges covered in cloves, an artistic tradition that my mother has followed for many years. And believe me the oranges and the cloves make the whole house smell delicious. In England cloved oranges have been made since the Elizabethan times. “Well everyone was so smelly back then,” joked my mother. In her kitchen on two metal stands, oranges dotted with cloves were sitting looking very pretty. It is an incredibly simple art project that many people enjoy in the winter in the UK. The more cloves you use, the longer the oranges are preserved. My mother actually has an orange that is completely covered with cloves which is many years old. When you finish putting the cloves in the orange skin you can thread a pretty ribbon through the orange from which you can hang it. “They used to wear smaller cloved fruit around their necks in the Elizabethan times,” said my mother. The smell of cloves is sweet, spicy and fruity. When you mix that with the wonderful smell of citrus fruit, you have an amazing combination. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia. They are grown more broadly now and enjoyed in many Asian, Africa, and Middle Eastern dishes, particularly those that are similar to curry. Some people believe that cloves relieve toothache and help to energize the body. But as is the case with many natural products, studies about their medicinal benefits are not conclusive or rarely even done. But I can tell you that whether or not cloves will relieve a toothache or give me energy, they are an enduring tradition and a personal favorite. to see Youtube channel.
Have you heard of the phrase, "Small talk"? Can you guess what it is? I have been thinking about it for a few days, as my oldest son sent me a video all about it. He dislikes it, but realized, after watching the video, that it might be more worthwhile than he had previously thought. So what is it? It is superficial, pleasant conversation that is not controversial in the slightest. It's the sort of conversation we have at a party when we have just met someone, or perhaps if you are sitting next to someone on the underground or the bus. It is non-threatening, and is supposed to be a pleasant, non-judgmental exchange of words. Some people do it a lot. I do, actually; I small talk in the grocery store, in line at the bank, with neighbors who I don't know very well, and on public transport. However, some people hate it. They see it as an unnecessary job, a burden even. "If I'm not going to talk about something that is important to me, or something that I'm really interested in, then why bother?" And that is a good question. We should spend our time wisely, and not just make noise that is meaningless. But, as the video explains, small talk is a very normal and necessary human activity. When we first meet someone, we know nothing about them. Even if someone has given us details about them, we cannot make up our own minds about them until we have spoken with them. How a person speaks, what he chooses to say or not say, how he moves, and the kind of look he gives you, all add up to give you a general impression about him. This helps you decide if you'd like to be friends, or if there is any sign of trust between you. And these are important decisions. Funnily enough, you can make these decisions based on small talk: talking about the weather, the rise in grocery prices, or whether or not the new traffic light in town is helping the traffic flow. And this is a global phenomenon; every culture has small talk. Us humans are funny creatures; we measure each other as we speak. Well, that makes sense to me. How on earth could you measure someone's character otherwise? Using language, you could say, is the quickest way to get inside someone's head. If you feel comfortable, then you can go a little deeper and find out each others' interests, work, and passions. You could look at this another way. If you went up to a total stranger at a party and asked, "How do you feel about investing in green energy to combat climate change?" That person would probably feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. The question is a complex topic that brings up strong emotions and political views. He might not want to open up so quickly about something that is both controversial and important. So, that is why we have 'small talk'. It comes first, and prepares the way for both people to become willing to talk about deep issues. Having said that, I suppose that people who hate small talk feel that doing it is a risk because you might never reach the point of going deeper. You also might run out of time. So there is no guarantee that participating in small talk will lead to a substantial relationship or sense of agreement about important things. It is a risk that you take which might be worth it. So the next time a stranger brings up the subject of the weather, understand that this fairly superficial conversation could lead to great depths of discussion, or even friendship.
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are the biggest times of celebration in the United States. New Year's Eve iin particular is a time of parties, fireworks, and getting together.The 31st of December is the last day in the Gregorian calendar, and so it is considered the last day of the year in most non-Asian countries. Most people will get together in houses, restaurants, or public places to enjoy food, drink, and perhaps dancing. When you think of The New Year's celebration in the United States you think of Times Square in New York city. Each year tens of thousands of people crowd into the square to listen to live music and to watch celebrations in other parts of the country on large screens. Often famous television presenters or comedians host the show, adding details and memories of the past year. The Times Square celebration is famous for the large illuminated ball that drops to the count of 10, as everyone counts down the last 10 seconds of December 31st. At this point everybody hugs each other and says, “Happy New Year!” Television watching is very popular on the night of New Year's Eve as there are special musical shows on most channels. One popular activity is to watch the last few moments of the year, and the beginning of the New Year around the world, usually starting in places like New Zealand. Fireworks are often a big part of many national New Year's celebrations, and we are lucky enough to see one after another on television. Another way that some people choose to ‘bring in' the new year is by going to church. Some Christian churches will remain open so members or visitors can spend time in contemplation and prayer. This is sometimes called Watchnight, and is a tradition that dates back to 18th century. Once January 1st has arrived, often people will make New Year's resolutions which are decisions and plans for changed behavior. The question we often ask ourselves is, “How can I be happier and healthier this year?”The most common resolutions are: to lose weight, and to stop smoking. Some people, however, decide to help others, perhaps by getting involved in a charity or two. Of course, you can do both: improve yourself, and make the world a better place. The end of the year it seems, whether you are in the middle of Times Square, sitting in a church, or in your own home, is a great time for contemplation!
Well, here are the grammar points for the podcast about me resisting the temptation to buy a cat. 1. To drag your feet. This gives a great visual of being unenthusiastic about doing something, taking a long time to do it. a. I'm dragging my feet to paint the house; it'll be such a big job! b. He's dragging his feet about studying for his finals. I'm afraid he's going to run out of time! 2. Fair enough. This means, "Ok, that's reasonable," or "Ok, I agree." It can also mean that you have been almost convinced by someone's argument but not 100%. Perhaps someone is insisting on something and you agree just to keep the peace, or with some conditions. a. "I'll do your homework if you wash my car." Answer: "Fair enough." b. "I don't think its right for me to make dinner and clean up every night after work. Why don't you do it a few nights a week?" Answer: "Fair enough." c. If you're making the rules around here, fair enough, but you'll be responsible for making sure they are followed. 3. To take up the slack. This means to complete what others have not finished, or to carry some responsibility for someone. a. One of our group didn't do any work, so the rest of us had to take up the slack to finish the project. b. As dad has broken his leg, you kids will have to take up the slack by helping around the house. c. After she had twins, her husband took up the slack by cooking dinner every night and cleaning the kitchen. Click image to visit my Youtube channel!
