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A Cup Of English

Language Learning

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.


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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.



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A Reading Haven.

I'm sitting in the local library writing this podcast, and honestly, it is one of my favorite places to be. There are so many reasons to feel this way too. The Wenatchee library is situated in the center of town, close to the court house, the jail, and the other older, significant buildings. The south side of the library (1)overlooks Memorial Park. I wrote a podcast once which you might remember, about a spectacular tree in that park. It is truly an elegant green space. Even though there is a constant flow of traffic around it, the mature trees and their shady spaces provide an instant sense of refreshment and comfort. During Covid the library shut down, but underwent a full renovation. It was built in 1959, and, as you can imagine (2)reeked of the details of that era: orange/ brown carpets, yellowish countertops, and very boxy architecture. Now it is uptodate and bright, with a natural, modern palette, a wall of white windows, and an impressive choice of books to read and listen to. They offer book, film, and chess clubs, workshops of all different kinds, and of course kids programs. If any of my friends ever complain about taxes, I say to them, "Go to the library! You helped to pay for it!" I shudder to think how much the renovation cost, (3)judging by my brief experience with renovating. But having said that, this building is here to stay, and is certainly used by many patrons. I'll never forget the first book that inspired me to be a life-long reader: The Rats by James Herbert. I was twelve at the time when a friend of mine recommended it. I got it from the local library which had a series of his books. Horror, for some reason, was the genre that appealed to me at that age. I couldn't put the book down, and when I finished it, I immediately went back to the library and got another: The Fog. So, I have a soft spot for libraries; I think they are indispensible for a community. You never know who might try out the library, read a book, and because of it, set off on a direction of inspiration or adventure. To overlook has two meanings. One is to physically look over or upon something. The second meaning is to ignore or forget about something or someone. a. Their apartment overlooks the lake. They sit there in the evening watching the yachts come and go. b. I usually overlook his rudeness, but I couldn't yesterday. His behavior was too much! 2. To reek also has a basic meaning and an idiomatic one. The first is to smell awful. The second is to give a definite, strong impression of something. a. The old garbage reeked. It should have been taken out a long time ago! b. Her attitude reeked of arrogance. She thought she knew better than everyone else. 3. Judging by + noun is another way of saying, "According to my experience/ knowledge." a. Judging by our past experience with this airline, the flight should be fine. b. Judging by his comments, he will probably lose his job sooner than he thinks.


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Things Are Looking Up.

I thought I would start this podcast with a cheery English idiomatic phrase: (1)Things are looking up. This, (2)as you can probably imagine, means that the general situation at the moment is looking positive, or better than it has been. I've been looking up a lot recently, partly because of the new, green leaves on the trees, the very blue sky, and also partly because of my ceiling. I should actually say, "My lack of ceiling." Some of you know that I have spent the last year doing a total remodel of my condominium. Everything was stripped down to the bare wooden frame. It is a different story now. The vast majority of (3)the work is behind me; my mother and I have moved in, and I am involved in the finishing touches. One of my ideas for the remodel was to remove the ceiling of my kitchenette/ dining area so the roof and its beams would be exposed, to give a sense of height and space. I thought that it would be quite simple. Well, it isn't. If there is no ceiling, then the roof must be insulated, and to do that you need an approved plan of action from the city, or a permit, and a special kind of insulation. As the wooden beams that hold up the roof, or rafters as they are called, are skinny 1970's beams that only measure 2"x4" in width and depth, it is difficult to find any insulation at all that will fit. I did some research and ended up with a special spray foam. More complications: it is toxic for 24 hours, so we had to move in with a friend for 2 nights, and I had to make sure that the cats and our house plants were either in the garage or outside. But, it is finished. I won't freeze in the winter or be cooked in the summer, and the foam doesn't look bad. It has the appearance of concrete, actually. Once I paint it and hang up some cafe style lights amoung the beams, it should give me and my guests better reasons to regularly look up. Grammar points: 1. Things are looking up. A positive perspective on the general situation at present because of some improvement. I just got my first check from my new job, so things are looking up. They took the cast off of Peter's leg and now he is in therapy, so things are looking up. 2. As you can probably imagine. A wonderful phrase that screams of English fluency. Add it where you can, especially when you are recounting a situation. We organized the whole wedding and reception, so as you can imagine, we are exhausted! They just found out that they will be grandparents. They are very excited, as you can imagine. 3. The work is behind me (or another person or persons). The job or task is finished. It implies relief! He just graduated from medical school, so for a little while, the work is behind him. He retired from a busy construction company and now golfs every day. You could definitely say that the work is behind him.


