Thursday, 5 December 2013

Something that you need to know about Santa Claus…

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and simply "Santa", is a fantasy figure with legendary, mythical, historical and folkloric origins who, in many western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on the night before Christmas, December 24.

In the United States and Canada, children traditionally leave Santa a glass of milk and a plate of cookies; in Britain and Australia, he is sometimes given sherry or beer, and mince pies instead. In Sweden and Norway, children leave rice porridge. In Ireland it is popular to give him Guinness or milk, along with Christmas pudding or mince pies.

During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, the figure of Santa Claus may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney is shared by many European seasonal gift-givers. In pre-Christian Norse tradition, Odin would often enter through chimneys and fireholes on the solstice.

In Hungary, St. Nicolaus comes on the night of December 5 and children get their gifts the next morning. They get sweets in a bag if they were good, and a golden colored birch switch if not.

On Christmas Eve "Little Jesus" himself comes and gives gifts for everyone…

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Halloween meals

Fun-sized treats have their place, but why not go beyond the candy corn this year with a sweet or savory recipe that won't scare you away?

Apple bites

These toothsome treats are a fun and healthy break from Halloween sweets.

What you'll need

·         Apples
·         Slivered almonds

(If you're not going to serve them right away, baste the apples with orange juice to keep them from browning.)

How to make it

1.  Just quarter and core an apple, cut a wedge from the skin side of each quarter, then press slivered almonds in place for teeth.

Pizza Mummies

Disguises aren't just for Halloween. Surprise your family with these dressed-up, spooky-looking snacks any time of year.

What you'll need

·         English muffins
·         Pizza sauce
·         Black olives
·         Scallions
·         Red or green pepper
·         Cheese sticks or slices

How to make it

1. Heat the oven to 180º C. For each mummy, spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce onto half of an English muffin (toast it first, if you like). Set olive slices in place for eyes and add round slices of green onion or bits of red or green pepper for pupils.

2. Lay strips of cheese across the muffin for the mummy's wrappings.

3. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the muffin is toasty.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Wirksworth is one of the oldest towns of the Peak District (Derbyshire, England), and is still one with a great character.

Centred around its marketplace, where markets have been held since Edward I granted the right in 1306, it has many fine old buildings with picturesque alleys and craftsmen's yards. The reason for the splendour of many of the buildings is Wirksworth's historical trade - it was the southern centre of the Derbyshire lead industry and the Soke and Wapentake of Wirksworth, as it was called, was one of the most productive mining areas.

The town prospered through Mediaeval times, giving rise to a fine 13th century church which replaced a Norman one which in turn had replaced a Saxon church.

The town was for many years under the influence of the Gell family who were lords of the manor and based at nearby Hopton Hall. Sir Anthony Gell founded the local school in 1546 and Sir John Gell was a Parliamentary general in the Civil War.

The town is now a small bustling local centre whose main industry is limestone quarrying. It has a range of small shops and as many pubs as you would expect in an old market town, of which the Hope and Anchor, the Red Lion and the Black's Head are the most notable. 

The town has a welldressing in Whit week, and every September there occurs the unusual ceremony of 'Clypping', in which the church is encircled by the congregation holding hands around it.

Wirksworth has also recently developed an excellent Arts Festival, which happens over a weekend in September. The Festival includes all forms of Art, with the market Square the centre for music, dance and street acts while many of the houses around the village play hosts to many different forms of artistic expression.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Windmill Farm - 5-star holiday cottages in the English countryside

Situated on the fringes of the Peak District, Weathericks self-catering holiday cottages offer premium accommodation surrounded by stunning scenery and historic market towns. Whether you are looking for a relaxing break or a luxury base to explore the Peaks, the crofts provide a unique and comfortable setting.

The larger of the two cottages, Bradstones was once a barn used to house cattle. Renovation has transformed the steading into a luxurious and spacious cottage whilst retaining its character.