There are only eight days to go until Christmas including today, so people are rushing around trying to get the last few things organized. Most people here who celebrate Christmas, have their tree up and decorated, perhaps a few lights decorating their house outside, and most of the presents bought and wrapped. This year I have been dragging my feet for some reason(1). I am usually a real enthusiast, and have the place looking festive and special. This year, however, I'm doing the minimum. And that is probably because I'm busy with work. Fair enough(2). My family can 'take up the slack'(3), and do what I don't manage to get done. Now, when it comes to presents, I was very tempted the other day to buy something that I know we absolutely don't need: another cat. It was a kitten to be specific. I had gone to the pet shop with my daughter to get our snake some frozen mice to eat. It's unfortunate, but true; after all, the snake has to eat something, right? And apparently mice is what they like. While we were in the shop, we saw a display of lots of cages of cats. They had been brought over from the Humane Society which takes care of unwanted animals. They bring these animals into the pet shop in order to encourage people to fall in love and buy them. Well, it's not hard to fall in love with a kitten, especially when it keeps staring at you as if to say, "You are the one, the one who needs to take me home!" Of course, you are allowed to take them out of the cages and pet them. And the paperwork is right there ready to be signed after you make your payment of $50. It's all too easy. But, at the moment, that is not a good idea for us. We already have two dogs, a cat, and a snake. That's enough responsibility! While we were in the pet shop, the kittens were selling quickly. After all, they are easier to look after than dogs because they are so independent. You don't need to take them for a walk; they can just go out at night and hunt for mice, climb trees, and get up to all sorts of mischief. That is their exercise. And, if you happen to have a mice problem on your property, the cat will take care of it. All of that and a cuddly companion for just $50. How could I say "No"? With difficulty. And the salespeople really know how to make it worse. They immediately tell you the name of the cat: sparkle, fluffy, daisy, petal, or something really sweet. Then they tell you how loving and playful they are....The best thing to do is to run out of the shop as fast as you can before you fall in love. It's the only solution, I think. The Humane Society's selling tactic is a smart and efficient way to get these animals a home for Christmas, but it's torture for an animal lover who is already up to her ears in pets! Learn English with my Youtube videos .
Here are some super useful grammar points from the last podcast. 1. A few ......... apart. This can be used with different measurements: time or distance. a. My first two sons were born 13 months apart. b. My two surgeries were only a few weeks apart. c. We planted the trees 10ft apart. 2. Skin conditions: scratch cut bruise burn blister boil rash - breakout scar 3. "I would choose to have it anyway, even if I didn't work." Other examples of conditional plus negative subjunctive: a. We would still want to jog, even if we weren't training for a race. b. They would still have to sell their house, even if they got better jobs. c. You would re-paint the house a different color, even if your husband didn't like it.
"Ow!" I said to myself, as the pharmacist put the needle in my upper arm. I hadn't expected the vaccination to hurt. It wasn't a regular one, you know, like the flu. This was the shingles shot. In order to avoid the shingles, you must have a series of two, a few months apart. I'm so relieved that I have had my second injection, so I don't have to be concerned about getting the virus. Well, when I say 'I don't have to be concerned about getting the virus' I don't exactly mean that. Let me explain. I already have the virus. I had an illness when I was little, called chicken pox. It is very common, and normally not serious. Your symptoms are usually: a fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, headache, and an unusual rash. The rash that can end up covering all of your body, even your eyelids, is a blister rash. A blister is a thin lump of skin that is filled with fluid. Sometimes we get blisters after walking with either new shoes, or badly fitting shoes. The blisters from the chicken pox itch, and it is a challenge to not scratch them. If you do, the blisters burst, and can scar the skin. Most people my age had chicken pox when they were children. It is the varicella-zoster virus. After you have recovered, the virus actually stays in your body, and lies dormant in a nerve of its choice. Later, as we age, if we go through stress, or our immune system gets low, the virus can re-emerge as the herpes-zoster virus which causes shingles. It's like a baby monster has hibernated, and then emerges as a big monster. After the shingles shot, my arm actually hurt for about four days. I couldn't believe it. The flu shot which I get each year doesn't bother me at all. I have to get the flu shot each year for my job, as a medical interpreter, otherwise I wouldn't be allowed to work around patients. However, I would choose to have it anyway, even if I didn't work. I hate being ill! It seems to be such a waste of time. And, as you might know, the flu can make you so miserable. Fever, headache, chills, a cough, a runny nose, night sweats, nausea, fatigue, and body aches are the typical symptoms. And those are just for healthy people. Babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems can suffer far worse, and end up in the hospital, or even die. That is why it is so important to protect yourself. If you don't get ill with the flu, you won't spread it to weaker people by coughing and sneezing, or touching them with the virus on your hands. It is spread by people coughing or sneezing, and droplets of fluid containing the virus fly through the air and are breathed in by someone else. Disgusting huh? Well, that's how many viruses are spread. The saying "cover your cough" is a helpful instruction to prevent the spread of viruses. The best prevention, though painful for a little while, is to get the flu vaccine, to protect yourself and the community you live in.
I love stones, rocks, and crystals. I always have. I wouldn't say that I am a student of geology, but nevertheless, that subject does fascinate me. Perhaps one day, when I have more time, I will learn about geology. I have a few rocks and crystals around the house that I have gathered over the years. Some are just smooth river rocks that caught my eye, and others are geodes which I bought for my children. The geodes look like plain, round, light brown rocks. However, if you break them open, inside you'll find a pocket of white crystals that sparkle. My mother knows all about precious and semi-precious stones, as she makes jewelry. She sells most of what she makes, but some things are just too pretty to give away. Recently, as she and I were looking around some shops, we came across a jewelry stand that was full of stones of different kinds. I was immediately drawn to(1) three smooth, dark ones. They were multi-colored: black, brown, tan, and white. They appeared to have circles and spirals all over them. The combination of colors and patterns(2) fascinated me. So, because I didn't have my glasses on, I asked the owner if I could have a closer look. She took them out of the box and let me hold them. "That's turritella. It's a fossil, do you see?" she said. As I looked closely, I realized that the stone was indeed made of hundreds of fossilized see creatures. All that was left of them were their homes: tiny, spiraled(3) shells which were full of holes. The many shells formed the lightest patches of the stones, creating a beautiful contrast with the dark background. Gosh! I couldn't look at them long enough. I imagined how many tens of thousands of years these shells had been lying in an ocean, slowly becoming rock. It was something so old, that with a bit of craft had been made new. And, of course, they had been ground and polished into a very smooth shape, so they were super comfortable to hold. A pendant made from one if these would be really beautiful, and above all, a real conversation starter. 1. 'Drawn to' I know I have covered this phrase before, but it is just so delicious, and useful in English. It means to be attracted to something. a. I am drawn to art museums. I love to walk around surrounded by art, talent, and quiet. b. I was drawn to him; there was a special magnetism about him. 2. 'Pattern' is a repeated design which can be used figuratively. a. Mandalas are full of geometric and circular patterns. b. I see a pattern in his behavior that we should not ignore. 3. 'Spiral' is a noun, an adjective, and also a verb describing a long, twisted shape. Again, it can be used figuratively. a. Pasta comes in all different shapes; one is a spiral. b. Let's calm down and not spiral down into negativity.
1. 'To put your toe in the water' means to test something, to very carefully have a look, or try something out. a. When I first started my podcast, I put my toe in the water of internet projects, and slowly realized that I can do this! b. It was his first teaching job; he taught three days a week. So as he put his toe in the water and got experience, he decided that he enjoyed the career. 2. 'To show off' is to brag, to proudly display yourself or something you have or you can do. a. The little boy showed off his new toy car to his friends; they all thought it was very special. b. Don't show off! It's irritating! So you can walk on your hands, big deal! I can walk on my feet. 3. 'I can't read your mind' means that you should communicate clearly. It can also be a direct translation instead of an idiomatic phrase. a. When you ask me to get you something to eat, can you be more specific? I can't read your mind, you know. b. It's weird, she knows what I'm going to say before I say it. It's like she can read my mind.
