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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Photography

Photography

These are some pictures I took with my new camera. It’s a Canon DSLR (650D, I think). I’m still getting used to it, but enjoying playing.

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Photography

 

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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 2

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 2

For today’s issue, I want to look at fresh herbs.

The best way to have fresh herbs is to grow them from scratch, but the easiest way is to buy them already grown. Today’s issue is about how to keep the herbs healthy while you eat them, rather than letting them slowly rot in your┬árefrigerator.

I’m going to start on the last herb I planted – parsley. I’ve used it all up so it’s time to plant a new lot. I purchased the plant from a supermarket and I already had a pot lying around. This is really about how you repot them so you can use them daily.

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Step one – empty the pot. ­čÖé

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Next, get some small rocks – I bought bonsai rocks, but any small rocks will do – and cover the bottom of the pot with them. This will give your plant great drainage and stop the roots from rotting.

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Put in enough soil to cover the rocks and a little more. Normal potting mix is fine, and of course you can use the soil I spoke about in the last issue of Terrace Plant Thursday. On top of the soil, place some slow release fertiliser. I use Osmocote (pictured) but anything similar is fine. Not too much, just follow the instructions on the package.

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The herbs you buy usually come in plastic “stock” pots that usually leave the plant root bound. Take the plant out of the plastic pot. You may see in the photo, I’ve laid down a plastic bag – this makes things so much easier to clean up afterwards.

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Separate the roots and get rid of some excess soil down there. It doesn’t matter if you rip some of the roots out – new ones will grow. We just want to give the plant some room to breathe and grow.

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Okay, this is the easy part. Get the plant and smoosh it into the pot. You won’t hurt it! Just get in in there! Push it down so it’s firmly in the pot. We’ll put some extra soil on top in the next photo….

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Top up the soil around the base of the plant to bring it level with the top of the pot. I specifically used the coffee/egg/tea mix I spoke about earlier (without as much soil). You can also put a thin layer of rocks on top if the plant is in a heavily sunny place – it helps to stop the water being evaporated from the soil.

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Once you’ve done that you’ll need to water the plant. The best way is to submerge it. That way the water seeps into the container, rather than watering it from the top which just washes all the soil away. Just put it in the sink and fill the sink up with water until it’s level with the top of the pot. Let it sit until the top of the soil looks wet. Then let it drain out.

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Place on the window sill with your other herbs and enjoy! The more you prune, the more they grow, so don’t be shy. If you use too much, just buy more and replant them! You can see the level of growth over the next couple of photos. Enjoy!!

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Posted by on July 18, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday

 

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Fat Laces (Tutorial)

Fat Laces (Tutorial)

So, back in the 80’s there was a bit of a trend around “fact laces”. Everyone wore fat laces in their Gazelles or Clydes. I love the old school look and find it really easy to slip shoes on and off when they’re done up properly…. and no tying of shoe laces. ­čÖé

I had to go through and teach my son how to lace his shoes, so I thought there might be other people out there who might want to know. Here’s the tutorial for how I put my fat laces in.

I will use my old beat up Gazelles to show how to do this. I had normal laces in there, so when I changed them over, I took some pictures. Here’s where you start…

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Next, obviously remove the old laces.

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Get one of the laces and insert one end through the eyelet as shown. I like to have the end on the inside of my foot, so the left foot starts on the right side, the right foot on the left.

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Once you’ve threaded it through, tie a knot in the end as tight as you can and as close to the tip as possible. This will stop the shoe lace coming out.

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Once you’ve tied the knot, pull the lace tight and tuck the end under the outer part of the shoe, but on top of the tongue.

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Next, thread the other end through the opposite hole, but leave heaps of play in the lace so we can tighten it later.

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Then thread the lace back through the next hole, so that the lace always comes UP on the right and DOWN on the left. (This will be mirrored on the other shoe). Then continue this, leaving heaps of room to play, all the way up the shoe.

 

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You’ll run out of shoe lace pretty quickly, but that’s okay. Once you come to the end of the lace, slip the shoe on to see how it will fit. You want to tighten it while it’s on, that way you know it will fit well when you’re finished.

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Once it’s on, tighten it up so that the laces are evenly stretched across the shoe – firm, but not taut.