The stable door opens into a large, open-plan kitchen complete with a dining table and chairs. The kitchen is fitted with hand-made pine units and all the appliances needed to make you feel right at home. The large wooden dining table allows easy access around the kitchen.

Into the sitting room, you are greeted by two large sofas, a coffee table and a large stone fireplace, cast iron fire with a gas coal effect stove. The beamed roof and flag stoned wall and stairway maintain the history of the building and a set of large doors lead into a small furnished patio.

The traditionally decorated stairway (take care when going up and down) leads to a bright landing off which are the bedrooms and bathroom.

In the smaller cottage, Weathericks, you'll find a full range of appliances and plenty of storage space. The kitchen holds a large dining table that sits six. The beamed ceiling retains the character and history of this old barn at no cost to the luxury.

The sitting room's main feature is the gritstone fireplace with a gas coal effect log burning stove. The large sofa offers beautiful views out the patio doors towards Carsington Water reservoir. The patio is furnished with a table and chairs and leads into the shared lawn area…

„Jean! We loved it... Roses, wine, wildflower meadow, our own peacock and its love affair with the pleasant, and dinner outside under the moon; you didn't forget a thing! We could live here forever. You've done an amazing job with these two cottages - thank you so much!”
Joe Hall and Sue Branch, Massachusetts, USA - May '12

Our language school regularly organizes intensive language courses with native teachers to Weathericks and Bradstones cottages. 
But if you just want to spend some time in the English countryside with your family, Jean Hurdle, our host would also welcome you to her farm. 
You can find more information about it on the following website:

From November, 2013, a low-cost airline, Jet2 flies from Budapest to East Midlands airport which is just a stone's throw from the cottages.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Those famous Irish falls…

For some places, a certain time of the year beckons visitors. Like Paris in April. But if you want to visit Ireland, go in autumn.
There is a scent in the air particularly Irish.  Special, unhurried, and mixed with the warmth of a peat fire.
The Irish pubs that are filled with music take on a different feel, softer and more textured.  And, the roads to those pubs often belong to you when autumn comes takes over nature’s gate.

Autumn’s Ireland is lush and green and cool. It rains, but mostly intermittent showers.
Touring the southern and western coasts of the Irish Republic is especially wonderful in the fall.
The weather changes roll in off the coast as you pass through picturesque villages like Dunmore East and Ardmore on your way west toward the Ring of Kerry.

While that ring attracts most tourists, the nearby Ring of Beara is equally lovely. Allow at least a day to explore the large druid stone circle on the way to Gleninchaquin, a private park that allows visitors to hike over the huge falls there. It’s worth the muscle strain; the view from up top is breathtaking.

On the Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry) to the north, the fishing village of Port Magee is a picturesque place to stop and gaze eight miles out to sea at Skellig Michael, a rocky pinnacle once inhabited by sixth-century monks. If the weather cooperates, you can take a boat there and climb the steep, hand-carved steps the monks once trod.

Go inland to enjoy the thatched cottages in the village of Adare southwest of Limerick. Then go north and east, stopping for Dysert O’Dea Castle on your way to the Cliffs of Moher.

You won’t really experience the northwest of Ireland if you don’t visit Donegal Town. There the people are friendly, the pubs are lively and there’s great shopping, too. Wander down side streets to find genuine, old-fashioned Irish pubs if you want to talk to folks not in the tourist industry. It’s not glamorous, but it’s real Ireland.

The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary is a huge medieval castle set high on a hill and once was the fabled power base of Munster kings. Inside, many ancient carvings remain in wonderful condition. At its foot crouches Hore Abbey, which visitors reach through a farmer’s field.

Consider experiencing Autumn in Ireland. Consider the air, the festivals, the time to be at peace and the time to be part of it all.  Visiting Ireland in the autumn is a natural combination.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Business English: Idioms II.

(to) keep one's eye on the prize
to stay focused on the end result; to not let small problems get in the way of good results
Example: I know it's difficult going to class after work, but just keep your eye on the prize. At the end of next year, you'll have your MBA.