Well, I've done it. I have waited long enough. You could say, "It's about time!" So, I finally decided to put my toe in the water and try it out. Am I making any sense? Did you notice that I am using several idiomatic phrases? I'm just showing off. I'm talking about my new Youtube channel called A Cup Of English. And the reason I'm using idiomatic phrases now is because I have a new, short video series on just that. To tell you the truth, starting a channel was a bit scary. I knew that I didn't want to show my face like most people do, so my videos would be animated, or with video clips and photos. So I downloaded a few apps to help me do that. That sounds easy, but believe me it isn't. It all takes much longer than it should. Things go wrong. However, when I have completely finished a video and uploaded it, it is very satisfying. Some of the other videos that I've made are quite long. I focus on pronunciation, so I speak fairly slowly, so everything is clear. I also have all of the words on the screen, so you can read along at the same time. If you check out my channel, I would love to hear what you think, and above all your suggestions. Do you prefer long or short videos? What areas of English do you really need to work on? And what kind of footage do you prefer? I can't read your minds, so I need to hear from you. One of the great things about Youtube is that you can learn most of what you need to know from Youtube itself. I don't know how many videos I have watched, or how long I have sat in front of the computer, but I certainly have learned a lot. And even when my computer updated itself and I lost important apps, I was able to find solutions right there on Youtube. After all, in 2018 there were 23 million channels, so now this year there are even more. That is a lot of information in one place! I hope that with the help of other people's channels, I will learn what I need to change my first baby steps into a confident walk.
One American tradition that I have experienced is Powder Puff. It has a strange name, I know. It is a high school tradition, and is centered around(1) a flag football game played by young women. It has been around since 1930's, and is a fund raiser for charity, or for a high school event, like a dance. It usually takes place in October, before Homecoming which is another, even better known U.S tradition. Now, do you know what 'flag football' is? It has the same rules as American football, but no contact is allowed, and instead of stealing the ball, you try to steal a flag or a belt from the waist of the members of the opposing team. It is fast, nerve wracking(2), and great fun. Even though it is for charity, team members do get very competitive, and things can get a little rough. Penalties are common because it becomes increasingly more difficult to have no contact. In fact, the last Powder Puff I watched seemed more like a rugby match than a girls' flag football game! There were bodies flying, and therefore lots of penalties. High school is the center of social activity for most young people between the ages of 14 and 18 in the States. It is certainly not just a place for academics. Most young people don't go out to bars or nightclubs until they are in their twenties, or at least in college, because the legal drinking age is 21. So socializing, clubs, and fun, generally take place through the high school. That is why, I believe, high school is such a central part of life in a community here, and a time that people reminisce(3) about when they are older. Powder Puff is one of the many traditions in the U.S, one that can leave you with a lot of bruises! 1. 'To be centered around' means to be in the context of, or to have a relationships to (a theme or person). a. The nativity story is centered around the birth of Christ. b. Homecoming is centered around ex-students coming back to visit high schools or colleges. 2. 'Nerve wracking' means it makes you very nervous. 'To wrack' is an uncommon verb which means to destroy, torture, or wreck. a. Waiting to go on the high speed train was nerve wracking for me. b. Checking my lottery ticket numbers is always nerve wracking for me! 3. 'To reminisce' is remember fondly or with positive emotions. To look back with nostalgia. a. Most people reminisce about their childhoods. b. When his girlfriend left for college, he reminisced about their summer together.
Come with me, for a walk around my October garden. This day has a touch of magic, so I must be in it; I don't want to miss it. For a few minutes we can put the busyness aside(1), and step out into a world of calm and color. While we have been so occupied with the things of life, the worries, the obligations, the plans, the world of plants and creatures has been turning. It turns with the seasons. It submits in the Winter, shuts down, stands still. All is white, quiet, buried. Then the Spring, with its warmth, its hope, its energy, bursting everywhere. Youth rushes in on the wind and paints the land. Summer comes, and with her beaming smile gets our attention. She touches our skin, even through a window, and all is green and color. But there is a fourth sister, the season born between Summer and Winter. She is Autumn, mild, and mysterious. It is her time now. She has been here, I can see her footprints. She left a trail of frost this morning, and hung a chill in the air. But then she will breathe warmth that moves through the trees, the brightest sun that brings out the colors. She loves the moon, and changes just like it. Her whisper is "Get ready; get ready for change." And as she passes over the land, the trees obey her, and blaze in reds, orange, pink, and gold. The birds and insects follow her skirt of colors as it moves in the daylight; the bats follow her in the moonlight. The busy squirrels, and tiny mice see her in the garden and know that it is time to prepare for the Winter. They gather seeds and nuts, and make warm beds for the cold months. They dart up and down, in and out of the old vegetable plot where the vines have faded, and the pumpkins have been picked. "Quickly now!" they think, as they scurry(2) to their secret places with the seeds of flowers long gone. The birds watch from up high; they see the movement, the colors, the swirling, and the changing. Autumn glances(3) up at them, a shimmer in her eyes. They too know that soon, when the colors have all turned to brown, and the trees are bare, that they must say goodbye, and fly away with their friends, or be brave, and like the squirrel, make a warm, safe place for the Winter. But that time hasn't come just yet. We have the gift of walking in this golden space, this fiery light of oranges and yellows, on the ground, in the air, falling here, there. The painted leaves nod at us gently, then shudder as the wind whips up and around, and off they go from their mother tree, through the air, tumbling like a wave, scattered where we walk. I want it to always be this way, to witness this beauty that shifts its shape around me. Autumn stay. Tell the moon to hold back your sister, to slow her steps towards us. We need to walk with you longer, to bathe in your colors, and to slowly breathe your breath of change. 1. 'Busynes. It's different from business, of course. It is the state of being busy, a busy bee. a. Yoga helps me escape from the stress and busyness of work. b. The busyness of modern life can be exhausting. 2. 'Scurry' is how a mouse, squirrel, or a similar animal would run, particularly because it has four feet and nails. a. I could hear the mice scurrying on our wooden floor! b. The little lizard scurried up the wall to safety. 3. 'To glance' is a quick look at something. a. When you're driving, you only have to glance up at the rear view mirror for a second. b. I glanced at him, but he wasn't looking at me. Check out my Youtube channel A Cup Of English for new English teaching videos and podcasts made into videos to help you learn!
Is there a certain food that makes your mouth water? A few of my favorites are: curry, lasagne, pad Thai, and sushi. We are lucky enough to have a few sushi restaurants here in Wenatchee now. It took a while to get them! They are proving to be really popular. To satisfy the American palate(1), they serve hot food as well as sushi. I suppose, in a place that has cold, snowy winters, it is nice to have a hot food alternative. Like many people, though, my family and I love the sushi. Have you tried it? And what is it, exactly? Well, its Japanese, and it has a base of sticky rice that is prepared with a little vinegar, salt, and sugar. This is usually rolled up with seaweed, raw fish of different kinds, vegetables, and sometimes sauces. It is a very tasty, clean food experience. Sushi restaurants have the reputation of being extremely clean. The raw fish is deep frozen in order to kill any small worms that might be in the fish meat. And generally, the chefs prepare the food where everyone can see what they are doing. All the ingredients are lined up neatly under glass refrigerators, and step by step you can see the art of sushi making right in front of your eyes. The combination of ingredients, from my experience, are satisfying without making me feel too full, or bloated(2). Another thing about sushi is that it is very pretty. Most dishes that are offered have a combination of different colors, including the pink pickled ginger, and the green wasabi mustard, which are always part of a sushi plate. One of my favorite sushi dishes is called 'The Dinosaur Roll'. It has salmon which is pink, tuna which is red, asparagus which is green, avocado on top which is cream and light green, and a spicy eel sauce which is dark brown. It is a treat for the eyes! It's not the sort of thing you can eat everyday, unfortunately, as it is a bit expensive, but it is so worth(3) it every now and then. 1. 'Palate' means the roof of the mouth, or the range of tastes or taste preferences you have. a. The American palate is varied, but tends to like cheese, meat, salt, and sugar. b. This restaurant serves many kinds of food from different countries. You can really test your palate here. 2. 'To bloat' or 'bloated'. The verb means 'to blow up or inflate' but it has a sense of being uncomfortable or unnatural even. a. I don't know why, but bread always bloats me. My stomach gets big, and I feel heavy pressure inside! b. That type of dog gets a bloated stomach easily; it happens with that breed. 3. 'So worth it' is just the same as 'worth it' but more emphatic. We tend to emphasize the 'so' with almost a sign of relief in our voices. a. It was so worth talking to the principal; he managed to sort out my son's problem very quickly. b. Lining up for two hours to get into the exhibition was so worth it!
