We All Fall Down


A pocket full of posies;

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

Shoot! They’re dropping dead so quickly, one after another, those icons of my youth, it’s scary and ever so depressing. In loving memory of Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima, here goes a Cloze for NA2 students.




10.07.07. Advanced, Cloze Tests, Films, Force-Feeding, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

4-Bean Chili


24 oz Bean Appétit Chili Mix

8 cups water for cooking

1 lb ground beef, turkey or chicken

1 ½ cups onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup green, sweet pepper

4 cups canned tomatoes

1 8-oz can tomato sauce

2 tbsp chili powder or to taste

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp sugar


Sort and rinse bean mix. Soak beans overnight in refrigerator. Or, quick soak by bringing beans to boil in water. Immediately remove from heat and leave covered for 30 minutes prior to use. Drain. Cook beans. Brown ground meat. Sauté onions, garlic, and green pepper. Combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer on low approximately ½ hour. Makes 12 1-cup servings.

The Bean Appétit Chili Mix is a mixture of kidney beans, navy beans, cranberry beans and black beans, packaged by Carlson-Arbogast Farm, in Howard City, Michigan.  I added, as I usually do, 1 tbsp of baking soda to the beans and let them soak in water overnight.  I didn’t brown the ground meat, I used leftover roast chicken instead.

The painting that illustrates this post is by Caroline Magert and its title is Kitchen Floor. Those of us who enjoy the company of cats know how true to life this picture is. I love it.

10.07.07. Advanced, Art Forlorn, Recipes, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

Trail Mix Cookies


½ cup (organic) salted butter at room temperature

6 tbsp. peanut butter

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 large (organic) egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. wheat germ

¼ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup granola

½ cup lightly toasted pecans

½ cup raisins

½ cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375⁰ F (190.556⁰ C). Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla and wheat germ. Reduce speed and add baking soda, salt and flour. Stir in granola, pecans and raisins, and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving room for cookies to spread. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until nicely browned.


36 cookies



10.07.07. Basic, Recipes, Shops, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

Bird Watching

If you enjoy bird watching, the best you can do is hang a bird feeder from a branch of a tree in your own backyard. Assuming you have a bird feeder, a tree and a backyard, naturally. I have a bird feeder, my neighbour has a tree, and my niece has a backyard. That’s why I can sometimes spot these birds below: the Northern Cardinal, the House Finch, and the Black-capped Chickadee. The pictures, I found on the Internet. I left my camera in Spain and hope to retrieve it the next time I visit—in a year or so, God willing. The exercise attached, I designed for NI1 students, but I’m sure some of you NB2 students will easily answer correctly as well.

Northern Cardinal

House Finch


Black-capped Chickadee



10.07.07. Force-Feeding, Intermediate, Multiple Choices, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

And a very merry Christmas to you all. Listen to Amy Winehouse sing Tommie Connor’s Christmas song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”.

Do the following matching exercise and check your answers.



Now sing along to this video clip.


10.07.07. Basic, Force-Feeding, Humour, Music, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

The Future of British Ballet

In this article by Dalya Alberge on the future of British ballet the highlighted words and phrases can be substituted for other, more accessible ones to Intermediate students.



10.07.07. Force-Feeding, Intermediate, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

On Teenagers

Bus Shelter in Birmingham. B. A. Pabón, MMVII.

One article, three exercises—exercises which have very little to do with the exam-type headings Advanced students are used to but are sure to boost your vocabulary and cultural input.



10.07.07. Advanced, Force-Feeding, Headings, Sentence Completion, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

What Harm a Cocktail of Boredom and Youth Can Do

Here are a couple of exercises for NB2 students. The first one’s a sentence completion exercise: you look at a picture and think of a word that could fit in the gap next to it, as in the example (0). Then, once you think you’ve come up with the words, you listen to the song and check your answers. For your information, a runaway is a person or animal that has run away, left his or its home, for whatever reason, never to go back. Soul Asylum’s song had a powerful effect on runaway kids in the States in the late nineties. After listening to the lyrics, many of them decided to go back where they belonged, to their families and homes—which is no small achievement for a rock and roll band.




 The second exercise is a True or False one: you have to decide whether the statements are one or the other after having read a teenager’s diary entry. It might be interesting if you got some background information before you do it, since most of you may know who Soul Asylum are, but some may not know its lead singer’s name—nor who’s Les Claypool, Vanna White or Jem.