(to) keep something under wraps
to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan
Example: I'm sorry I can't tell you anything about the project I'm working on. My boss told me to keep it under wraps.
Note: "Wraps" are things that provide cover, so if something is "under wraps" it's covered up and hidden.

mum's the word
let's keep quiet about this; I agree not to tell anyone about this
Example: Please don't tell anybody about our new project. Remember: mum's the word!
Origin: The word "mum" comes from the murmur "mmmmm," the only sound you can make when your mouth is shut firmly. Try making other sounds besides "mmmmm" with your lips and mouth shut firmly, and you will see that it's impossible!

my gut tells me
I have a strong feeling that; my intuition tells me
Example: It's true that I don't know him well, but my gut tells me that James is the right person for the sales director position.
Note: The "gut" is both the intestines and stomach and also the innermost emotional response.

nothing ventured, nothing gained
If you don't try to do something, you'll never succeed.
Example: It's risky to spend so much money developing a new brand, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

on top of trends
modern; aware and responding to the latest tastes
Example: The Gap is on top of trends. They always have the latest styles in their stores.

(to) pass the buck
to shift the blame; to blame somebody else
Example: It's your fault. Don't try to pass the buck!
Origin: This expression comes from the world of poker. In the nineteenth century, a knife with a buckhorn handle (the "buck") was passed to the next dealer when it was his turn to give out the cards.

(to) plug (a product)
to promote a product; to talk positively about a product
Example: American Express often hires famous people to plug their credit cards. No wonder people pay attention to their ads!

(to) pull one's weight
to do one's share of the work
Example: Don't rely on others to get your job done. You need to pull your own weight.
Note: You will also hear the variation: to pull one's own weight.

(to) pull the plug
to put a stop to a project or initiative, usually because it's not going well; to stop something from moving forward; to discontinue
Example: After losing millions of dollars drilling for oil in Nebraska and finding nothing, the oil company finally pulled the plug on its exploration project.
Origin: This expression refers to removing a plug to make something stop working - when you pull the plug out of the wall, your appliance doesn't work. In the 19th century, when this term originated, the plug was for a toilet. To flush the toilet, you had to pull out a plug.

(to) put a stake in the ground
to take the first step; to make a big move to get something started; to make a commitment
Example: Our business in California has grown steadily over the past two years. Now is the time to put a stake in the ground and open a regional office there.

(to) rally the troops
to motivate others; to get other people excited about doing something; to do something to improve the morale of the employees and get them energized about doing their work
Example: After the lay-offs and salary cuts, the airline president organized a meeting torally the troops and plan for the next year.
Note: The verb "to rally" has several definitions, but in this case means to "call together for a common goal or purpose." Troops is an informal way of describing a group of employees. The term comes from the military - a troop is a military unit.

reality check
let's think realistically about this situation (said when you don't like something that's being suggested because you don't think the other person is thinking practically or logically)
Example: You think we can start selling our products through our website next month? Time for a reality check! Nobody at our company knows anything about e-commerce.

(to) scale back one's hours
to reduce the number of hours one works
Example: When Christine had a baby, she decided to scale back her hours and just work part-time.
Synonym: to cut back one's hours

Shape up or ship out!
improve your behavior or leave; if you don't improve your performance, you're going to get fired
Example: Martin finally had enough of Todd's negative attitude. "Shape up or ship out!" he told Todd.
Origin: This expression was first used in the U.S. military during World War Two, meaning: you'd better follow regulations and behave yourself ("shape up"), or you're going to be sent overseas to a war zone ("ship out").

(to) step up to the plate
to take action; to do one's best; to volunteer
Example: We need somebody to be in charge of organizing the company holiday party. Who'd like to step up to the plate and start working on this project?
Note: This expression comes from baseball. You step up to the plate (a plastic mat on the ground) when it's your turn to hit the ball.