The phrases: climate strike, greenhouse gases, and global warming should be familiar with anyone who listens to the news. And now with the help of social media, young people are becoming aware of the science behind how human activity affects the world. "Mum, can you excuse me from P.E please? I want to take part in the strike,' my daughter told me over the phone a few weeks ago. "Strike?" I thought to myself. Usually a strike at school would be for the teachers to get decent pay, or something like that. I received a text reminder from my daughter later that it was one of the hundreds of thousands of climate strikes by children all over the world. They were taking time out of school to draw attention to their need for a clean, healthy planet. They are too young too vote, or to control politics, or industry, but they have a voice, and they want it to be heard. So, I read about the movement, about Greta Thurnberg from Sweden, and I quickly got up-to-date with this very organized global initiative. "Good for them!" I thought. Our high school is just one school, but if students all over the world are learning the science behind the effects of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide on our planet, then they can, with us adults, take responsibility to reduce these emissions. Do we have to be wasteful, greedy, dumb, or slaves to politics and industry in order to increase wealth? And if wealth is increased, who really gets it? Are there more intelligent ways in which such an intelligent species as humans can live, work, and profit? These are questions that students now have to ask themselves. They also have to look around and see what is being done about the speed of 'heating up' that is taking place, and all the consequences that come from that. Apart from doing all we can to recycle, reduce buying plastics and toxic materials, my daughter and I have decided to read the Fifth Assessment Report, that is the most recent scientific analysis of this big issue. We have a lot of reading to do! But there is a saying, "Who has mocked the day of small beginnings?" You have to start somewhere, right? Even in a small town, knowledge can lead to action, and that is a big thing.
For all of you nurses, nurses' assistants, doctors, and anyone else who is interested in, or involved in the medical profession, this podcast is for you. A subscriber to my Youtube channel , Maria, recently asked me to go over the nursing reading and practice that she needs as a nurse. As my job is medical interpreting, I am familiar with a lot of medical language. So, today I will start with some essential, medical basics. The following is a conversation between a nurse, the doctor, and the patient. Afterwards, I will repeat the essential medical terms, and then we will listen to the dialogue a second time. Nurse Winters: Hello Mr. Smith. What brings you to the clinic today? Mr. Smith: Well, I feel terrible. Nurse Winters: Can you describe how you feel? Mr. Smith: I feel weak and hot and shaky. Nurse Winters: Let me take your vital signs: temperature, blood pressure, height, and weight. Could you take your shoes off and stand on the scale please? Ok, 192lbs. Now I will measure your height. Ok, 6'2". Now, I need you to sit down, with your feet flat on the floor. Please don't move, and stay quiet, so I can get your blood pressure. It's a little high: 129 systolic over 75 diastolic. Mr. Smith: What does that mean? Nurse Winters: I'm glad you asked. The systolic blood pressure is the pressure inside your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number, diastolic, is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests. Now, this thermometer runs over your forehead; it's digital. Yes, it looks like you have a temperature: 104 degrees. Do you know how long you have had it? Mr. Smith: Two days. I measured it myself. Nurse Winters: Do you have any pain? Mr. Smith: Yes, right in the middle of my stomach. Nurse Winters: Have you recently had an accident, broken anything or cut yourself? Mr. Smith: No I don't have any cuts or broken bones. Nurse Winters: Can you show me exactly where it hurts? Mr. Smith: Right around my belly button, and then it seems to spread out to the rest of my abdomen. Nurse Winters: What kind of pain is it? Sharp? Dull? Pressure? An ache? Mr. Smith: It's sharp pain now. Like a stabbing pain. When it started, it was just an ache, like a headache. But now its a lot worse, and the pain comes more often, and lasts longer. It comes in waves. Nurse Winters: Ok Mr. Smith. I have put the details in the computer, and Doctor Mojan will be in to see you shortly (soon). Mr. Smith: Thank you. (15 minutes later) Dr. Mojan: Hello Mr. Smith, I am Doctor Mojan. I hear that you have a lot of abdominal pain, and a fever. Mr. Smith: Yes, that's right. Dr. Mojan: If you could please lie down on the bed, I will examine you. I'm going to press gently on your abdomen. Tell me if you experience any pain. Mr. Smith: Ow! Yes, that really hurts! Please don't press any more. It's just getting worse. Dr. Mojan: Ok, I'm sorry about that. Have you vomited at all? Mr. Smith: Yes, twice today, yesterday, and the day before. Dr. Mojan: You appear to have an infection. I suspect it is appendicitis, but it could be something else. To make an accurate diagnosis, I need to see the condition of your internal organs. So, today, you will have several tests. First of all, a urinalysis. You will give a urine sample and we will see if you have a urinary tract infection. You will also have a blood test, to see if you have elevated levels of white blood cells. This will show if there is definitely an infection. Then, because of your pain and vomiting, I believe you need to have an abdominal ultra sound. It's perfectly safe; it uses painless sound waves to produce a picture of your organs. Mr. Smith: So, will I need an operation? Dr. Mojan: We will know when we get the results back. Hopefully, you only need to take antibiotics to get rid of the infection. Nurse Winters will come in now and take you to the bathroom to get your urine sample. Then, she will take you to get your blood test. In the meantime, I will order and organize your ultrasound. Mr. Smith: Thank you Doctor Mojan. Dr. Mojan: I'm glad you didn't wait any longer before coming in. Medical notes: Types of pain: sharp, dull, pressure, ache or achy, throbbing, constant, spreading. Sensations: Tingling (pins and needles), numbness, shakiness or shaky, weak, dizzy, exhausted, nauseated, sweaty, chilled. Blood pressure: systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, a stethoscope, a blood pressure monitor or gauge, and an inflatable cuff. Temperature: thermometer, digital thermometer, fever, temperature, "I'm burning up", degrees. Abdomen, abdominal, exam, vomit, infection, diagnosis, internal organs, a sample (blood, urine, saliva). Elevated levels of white blood cells. Ultrasound, urinalysis, urinary tract. To give a sample. To get a blood test.
About one week ago, I found myself on a beach in Seattle called Alki Beach. I had gone there with my husband for a couple of days, just to get a way from it all(1). As we have been to Seattle on many occasions, we decided to do something different. For years, we have stayed downtown, gone shopping, and eaten in nice restaurants. Enough of that! We both love natural environments, and needed a refreshing break, so we googled the parks and beaches, and came up with(2) Alki. It is situated in West Seattle on a peninsular which is called Alki Point. The area is actually quite historic. The first white settlers arrived here in 1851. Apparently, Chief Seattle and his tribe greeted them and helped them build a cabin for shelter. When we were there, it was full of activity. The sandy beach stretches for miles, so families and friends can hang out and do all kinds of beachy activities, like sunbathing, building sand castles, swimming, and playing frisbee. From where we were, the view of the Olympic mountains was spectacular, and the ferries going to and fro. The pair of binoculars that we had came in handy to look at the boats, canoes, and birds. Directly behind us was a wide sidewalk that was built to take all kinds of joggers, bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs. The town built next to this beach caters to(3) the visitors, of course. There are many places to eat, or get supplies for the beach. It's so pretty too, as Seattle's climate allows the area to be really green and full of trees, the best of both worlds, I think. I could have easily stayed there until the evening, but we had other places to go. I suggested to my husband that the next time we come to Seattle, we stay close to the beach, and take in all that it has to offer. 1. 'To get away from it all' is to have a nice escape from obligations and responsibilities. a. I've been so stressed recently. I feel like I need to get away from it all. b. Come and get away from it all on our cruises. They're only $6000! 2. 'To come up with' really means to discover, or to finally decide upon. a. I thought of a nickname for you. I came up with 'Crazy Hair'. b. It's interesting to hear how Starbucks came up with its name. 3. 'To cater to' means to serve or supply everything that is needed. a. The 'Happy Cooks' company will cater to all your special occasion needs. b. Stop catering to him; he's not a baby!