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You will find that then there will be more lace left over so you can then take it all the way to the top. Personally, I have stopped one row down from the top as I wanted this pair to be more loose and able to be slipped on and off easily. For a tighter fit, go to the top row.

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Once you’re happy where the end will be, and it’s tight enough for you to walk around in comfortably, take the shoe off and place it back on your lap. You’ll need to secure the other end now.

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We’re going to tie a knot in the top the same way we did at the bottom, but to do that we’ll need to have enough lace to tie. To do this, firmly grab the spot where the knot will need to be (as close to the upper part of the shoe as possible)…

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…then pull the lace towards yourself. This will crunch the rest of the lace together (as above) and give you enough room to tie the knot.

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Once you’ve tied the knot, you can then pull the lace back to where it’s smooth again, but the knot will stop it from coming out. Then do the same with the other shoe, but in a mirror image of what we did above.

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When you’ve finished both shoes, try them on and walk around a bit. I usually do this for a day or two to let them settle in. There will be a bit of the lace poking out, but you can tuck that in. If the shoe is too loose, you can tie another knot closer to the shoe and it will tighten the whole lot up. If it’s too tight, loosen the laces from the bottom, stretching them slightly.

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Once you’re comfortable with how they feel, we need to get rid of the excess lace. Cut the excess lace off as close to the knot as you can, but make sure the knot is super tight as you don’t want it coming undone.

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Once you’ve cut the lace off, you’ll find that the knot will happily sit under the upper but on top of the tongue. It will look like you’ve magically got your laces to just hold the shoe together!

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There are places on ebay and such that sell fat laces. I’ve built up a stash over the years, but they are pretty easy to find. Happy lacing!

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Clothing

 

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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Welcome to the first edition of Terrace Plant Thursday!

Over the next few months (or as long as I have material), I’m dedicating Thursday blog posts to gardening tips. The gardening tips that I’ll be focusing on will revolve around stuff that you can do if you very little space. From a window sill to a balcony or terrace/courtyard, these tips will let you be able to do gardening without needing a garden to do it in. Of course if you have more room you can always just do more of it!

To start the whole thing off I want to talk about the soil that I use the whole way through this series, and in fact all the time. When you pot a plant, the soil is only one small part of the whole thing – you need fertiliser, water, the plant, etc. But, if the soil is nice and rich and the plant likes it, it really helps the growth.

This is the secret to my special soil mix.

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What you see above is the key ingredients – egg, coffee and tea. Sounds weird, right? It’s not only great for the soil and the plant, but also for the environment.

Egg

So everyone knows that eggs are high in protein and nutrients and that they help living things grow up to be big and strong. Plants are living things!

I came to a point where I got sick of throwing away so many egg shells and wondered if I could do something else with them. I researched a bit on the net and found that throwing them in the compost is great. However, I can’t have a compost bin because my flat has nowhere to put it.

Then I remembered that a friend of mine throws his egg shells into a pestle and grinds them up with a mortar to get them to almost a powdery state. I looked this up and apparently this is a great way for the egg shells to deposit their rich nutrients into the soil and into the growing plants.

You have to make sure that you rinse out all of the white yolk and skin from inside the shells and then leave them to dry before grinding them up, though. Otherwise you end up with a papery type of skin in there and it doesn’t crush.

Coffee

I love my coffee and I have a great coffee machine at home that makes great drip filter coffee. Again, I got sick of throwing out all of the coffee grinds and wondered if there was something else I could do with them.

I got really inspired by a bunch of guys in the US who are using spent coffee grinds to grow mushrooms and decided to dry my used grinds out and see how they go. (http://store.backtotheroots.com/MushroomKit_p/mushroom-kit.htm)

Because I don’t need that much for my plants, I just occasionally tip the filter contents onto some paper towel and leave it sit in the sun to dry out. Then when it’s dry, I put it into a container and save it for later.

In my experience, I found that mixing coffee into the soil makes for a great rich nutrient meal for plants. Seeds also love starting off in coffee – it’s easy to grow in, has nutrients and makes them shoot up really quickly!

Tea

Okay, pretty much the same story as the above, but I hate throwing out the tea bags. I just open up the tea bags (black tea, not herbal stuff) and lay the contents out to dry like I do with the coffee.

I haven’t really seen if this makes a huge difference, but it doesn’t seem to hurt and it’s recycling a tea bag here and there.