(to) throw cold water over (an idea, a plan)
to present reasons why something will not work; to discourage
Example: Pat presented her boss with a plan to expand their business into China, but he threw cold water over her plan and told her to just focus on developing business in the United States.

though the roof
very high; higher than expected
Example: No wonder people are complaining about the cost of heating their homes. Oil prices have gone through the roof!

(to) turn around one's business
to make a business profitable again; to go from not making profits to being profitable again
Example: The telecom company was able to turn around its business by developing a popular new line of services.

(to) work down to the wire
to work until the last minute; to work until just before the deadline
Example: The investment bankers need to turn in their report at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, and they've still got many hours of work left on it. They're going to be working down to the wire.
Note: This expression comes from horse racing. In the 19th century, American racetracks placed wire across the track above the finish line. The wire helped determine which horse's nose crossed the line first. If a race was "down to the wire," it was a very close race, undecided until the very last second.

(to) work out the (or some) kinks
to solve the problems with
Example: The company announced that they will delay the launch of their new product by two weeks. They still need to work out the kinks with their packaging process.
Note: A "kink" is a problem or flaw in a system or plan.

yes man
an employee who always agrees with the boss or does whatever the boss says
Example: Don't expect Larry to argue with the boss. He's a yes man.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Business English: Idioms

For better or worse, the American workplace is full of idioms. People don’t begin a project. They “get a project off the ground.”They don’t call each other to discuss progress – they “touch base.” Later, if the project is not going well, they don’t end it. They “pull the plug.” Here are some idioms you're likely to encounter in the workplace.

at a premium
at a high price; at a relatively high price
Example: When flat-screen televisions first came out, they were selling at a premium.

back-of-the-envelope calculations
quick calculations; estimates using approximate numbers, instead of exact numbers
Example: I don't need the exact numbers right now. Just give me some back-of-the-envelope calculations.
Note: This expression refers to the quick calculations one would do informally, as on the back of an envelope.

reduction of expenses
Example: When worldwide demand for software decreased, Microsoft had to do some belt-tightening.

(to) bite the bullet
to make a difficult or painful decision; to take a difficult step
Example: When demand was down, U.S. automakers had to bite the bullet and cut jobs.
Origin: This idiom comes from the military. During the Civil War in the United States, doctors sometimes ran out of whiskey for killing the pain. A bullet would be put in the wounded soldier's mouth during surgery. He would "bite the bullet" to distract him from the pain and keep him quiet so the doctor could do his work in peace.

bitter pill to swallow
bad news; something unpleasant to accept
Example: After Gina spent her whole summer working as an intern for American Express, failing to get a full-time job offer from the company was a bitter pill to swallow.

a big success; a huge hit
Example: Eli Lilly made a lot of money with the prescription drug, Prozac. It was a real blockbuster.
Origin: This term comes from the blockbuster bombs used during World War Two by the British Royal Air Force. They were huge and created a large explosive force. Blockbuster ideas similarly create a big impact - and hopefully don't cause destruction like blockbuster bombs!

cash cow
a product, service, or business division that generates a lot of cash for the company, without requiring much investment
Example: With strong sales every year and a great brand name, Mercedes is a cash cow for Daimler Chrysler.

(to) cash in on
to make money on; to benefit financially from
Example: Jamie Oliver, star of the TV show The Naked Chef, cashed in on his popularity by writing cookbooks and opening restaurants.

(to) climb the corporate ladder
advance in one's career; the process of getting promoted and making it to senior management
Example: You want to climb the corporate ladder? It helps to be productive and to look good in front of your boss.