Soul Asylum


Dave Pirner


Les Claypool


Vanna White




Bloom County




10.07.07. Basic, Force-Feeding, Gapped Texts, Lyrics, Music, True or False, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

Road Trip! Road Trip! Road Trip!

Students at an Intermediate and Upper-intermediate level have two exercises here. First do the vocabulary exercise, the one that’s called road_trip_words_or_phrases, and then do the reading comprehension one, road_trip.





10.07.07. Force-Feeding, Multiple Choices, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

Sukey Tawdry: An Etymology

Sukey is a pet name for Susan, ‘lily’ in Hebrew. I first heard of it as a child, through a popular nursery rhyme from the Mother Goose collection. It seems Sukey lived in 1797, and had two brothers and two sisters. When the girls wanted to play without their brothers, Polly would pretend to set the table for a tea party. No sooner did the boys see that their sisters  were about to play house, than they’d run for their dear lives. Then Sukey would remove the toy tea set and the girls would be able to play at ease, which means at anything but soldiers. If you’d like to listen to the song, click the site below. (Warning: In all cartoons of this nursery rhyme, Polly and, especially, Sukey couldn’t be uglier. It’s just because Sukey looks good in Japanese togs that I chose this version above all others. But why Japanese? It’s Sukey, not Saki.)

The origin of Sukey’s surname is a bit more complicated, and we have to go all the way back to the seventh century.

Saint Etheldreda (*Exning, Suffolk, c. AD 636; †Ely, Cambridgeshire, AD 679), a.k.a. Æthelthryth, Ethelthrith, Etheldred and Audrey,  was an English princess, daughter of Anna, King of East Anglia, of the family of the Uffingas, descendants of the Norse God, Odin, by his wife Saewara.

In AD 655, after three years of marriage to Tondbert, ruler of South Gyrwe, an East Anglian subkingdom marked by strips of fen, she became a widow, and retired to a remote district in the south, known then as Elge and now as the Isle of Ely (pronounced [i:li], a reference to the eels caught for food in the River Great Ouse), that her late husband had given her as part of the marriage settlement.

In AD 660, after five years devoted to religious meditation at her personal estate in Ely, she was forced to marry fourteen-year-old Prince Egfrith, son of Oswy, King of Northumbria, for reasons of state. Her first marriage was never consummated since she had vowed to remain a virgin with Tondbert’s consent, but her second husband, ten years her junior, was not as amenable as her first one. As soon as he succeeded his father as King of Northumbria in AD 670 at the age of twenty-four, he made advances on Etheldreda that she persistently refused. Tired of being rejected, Egfrith resorted to bribing (Saint) Wilfrid, bishop of York, Etheldreda’s friend and adviser, to release his wife from her vow of chastity. The bishop refused and helped his protégée escape to the monastery of Coldingham, in Berwickshire, on Scotland’s southeast coastline, where she took the veil as a nun.

Egfrith found life intolerable without Etheldreda, and determined to bring her back to his kingdom. When Egfrith’s aunt, Saint Aebbe the Elder, abbess of Coldingham, found out what her nephew had in mind, she advised Etheldreda to leave the abbey in the guise of a beggar. Attended by two nuns, Saints Saewara and Sewenna, she fled to her lands in Ely, where she finally settled and founded an abbey in AD 673.

From then on she led an ascetic life until her death at forty-three on 23 June 679, presumably during an epidemic of bubonic plague. Etheldreda accepted the unsightly tumour on her neck as God’s punishment for her vanity in wearing necklaces when she was young. For this reason, Saint Etheldreda is the English patron saint of sufferers of throat complaints.

A festival known as Saint Audrey’s Fair was held in Ely on her feast day—the anniversary of her death—throughout the Middle Ages. Among the wares sold were some exceptionally tacky neckerchiefs (squares of cloth that are folded and worn around the neck), from where the word tawdry, a corruption of Saint Audrey, came to mean ‘cheap and gaudy in appearance and quality and/or lacking good taste.’

If you want to know more about Saint Etheldreda, you may start by visiting the following sites:





10.07.07. Advanced, Etymology, Vocabulary. Leave a comment.

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