Imagine being in a tiny, coastal(1) village in Scotland in the summer. The air here is pure: a mix of ocean and forest smells, as the village is sandwiched between both. The area of Dumfries and Galloway, in the South West, has intense sunlight during this season, even though there is intermittent rain and a fair amount of wind. It's when the wind stops, you feel the warmth of the sun, and everything around you glows: the forests and fields, the oh so blue sky, and the colorful houses that sit in a happy row, taking in(2) the view. As you walk along the main road, you go past a couple of hotels and tea shops on your left, a gift shop with local art, and holiday homes, of course. There is a bus stop, then the road narrows(3) to a single track that winds along the coast, with pretty hedges and private drives all the way. You see a glow of yellow coming from your right, through the vegetation. As you investigate and move a little closer, you realize that the color is coming from a very unusual beach: Cockleshell Beach. There is no sand here, and not many rocks. What you do have is shells everywhere, meters thick. They reflect the sun, and beam up a warm yellow-white light. You dig down to see just how far the shells go, but there is no end to them. And they all look like brothers and sisters, all Cockleshells. What adds to this unusual place is how clean it is; it's spotless actually. And being such a small village, about half an hour from any major town, the visitors are minimal, and most of those are on the water in boats. You could get inside a sleeping bag and have an incredible night's sleep, with the stars above you, the shells beneath, the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, and the clean breeze surrounding you. I'm not sure if that would be allowed; humans do tend to make things messy after all. But if it were allowed, it would be a quiet and nature-filled experience not to be forgotten. 1. 'Coastal' means of the coast. a. The coastal breeze is constant; it doesn't stop very often. b. The houses in coastal areas in Scotland must be strong, as they take strong coastal winds and salty air all year. 2. 'To take in' is used in English when we talk about looking at, observing, and absorbing the view, or something we are looking at. a. We sat on the beach and took in the view. b. As they walked through the museum, they took in all the historical works of art. 3. 'To narrow' is a great example of an adjective being used as a verb. a. Her eyes narrowed into a squint; uh-oh, she knew what I was up to. b. The hallway narrowed and got darker; we wondered what was in the room at the very end.
It was the first day out in a few months that my mum had had, when we came across a hidden treasure. I had expected simply to take my mother for a drive, stop somewhere for lunch, and find a place she had told me about that sells plants. She is an avid(1) gardener; she can make anything grow, and has an elephant's memory for plants and how to propagate them. This would be a welcome break for her, as she had been stuck at home, recovering from an illness, with only short trips chauffeured by me here and there. This trip would take at least half a day and give her a sense of really being out of town. We drove past extensive orchards on both sides of the highway. This otherwise very dry, semi-desert valley, has large patches of green throughout its area, thanks to the Columbia River. It looks like a quilt. (2)After a while I realized that I had driven for too long; we must have already passed the place my mum was looking for. I quickly pulled into the parking lot of a pleasant looking cafe to ask for directions. It was rustic and cheery. There were fridges full of fruit and vegetables, shelves loaded with local honeys and jams, and groups of people eating freshly made sandwiches and drinking coffee. "I'll ask for directions later, " I said to mum. "Let's eat!" We were very impressed with the quality of food, and the good service. Before we left, the owner wrote down the directions to the nursery that my mother was looking for. I put the address in Google Maps, and we were on our way. The last time my mother had been there was about ten years ago. "Oh yes, this looks familiar," she said as I turned off the road. We bumped along a very narrow, rocky road that winded into an almost derelict living area that had a trailer and a strange shed. There were small signs of life, like a tv satellite dish and parked vehicles, but everything looked broken and dirty. There was no-one around, but I got the impression that we were being watched. "Um, I think we need to leave," I finally said, and turned the car around. One road down we came across the correct turn off that lead us downhill towards the river. On the steepest, dustiest part of the road, the nursery plastic tunnel came into view. We were thrilled. There were actually 4 huge plastic tunnels bursting with flowers of all colors and kinds. My mum thought she was in heaven. We walked around oohing and ahhing(3) at all the beauty. All the plants had just been watered so it was quite humid of course. However, the person who had done the watering was nowhere to be found, and nor was anyone else! We were completely alone in this world of flowers. "How are we supposed to buy anything?" I asked, looking around. "Well, this is extraordinary," said my mum. "Anyone could fill their car up and leave!" I searched for clues, and found a little shed near the entryway with an open book with lists of plants that had been sold and their prices. Nearby was a sign that was half covered with ivy. It said, "If nobody is here, we're not far away, simply call xxxxxxxxx and we will be with you soon." So, I called the number that connected me to a lady, and I told her that we had left ten dollars for three little plants. She was very interested in how I had found her nursery and where I was from. In fact, she talked so much that I had to tell her that I needed to leave. Before I did though, she told me that I needed to pay a few more dollars for the flowers I had selected. How strange, I thought. No one is available for customers, I call to tell her how much I have paid and for what, and she wants to chat, and then tells me that I owe more.....How unusual. Of course I paid more before I left, but laughed with my mother about the extraordinary lack of service. When I think about the nursery now though, its the thousands of flowers that come to mind. It was unusual and at the same time incredible to be in a vast place of plants and color but completely alone. It was like our own colorful secret. 1. 'Avid' means 'keen', 'enthusiastic', 'active', 'motivated'. a. He's an avid painter; it's a daily practice for him. b. She is an avid gardener; she does it all year round and is very knowledgeable. 2. 'A quilt' is a handmade blanket that has usually square patches of cloth of all different patterns. a. In this area, ladies do 'quilting'. They sit in groups, making their quilts, and sharing their stories. b. My great grandmother's quilt is worn, but so cosy. Some of its patches are missing, but it is still soft and comfortable. 3. 'Oohing and ahhing' are the noises we make when we are very impressed with something we find. a. "Ahhh!" said my dad as the new, red, Porsche drove by. b. I left the jewelry shop as soon as I could. I couldn't stand all of the oohing and ahhing of the ladies while they looked at the necklaces.