(to) compare apples to oranges
to compare two unlike things; to make an invalid comparison
Example: Comparing a night at Econo Lodge with a night at the Four Seasons is like comparing apples to oranges. One is a budget motel, and the other is a luxury hotel.
Note: You will also see the related expression "compare apples to apples" which means to compare two things of the same type. This means that you are making a valid comparison, as opposed to when you're comparing apples to oranges.

crunch time
a short period when there's high pressure to achieve a result
Example: It's crunch time for stem cell researchers in Korea. New government regulations may soon make their work illegal.

dog-eat-dog world
a cruel and aggressive world in which people just look out for themselves
Example: Your company fired you shortly after you had a heart attack? Well, it's certainly a dog-eat-dog world!
Origin: This expression dates back to the 1500's. Wild dogs were observed fighting aggressively over a piece of food. The connection was made that people, like dogs, often compete aggressively to get what they want.

(to) dot your i's and cross your t's
to be very careful; to pay attention to details
Example: When preparing financial statements, accuracy is very important. Be sure to dot your i's and cross your t's.

(to) drum up business
to create business; to find new customers
Example: Sales have been very slow lately. Do you have any ideas for drumming up business?

(to) face the music
to admit that there's a problem; to deal with an unpleasant situation realistically
Example: Enron executives finally had to face the music and admit that they were involved in some illegal activities.

(to) fast track a project
to make a project a high priority; to speed up the time frame of a project
Example: Let's fast track this project. We've heard rumors that our competitors are developing similar products.

(to) generate lots of buzz
to cause many people to start talking about a product or service, usually in a positive way that increases sales
Example: Procter & Gamble generated lots of buzz for its new toothpaste by giving away free samples to people on the streets of New York City.
Note: "Buzz" is a popular word for "attention."

(to) have a lot on one's plate
to have a lot to do; to have too much to do; to have too much to cope with
Example: Carlos turned down the project, explaining that he already had a lot on his plate.
Note: There is also the variation: to have too much on one's plate.

(the) hard sell
an aggressive way of selling
Example: Car salesmen are famous for using the hard sell on their customers.
Note: The opposite of "the hard sell" is "the soft sell," which is a sales technique using little or no pressure.

(to) jump the gun
to start doing something too soon or ahead of everybody else
Example: The company jumped the gun by releasing a new product before the results of the consumer testing were in.
Origin: A runner "jumps the gun" if he or she starts running before the starter's pistol has been fired.

(to) jump through hoops
to go through a lot of difficult work for something; to face many bureaucratic obstacles
Example: We had to jump through hoops to get our visas to Russia, but we finally got them.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Time for tasting!

Wine tasting is the sensory examination and evaluation of wine. Wines can contain many fruits, vegetables, and spices. The sweetness of wine is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation, relative to the acidity present in the wine. Dry wine, for example, has only a small amount of residual sugar.

Some wine labels suggest opening the bottle and letting the wine "breathe" for a couple of hours before serving, while others recommend drinking it immediately. Decanting (the act of pouring a wine into a special container just for breathing) is a controversial subject among wine enthusiasts.

A younger wine's exposure to air often "relaxes" the drink, making it smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Older wines generally "fade" (lose their character and flavor intensity) with extended aeration.
Despite these general rules, breathing does not necessarily benefit all wines. Wine may be tasted as soon as the bottle is opened to determine how long it should be aerated, if at all.

When tasting wine, individual flavors may also be detected, due to the complex mix of organic molecules that grape juice and wine can contain.

 Experienced tasters can distinguish between flavors characteristic of a specific grape and flavors that result from other factors in winemaking. Typical intentional flavor elements in wine - chocolate, vanilla, or coffee - are those imparted by aging in oak casks rather than the grape itself.

The ideal temperature for serving a particular wine is a matter of debate, but some broad guidelines have emerged that will generally enhance the experience of tasting certain common wines.

A white wine should foster a sense of coolness, achieved by serving at "cellar temperature" (13°C). Light red wines drunk young should also be brought to the table at this temperature, where they will quickly rise a few degrees. Red wines are generally perceived best when served chambré ("at room temperature").

„Three bowls do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first, the second to love and pleasure, the third to sleep. When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar, the sixth to drunken revel, the seventh to black eyes, the eighth is the policeman's, the ninth belong to biliousness, and the tenth to madness and hurling the furniture.”