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For many months, I have been involved in a renovation project that has extended into at least six months. Thankfully it is almost complete. The original plan was that my mother would move into a refreshed and updated downstairs area, and I would have the upstairs. This is still the plan; however, we have had to proceed in two different stages. My mum has moved in already, but my area upstairs is still quite bare and rudimentary. And by that, I mean exposed plumbing, no carpet, and a fully exposed roof! You would have to be desperate to live in my apartment at the moment, as you can hardly*(1) call it an apartment at all. Thankfully, I have a carpenter who is much more than his job description; he can do just about anything when it comes to constructing a house. He is from Venezuela, so I enjoy speaking Spanish to him. He is very accomodating and diplomatic as well. I seem to keep changing my mind and adding new ideas, and he simply smiles, clarifies what I would like, then nods his head and says, "Esta bien Anna." Very charming. But, gosh, there are a thousand things to think about, double-check, and schedule. Some days other workmen turn up late, or not at all, an ordered part might be delayed, or something breaks. You have to learn to manage your stress when you are up to your neck*(2) in 'stuff'! It reminds me of a man I used to know who was a general contractor, a man who organizes all of the different workmen on a jobsite. I asked him once what he did all day, and he replied, "I spend the whole day yelling at people." I wouldn't be cut out for that! So, as you can imagine, I make a trip every day up to my house, visit my mum and have a cup of tea, and then get on with the project upstairs. The days are flying by, and I so look forward to the move in date! Finally, I will be in my newly renovated, little sanctuary. 1. 'Hardly' is an adverb that means 'barely,' or 'almost not.' It is so useful, and definitely a daily use word. It is often used with 'ever.' Ex 1. He hardly ever reads the newspaper, so he doesn't know what is going on. 2. It was raining so hard while I was driving that I could hardly see. Something important to remember about hardly is that it is used to denote frequency or degree. It doesnot denote intensity. So, you could not use it in the following sentences: He tried hardly to finish his homework. You MUST use 'hard' because we are talking about the intensity of his 'trying'. Therefore we say: He tried hard to finish his homework. One way to remember this is that 'hardly' means very little, whereas 'hard' means a lot. Another example: He focused hardly through the binoculars. This also is WRONG. You should say: He focused hard through the binoculars. 2. 'Up to your neck' is used with the verb 'to be', and it means that you are extremely busy, stressed, or preoccupied in some way. Ex 1: I am up to my neck in bills this week. I have to make sure I pay them. 2. She seems to be up to her neck in problems; I hope she resolves them soon.


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Ten Thousand Dahlias.

"I had no idea that there are so many!" I said to the lady in the garden who was busy cutting off dry flower heads. "Oh yes!" she said excitedly. "There are at least 10,000 kinds of dahlias now, and new varieties are found each year," her wide eyes showed her enthusiasm. I had walked past the rows of dahlias earlier as I had hurried into the clinic without paying much attention. However, when I was walking back to my car, checking my phone messages, the kaleidoscope of colors caught my eye. I had to have a look. The look was more like a long, satisfying gaze. I walked slowly up and down each aisle, shaking my head in wonderment at how many varieties of the same flower were all in one place. And such unexpected petal shapes! Some flower heads were like huge dinner plates in size and full of frilly, rolled up petals. Others had the quintessential daisy look: seven or nine oval petals, but painted masterfully with colors blending into eachother. The pistils, or centers, were like bright alien landscapes with odd forms decorating the stigma bumps. The lady, who was a member of the North Central Washington Dahlia society, informed me that dahlias originated in Mexico, where there was one variety. Adaptations have developed, as they always do in plant life, through reproduction and genetic variety. It seems endless. In fact, it is! Like the saying in English goes: "God laughs in flowers." Plant life, and flowers in particular, are a painter's eternal canvas. "The bees must be happy," I thought to myself as I got in my car, "to suddenly find, in the middle of town, a paradise of pollen." And they certainly were happy, busy at least, their little bodies climbing all over the flower heads, hundreds of them. What a treat, to come out of work, and to be able to walk through a well manicured garden, brimming with beautiful flowers. Hat's off to the NCW Dahlia Society.


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Renovation mess!