They're furry, flexible, and playful. They have sharp teeth, and will nip (1) you if you are not careful. They are highly energetic, but will sleep for 16 hours. Like cats, they groom themselves, but they apparently have an 'odor'... Like dogs, they can be trained, but their attention span is short when it comes to 'lessons'.They prefer to be in groups because they are highly social, and love to curl up and snuggle(2) with their owners. Yes, I'm talking about a kind of animal. Can you guess which one I'm thinking about? It's a ferret. We don't have any, yet, but they are potentially our next pets. I'm not really sure why I am even considering more animals; we already have two dogs, a cat, and a snake. It is my daughter who is strong-arming(3) me into considering getting them. She can be very persuasive. However, I have had my experience with house pets, and what I've found is that usually it is me who takes care of them. It is always 'mum' who takes the little creatures to the vet. I buy the food, monitor how much exercise they've had etc etc. But apart from the responsibilities, what would be the benefits of having, let's say, a couple of ferrets? According to my daughter who has researched them for months, they are extremely playful, cute, and cuddly. We have watched videos of them playing in people's houses, running around, jumping, play fighting with each other, even jumping on their owners. So we planned a trip to the Seattle Ferret Shelter to have an opportunity to hold and play with a few. It is the only place in the whole area that takes in unwanted ferrets, and raises money to take care of them. The visit was going to be part of a weekend in Seattle, and it was our first stop. The only trouble was, it was closed because of an unexpected circumstance. Domini was so disappointed. I was too to a certain extent. I was looking forward to holding and playing with them. But, in a way I was relieved; the thought of having more animals at home is something I'm not completely comfortable about. It feels like we're on track to open a farm, and I'm not ready to be a farmer! So, I came to an agreement with Domini: if she does well during her first year in High school, and isn't too busy, then she can get two. She has been very responsible with Beau, her snake. Perhaps this will lead her into a career with animals, hopefully without me needing therapy. 1. 'Nip' is a verb and a noun. It means a little bite, usually a sharp one if we are talking about animals. a. The puppy will nip you if you are not careful; their teeth are always sharp when they are young. b. The cold wind nipped our faces; it was always like this in winter. 2. 'To curl up and snuggle' we use these verbs often when describing animals getting comfortable and close to you or each other when they sleep. We also use them for humans though. a. We snuggled together on the sofa under a blanket. b. The kittens curled up together on the rug in front of the fireplace, and went to sleep. 3. 'To strong-arm' means to force or oblige. a. He strong-armed me into going to the concert with him, what a mistake! b. I don't want to be strong-armed into buying that car!
Spring sports in our local school district have almost come to an end. This seems to be such a short season! The weather is also now closer to summer than spring. Those windy, mild days have changed into still, hot days. The blossoms on the trees are drying up, and the bees are buzzing. The school kids are buzzing also, with all kinds of activities. Track is a collection of sports that is very popular with kids of all ages. It includes sprinting(1), long distance running, the hurdles, shot put, javelin, discus, long jump, and high jump. My son Robert has been doing the throwing sports: shot put, javelin, and discus. He loves them. It's a complete change for him from his winter basketball. The track team is also a very relaxed and sociable group. There must be about 40 students or more involved, each doing one or two events(2) of choice. They compete with other high schools, which means traveling by bus. These trips are often a couple of hours away, and so by the time they finish all the events, have something to eat, and drive back to school, they get home at about midnight! Being in a sport in high school is quite a commitment. I went to one of the track meets, as they are called, to see Wenatchee High School compete against Moses Lake. It's about an hour and a half's drive, across very flat countryside. The teams got to work, and I hung out(3) with a few parents to watch the kids throw. There was a consistent wind sweeping across the field that lasted the whole four hours that we were there. I was thankful that I had remembered to bring my coat and gloves! Robert and his friends stood around joking and waiting for their turn; they didn't get cold for a couple of hours, those big, strong boys, but they eventually put their hoodies(4) on. I walked around the field quite a few times just so I could warm up. And then with chattering teeth, and watery eyes, I watched Robert throw. He did well; he made a personal best in his javelin, his best throw so far. It's all about the technique, apparently. He showed me in detail how to hold the javelin, and then the dance-like steps you have to take to get maximum performance. Shot put was a bit different. He's one of the skinnier boys. "Mum, you should see those shot put dudes, they're huge," he said later on. Some of the shot put girls were twice the size of my son. They were obviously built for that sport. When the meet was over, the kids filled up the bus and headed home. I drove with Robert, to save him some time. We chatted and listened to music, but I could tell that as the car warmed up he got more and more sleepy. He stretched out his long legs and tired arms, threw a blanket over himself, and let his mother chauffeur him all the way home. 1. 'Sprinting', from 'to sprint' is to run in a fast, short burst. a. When I'm late for the bus, I sprint to catch it. b. She's more of a long distance runner than a sprinter. 2. 'Event/s' in this podcast refers to each sporting activity. The word can be used as a special occasion, or in this case generally what is used in track. a. Wimbledon is one of the greatest tennis events of the year. b. Discus is one of the least popular events in track, probably because it doesn't involve running, and it is difficult. 3. 'To hang out' is used all the time here in the U.S. and it means to spend time together. a. Bats hang out with each other in caves, literally. b. I love hanging out with my friends. 4. 'Hoodie' is a sweater that has a warm hood. Everybody has a hoodie, right? a. He was wearing a large hoodie, so I couldn't see his face. b. I always keep a couple of hoodies in the back of the car, in case it gets cold.
As promised, today I will go over the grammar points from my last podcast, 'Jungle'. As you will remember, I danced the night away to the music of this British band. And all that dancing brought to mind some useful phrases. 1. Winter had been 'extraordinarily' long. We lose the sound of the first 'a'. Extraordinary - adjective Extraordinarily - adverb. a. The little boy was 'extraordinarily' descriptive about his day. b. The cat was extraordinarily brave; it fought the dog and won! 2. It's just as well that we spent the night, as the concert finished at midnight. It is similar in meaning to 'it's a good job that'. a. It is just as well that I checked my calendar. I have a dentist appointment in 10 minutes! b. It's pouring! I'm glad you insisted on bringing umbrellas. It's just as well (that) you did! 3. Their lyrics are clean, which for me 'is a (huge) plus'. a. I like going with you to places because you always bring snacks in your car. That's a huge plus. b. Spending time with loved ones is important, and if you have time to listen to them, it's a huge plus.
About a month ago, a friend and I went to Seattle to do something that we don't normally do. We went to a concert. Winter had been extraordinarily(1) long here, so I decided that I needed to get away and do something fun. Thankfully my friend, Sandra, wanted to do the same thing. As she likes to shop, she suggested that we spend the night after the concert, and then spend money the next day in the shops! It is just as well that(2) we spent the night, actually, as the concert finished at midnight. I didn't fancy driving for three hours and getting home at 3am or later. So, which group did we see? Jungle is their name. They are a British band, and their genre of music is funk/soul/electronic. They have a very American sound when they sing, almost as if they had a motown base. I love their music, and their lyrics. In fact, their lyrics are clean which for me is a huge plus(3). I get so tired of hearing wonderful dance music, only to then realize that the lyrics are smutty or violent. I find that really annoying. Jungle, however, writes intelligent, sensitive lyrics that show a respect for humanity. So if you want to dance to really good rhythms while hearing some quality, clever writing, Jungle thankfully is available. The concert was supposed to start at nine o'clock, so Sandra and I rushed our dinner, and walked as fast as we could through downtown Seattle to get there on time. We found a long line of people talking and waiting for the doors to the concert hall to open. After half an hour, and the security check, we made our way into the Showbox hall which was already quite full with people at the bar, and beginning to fill up the dance floor. Another group was playing, you know, the warm-up group that's not very famous. They were actually quite good. People were swaying a bit, but not really dancing. I had deliberately bought a very comfortable pair of casual shoes, and was wearing just jeans and a t-shirt, so I could dance without feeling restricted. It's been such a long time since I have danced in public, or anywhere other than my kitchen. I wondered if I would be out-of-practice! Finally, the count-down started, the lights flashed until the title of Jungle appeared, and we all started cheering. Then song after song started flowing: 'Heavy California', 'Busy working', 'Time', 'Julia', 'Raindrops' and others. I know all of them. I jumped up and down just like the younger, elegantly dressed people around me, and wondered why Sandra wasn't doing the same thing. I think she was tired from getting up early for work, and also wasn't familiar with the songs. At one point, I even forgot that she was there because I was lost in the music. As the Showbox is a small concert hall, we were able to get really close to the group. That added a special dimension to my experience, a bit more intimacy. I feel that not only do I love Jungle's music, but that now we have a connection; I will always be a fan and wish them the best. The Showbox also is a venue I will keep my eye on for future concerts, and I will keep my extra comfortable shoes ready.