Shocking isn't it? If you can see this photo, I'm sure you will be thinking, "What a mess! What has Anna been up to?" It's renovation time, people. Everything is becoming new! Well, I have quite a long way to go, actually. My two bedroom condo is being transformed into a four bedroom one. Now how could I do that with a little condominium, you might ask? My answer is: "With the help of an architect, an engineer, and some very skilled builders, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters." Honestly, there are some very talented people involved in this relatively little project. When I say relatively, I am talking about the overall size of the place. With the help of some friends, I have managed to strip the place down to its bare bones: no sheet rock, just the wood that is holding up the roof! It has been a fun but dusty, messy time of smashing and crashing, and then throwing everything into the back patio. Thankfully, most of the demolition is over. Now comes the reshaping of the place. My plan is that, as my mother is just about eighty and has macular degeneration, it is best for her to not use the stairs. Therefore, the room that was previously used as a small dining room and office, will now be her bedroom. A clever extension has been added to the space under the stairs, and that will be her shower. Everything is being updated, and the kitchen will be the crowning glory, with new appliances, paint, flooring, and a special treatment for the ceiling. I'm expecting some excellent meals for all my efforts! The upstairs will be stage 2: my apartment. The stairwell had a very large, decorative hole in it, so anyone upstairs could look down to the first floor. This wasted space will be filled in to become floor space. The two bathrooms up there will be shrunk and moved away from the central space, and so, voila, a large third room will be available. The framers are working on that right now actually. So, this will be the home I share with my mum when its all finished. I'll have lots more details to tell you soon!


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A Winter Return.

As I looked out of the kitchen window this morning, I was shocked but partly pleased to see a sheet of ice on the entryway to the back door. I say 'shocked' because the rain and warmer temperatures of last night were supposed to have melted the existing heavy snow and ice. The reason I was pleased, though it sounds silly, was that the ice was quite beautiful. It formed a quintessential, frosty, crystal pattern across the ground. My hope is that that beauty will soon melt away so I don't have to worry about slipping on the way to work! You have probably heard the news about the arctic blast the US has received recently. Even places like Florida and Texas have been hit. So what happened this year to make the usual winter weather so much worse? Apparently, frigid air from the North, the Arctic, expanded and moved southward because of air currents. It's what is called a Polar Vortex that has spread. I can only imagine what some people are having to deal with at the moment. I am very fortunate to have a cosy, decent rental that is close to work, and best of all, has an open fire. I can curl up in front of it with my two cats and be very thankful indeed! Of course, the conditions limit our activities. Even though I ski when I can, I am not half as active as I normally am. This gives a person time to do projects indoors. And so, here I am, back to podcasting, and, you know, it feels really good. At a time when many creatures go into hibernation, I'm coming out of mine! I have always found winter to be a magical time. There's the drastic change from autumn to winter, the otherworldly reality of snow, and a high spiritual vibe this time of year. The photo in this podcast is of a winter scene that my son Hudson 3-D printed. I was so thrilled with it, that I asked him for 10 of them for my friends. It is one of the most beautifully delicate snowy scenes I have come across. And, inspite of the chaos outside, it reminds me of the story-filled inspirations of winter that I have had since my childhood.


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An Inspiring Day Out.

A week ago I went on a drive to explore an area of Eastern Washington that I'm not familiar with at all. It was the rolling countryside north of where I live, near the little town of Manson. The geography here is dry like Wenatchee, but lower, wider, and full of rolling hills. These stretch miles into the distance towards the East. It seems like a very rural, mainly uninhabited area, but actually, as you explore, you quickly realize that there are houses even in the most remote looking areas, little pockets of human life here and there. I think that they type of people who live in these areas are either retired, work remotely from home, or really need the peace and energy that the quiet countryside can give. Driving up a lonely, winding road, suddenly there was a flash of color above that passed over the car. Of all things it was a peacock. What on earth was it doing in this remote area. It seemed really out of place. It flew from one side of the road to the hill on the other, joining about eight others that were already there, enjoying the sun. Their colors were brilliant. And yes, even though they seem more suited to palace gardens, they were totally comfortable in that terrain. They are, after all, very much like pheasants, just much more beautiful. Someone nearby must have bred them. I could only see one female; of course she wasn't as spectacular to look at as the males. Her plumage was much more like the grass and rocks of her surroundings. These little day trips always seem to bring surprises, even in remote areas, there is always something that will prove to be unexpected.


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The New York City Marathon.

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.


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A Lunch Break.

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.


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A vaccination for teachers.

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.


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Frost and flowers.

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.


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Unending colors.

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.


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Saddle rock.

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.


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Nurse's Assistant Clinicals.

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.


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Washington State Bird.

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.


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Assistant Nurse's Training.

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!


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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...


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A Dog Day.

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?


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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?


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A Dogwood Trail.

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.