If you haven't heard of the shingles, then today I will teach you something both interesting and important for your health. The shingles is actually a virus. It is one of the herpes viruses. I have had close contact with it recently, as my mother has it. Don't let the pretty sound of the word fool you; shingles sounds like jingles, a happy ringing of bells. Well, its quite the opposite. It is horrendous. I think it should be renamed to something like, 'The dark knife', or 'The burning storm'. It is actually the chicken pox virus. That is an illness that we tend to have as children. Nowadays there are vaccines for chicken pox, so children can at least be protected against a bad dose of the illness. If you have had it, the virus will continue to live in your body. It basically stays dormant in a nerve of its choice. Later in life, when your immune system is weak, it flares up(1), producing a burning rash and a lot of nerve pain. The nerves can actually be permanently damaged and painful in a bad case. Thankfully though, there is a vaccine that we as adults can have when we are about 50. The shingles is also contagious. If you are touched by someone who has scratched their rash, you could catch it. It is rare, but possible. I will certainly get vaccinated, and I hope you do too. My mother told me that it is the most painful thing she has experienced, and it is taking weeks for her to recover. That means: loss of work, no socializing, no energy, and feeling miserable for a long time. The good news is that she is recovering. Her rash has cleared up(2), and she has less pain. She had the worst case scenario; the virus was in her trigeminal nerve which runs along the top and left side of your head, into your left eye, and down to your chest. Her eye was so swollen at one point(3) that the doctor couldn't open it. Thankfully, now I can talk to her and see both of her lovely eyes, not just one. It will still take her weeks to get back to normal, but her very strong medicines are helping her recover. I will continue taking her to regular doctors' appointments and making sure that she has everything she needs. I'm hoping that as Spring comes, she will get her energy back and be able to enjoy the flowers and the nice weather. It has been a real education in health and medical care for me, one which I hope won't be repeated. 1. 'To flare up' means to surface or be activated. It can be used with physical symptoms or emotions. a. My rash flared up because I ate something I am sensitive to. b. His anger flared up when he bumped into his ex boss. 2. 'To clear up' is almost the opposite of 'to flare up'. It means to get better, or get resolved. It also can be used in an emotional context. a. His acne cleared up after the dermatologist gave him some strong medicine. b. We talked about our problem, and finally cleared up the issue. 3. 'At one point' is super useful in just about any context. a. We waited in line for so long that at one point I was ready to fall asleep. b. My back hurt so much that at one point I couldn't even walk. c. The teacher made no sense; at one point I felt like pulling out my hair.
Does your mind ever wander? Mine does, all the time. I find that I am constantly thinking about things. My brain rarely(1) seems to keep quiet. In Tai Chi we call this 'The Jumping Monkey' which is a wonderful image. I suppose our brains are supposed to always be thinking, but sometimes it's really distracting. Shopping, for example, is a time when you want to have a clear plan of action with no distraction. If you don't, you could end up wasting time or money, or both. So many times I've come home from shopping with a car full of groceries, only to realize that I forgot the most needed items, like toilet paper or toothpaste. Or I get into the store and I realize that I left my shopping list at home. Perhaps its a fault in my genes; I can blame it on my parents. You can blame most things on your parents. But that doesn't help; it's the behavior that needs to change. So, I've figured out a solution to the shopping list problem: I either write it on my hand, or I simply remember a number, the number of items I need. If that is my approach, then when I am in the store, it's up to me to remember which items they are. And there's something else: shopping bags. Here in the States, predominantly plastic bags are used for customers. It's a real problem, as they are terrible for the environment. I have felt uncomfortable for years about bringing home so many. My son, Hudson, brought back some reusable bags from Paris as a gift for me last year. They are strong, large, and attractive. But do you think that I could remember to take them with me? So many times I would find myself in the store with a cart already half full of items, and it would dawn on(2) me that I needed the bags, and that they were, oops, at home. It was so frustrating. So I decided to make a change. I put three of the bags in the car, right in front of my nose, on the dashboard. Now whenever I go shopping, I remember to take them. I'm so happy. I know it sounds trivial(3), but I'm relieved to be making a difference to the environment this way - finally! And I'm also relieved to have freed myself from forgetfulness. The jumping monkey of my brain is now a little under control, and that is a good start. 1. 'Rarely' is the same as 'not very often' or 'hardly'. Out of the three expressions, it is the least used. a. We rarely go to my sister-in-law's house as it is three hours away. b. My mother rarely comes to our house as she is allergic to my husband. 2. 'To dawn on someone that ...' is a very imaginative way of saying 'to realize'. Think of what 'dawn' is: new, natural light rising up, just like a clear idea. a. It dawned on me that I was paying for an international phone plan that I wasn't using. b. After he bought the item online, it dawned on him that he had added an extra '0' and bought 100 pillows instead of 10. 3. 'Trivial' means of little importance. a. It seems trivial to you, but it's important to me. b. Our conversation was quite superficial; we talked about trivial things.
We've lucked out this year (1). We're lucky because the winter has not been too hard. Yes we've had snow, and some freezing conditions, but it really hasn't been bad at all. I've been able to walk the dogs without falling on the ice, and my daughter has been able to practice her soccer moves on a more or less snow-free lawn. Everyone is back into a work or school routine, and Christmas seems like it was a long time ago. There are a few traces of decorations left around the house, but I'm not going to put them away for a few months. They keep a little bit of brightness and cheer in the house. Another thing that does, is the very colorful and very unusual present that Domini got this year. It's a snake, a corn snake to be exact(2). It's orange with yellow and white spots, only about 12 inches long, and is quite calm. Corn snakes are native to the U.S, and beneficial to humans as they eat rodents like rats and mice. They are not poisonous (of course I wouldn't buy my child a poisonous animal!), and they only get to a moderate length of 4-5 feet when they are adults. They kill their prey, which also includes frogs, birds, and bats, by constriction. As the snake is just a baby, we have to feed him tiny, newborn, bald mice which come frozen in a packet. Yes, I'm sorry, it sounds horrendous(3). I won't go into any more detail. But, you know, he has to eat something. Like other snakes, he can open his mouth up to a 150 degree angle in order to eat. I'm glad we don't do that! He also does it when he yawns, which is actually really cute. I suppose you can tell that I'm not scared of snakes. In fact, I've held him a couple of times and he felt very smooth, calm, and light. I held him close to my cheek, and I could feel his tiny tongue flickering in and out of his mouth as he smelled me. It wasn't creepy at all. Domini is very exact about looking after him, making sure that his environment is just right. Pets can be a great way to teach responsibility to kids as well. Beau is a very calming influence on Domini who she tends to be a bit hyper, so its good for her to handle a smooth, mesmerizing reptile,- her baby. 1. 'To luck out' is to be lucky or fortunate (an Americanism). a. We lucked out; there were just enough tickets left for us. b. He lucked out. He was late to the airport, but his plane was an hour delayed. 2. 'To be exact' is to be specific. a. We live on Idaho street, the last house on the left to be exact. b. He needs to take antibiotics for a couple of weeks, every day for 10 days to be exact. 3. 'Horrendous' is a great word that means 'awful'. It's used a lot in UK. a. The film was horrendous: the story was weak, the dialogues were unrealistic, and the acting was bad. b. Watching the snake eat is horrendous, unless you like that sort of thing.
Things are changing fast in my household. My third boy, Robert, is now driving. He's only 16, and that to me seems far too young to be 'behind the wheel'. Thankfully, he doesn't drive very far, so the chances of(1) him getting into an accident are not high. As soon as he passed his driver's test, he bought a few things for his vehicle so he could look like and be a proper driver. Tissues, chapstick, hand sanitizer, phone charger, and gum, are of course essentials to have in the car. Then there was the lanyard. When he first mentioned it, I didn't know what he was talking about. It sounded like some boating equipment. So I looked it up.(2) Actually, it is a kind of cord or rope used to secure equipment on ships, and also used in the military. In general, however, it is a cord you put around your neck or shoulder, for your keys or ID. It seems that all high school students have these long, often colorful straps that hang out of a pocket with their car keys attached. It's a sign of being a mature driver, like a symbol of honor. It's certainly a symbol of privilege. "It's so annoying," he said to me the other day. "There are 15yr olds in the Highschool, mom, who have lanyards. Some of them don't even have permits yet." The permit is the driving card you can get when you turn 15 and sign up for a driver's education course. With it you can legally drive with family members over 21, with or without younger siblings.(3) You are not yet allowed to drive by yourself. "Well, perhaps they use them for house keys," I replied. "That's lame," was his response. A lanyard, for him, represents all the hard work and hours of practice that he put into earning his license. And you can't miss his; it's bright red. As he walks around the high school with the lanyard hanging out of his pocket, younger students have no doubt what it all means. It's like his basketball uniform, he belongs to a group; no unqualified people allowed thank you very much. I don't have a lanyard. I'm too old for one, according to my kids. And I wouldn't want one anyway; I don't need to be part of a group. I picked up a keychain from Heathrow airport that has a blue, leather disc with a Union Jack on the inside. I love it. It reminds me, and the few other people who see it, of where this bird comes from. So, like the lanyard, it's a reminder, one that I see each time I turn the key. 1. 'The chances of ..+ gerund'. This is a great addition to conversation: hypothesis, prediction, but quite casual. a. The chances of him winning the race are high. b. The chances a fair election are low. 2. 'To look something up' is to search for information either in a book, or the internet. a. As you are new to the area, I would look up anything you need on the internet. b. I looked up 'local plumbers' on Google; there are only three licensed ones in town. 3. 'With or without' is also a convenient and native sounding phrase to add to conversation. a. He will achieve his goal, with or without anyone's help. b. You can continue to improve in English, with or without a teacher.
Halloween was fairly uneventful this year. It is a huge day of celebration here in the U.S, but as my children are teenagers now, we are less involved in the 'trick or treat' tradition of dressing up and visiting houses. Also, we don't tend to get many visitors in our neighborhood because it is actually quite spooky: no street lamps, no side walks, and a dark orchard with derelict buildings immediately as you turn into the area. It doesn't surprise me that parents don't drop their kids off to let them trick or treat. I wouldn't. The tradition now for my kids, as well as for their friends, is to watch the scariest movie they can find in the cinema. Apparently, its 'the thing' to do. I can't stand scary movies, though decades ago, when I was a teenager, I too would watch them whenever I could. There was just something thrilling about screaming together. It must have been a way to bond. After Halloween, we visited my son Cass in Washington State University. The university's American football team, the Cougars, were playing, so my husband and son went to watch the game, and my daughter and I went to the cinema. You probably can guess what is coming next. Yes, my daughter, after much begging, persuaded me to watch the horror movie 'Halloween.' The film had already started when we went into the auditorium. It was packed, pitch black, and you could hear the rapid, nervous chewing of popcorn. I half shut my eyes in a squint to see if that would make the film less scary. The story started to develop. All the typical horror movie ingredients were included: the dark, the pop-ups, the slowly opening, creaking doors, and the very stupid females who scream at everything and don't fight back. I jumped, and again, then several times in a row, and then "Ahh!" came out of my mouth without me even realizing. "Mum, come on," said Domini, "its not even scary yet. Control yourself!" Then she advised me to plug my ears. She was right; it's not half as scary if you can't hear anything. I must have looked quite silly with my fingers in my ears and my face screwed up into a squint. It wasn't long before the 'baddie' was revealed. He wore a pale mask, and towered above everybody. It was when he appeared in a little boy's closet that I managed by biggest jump, spilling my chocolate covered raisins as I grabbed my daughter's leg. "Mum," hissed Domini, "you're ruining it." She walked out of the auditorium in a bad mood. I gave her a minute to cool off, and then I went and brought her back. "You're so embarrassing! I'm not sitting with you," she said as she went off to find another seat. I didn't mind her rejection; I was actually really focused on the film, and had now managed to get my body under control. I relaxed enough to critique the movie, which is always fun. Horror movies in particular are very two dimensional. "Oh, well that wasn't totally predictable," I thought to myself sarcastically as another weak character did all the wrong things, and therefore was grabbed by the 'psycho'. What was most disappointing to me was that the worst of the stupid, weak females was English. She had a perfect opportunity to bash the baddie with a big piece of metal, but instead she sat down and cried. For goodness sake! She really let my country down. If I had been the one in a public toilet, with a giant, violent 'loco', I would have shown him what English women are really like. When the film was over, Domini and I chatted about it all the way back to the university. We were full of criticisms and funny comments which helped to dissipate some of the scary images from our minds. I think she would have preferred to go with friends. I, however, was very proud of myself for surviving 'Halloween'. I was tired from all the jumping and squinting, but quite thrilled to feel like a teenager again.
There's nothing like(1) being in a crowd of 60,000 people. There's nothing like it, if they are all happy and dancing to the same music. Yes, you guessed it; I went to a concert with 59, 997 temporary friends. We were all happy to be together. I took my daughter and a friend of hers, and I was as excited as they were. Ed Sheeran was the main singer of the evening. I pride myself in(2) being a sort of up-to-date mum, so I was already familiar with some of his songs, and what he looks like. And he's English, so that was a plus for me. He actually chatted a lot in between songs, and came across as a very friendly, intelligent person. As far as his performance goes, he was dynamic, and gave a good rendition of all of his most popular songs. I was impressed with the fact that he was by himself on stage. He used a 'loop' machine to create his music by instantaneous recording of himself. It worked really well. How clever! The girls and I were unfortunately up in what we call 'the nose bleeds' which means that the seats were really high up in the stadium, quite far away from the main guy. Ed Sheeran, luckily, is a redhead, and so we didn't have to strain(3) our eyes too badly to see him. We could see a flash of red jumping and running around the stage; I assume it was him.... Though we had seats, most of the concert we spent dancing on the spot with everyone else around us. The energy in the stadium was electric. From our seats we could also see the sea with ferries coming and going, as the stadium is not enclosed. It was quite a night. 1. 'There's nothing like + gerund/ object' This is a way of saying that something is the best. a. There's nothing like my grandmother's chocolate cake; I've never tasted a better one. b. There's nothing like hiking in the mountains with friends. c. There's nothing like a cool drink of water after a hot day of work outside. d. There's nothing like opening the envelope that has your grades, and seeing all A's. 2. 'To pride yourself in +noun/adjective'. This is quite self-explanatory: a. He prides himself in his work. b. She prides herself in her dedication to her instrument. c. They pride themselves in their charitable organization. 3. 'To strain' is a useful verb which means to over-use and therefore to hurt. a. He strained his back by carrying heavy boxes the wrong way. b. I didn't have my glasses so I had to strain my eyes to read the medicine bottle. c. Stretching before exercise can help reduce strains.