The Soil

So, once you have saved up a bunch of these ingredients (the coffee and egg will do, the tea is a bonus), put them into a bowl and mix it all up. I usually put in a tablespoon of coffee, a tablespoon of egg “powder” and a cup of soil. It seems to be a nice mix.

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In the spirit of keeping gardening cheap, I use the cheapest potting mix I can find. The extra stuff makes it great, but I really don’t think it matters too much what sort of soil you use. If you are potting seeds or bonsai, I would also suggest a tablespoon of sand, but it isn’t that necessary.

I will be using this soil mix for all of my planting and potting through this series, so I wanted to get this out there first.

Thanks for reading – next issue will be about how to make your herbs tastier.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday

 

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Home Gym

Home Gym

So I decided that most of the equipment I use at the gym I could just have at home. Weighing up the cost benefits and risk factors took a long time as well as working out the best equipment to buy.

I decided not to buy the best, but some cheap stuff and replace it with awesome stuff if I wear it out.

The two main pieces of Equipment I purchased was the power tower and the adjustable bench.

Here’s the power tower in pieces…

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And then assembled.

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I have a small alcove at the top of the stairs so I’m able to put my equipment there. I can use it pretty freely there.

I also purchased a bench in pieces…

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And then assembled it…

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So these two pieces are the main workout equipment. Here are some of the exercises I use them for.

Power Tower

  • Pull ups
  • Chin ups
  • Wide grip pull/chin ups
  • Hanging leg raises
  • Tricep dips

Bench + dumbbells

  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Tricep Dumbbell Kickback
  • Weighted Decline Crunch
  • Bent-Arm Dumbbell Pullover
  • Incline Dumbbell Curl
  • Decline Dumbbell Flyes
  • and many others

Overall, I’m really happy with what I have and glad I didn’t spend the money on the gym. I use them normally around 3 times a week – more if I feel the urge.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Home Gym

 

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Dukan Friendly Meaballs

Dukan Friendly Meaballs

This recipe was found and then perfected by my wife. She asked me to cook it one day and now I cook it all the time.

These meatballs are extremely compatible with the Dukan diet.

The idea behind these was to create a small healthy snack that could be eaten quickly and is high in protein. The meatballs can be kept in groups of 3 or 4 in individual containers. They microwave in about 1 minute and are a great snack.

Start with 500g of beef mince.

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Then add some tomato sauce. The tomato sauce we use is apparently the right one that you can use with Dukan. Put in maybe half a cup.

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Stir it all up really well. I find that a really good stir after each ingredient is added makes it turn out really well.

Next throw in 2 tablespoons of Oat Bran. This stuff is also Dukan friendly and is great for your digestion.

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Once you’ve stirred all that in, the next step is to add an egg. It’s just more protein, right?

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Once you’ve mixed all that up, the seasoning needs to go in. I usually mix all the dry ingredients before putting them in with the mince.

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Above you can see parsley, onion flakes and a vegetable stock powder called Vegata. If I have them available, I prefer to use fresh herbs instead of the dried parsley. Usually fresh parsley and chives.

Once that’s all been mixed in nicely, just roll the mixture into little balls and put in the frying pan.

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Depending on the size of the meatballs, you could get around 40 meatballs out of one mixture.

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I use my electric frying pan on number 4 (on’t know what that equates to, really) with the lid on. I spray a small amount of olive oil in the pan to stop sticking. I turn them over when they are brown on the bottom, and then take them out when they are brown on top and bottom.

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Once cooled, put them into little containers for snacks. They go really well with bbq and steak sauce and are great little snack. You could also add them from here straight into a Bolognese type sauce and serve with spaghetti.

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Recipe:

Mix:

500g Beef Mince

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 tblspns of Oatbran

1 egg

Parsely, Chives, vegetable stock, onion flakes (too taste)

Form: Into small balls and cook in a frying pan, turning when the bottom is brown.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Star Wars cushion

Star Wars cushion

Don’t you hate it when your favourite t-shirt gets too old/small/holey/etc ??

I decided that my Star Wars t-shirt could do with a second life, so I decided to make it into small pillow. I wanted a little pillow to rest my arm on when I’m using the computer at my desk. This was how I did it.

The (Imperial) symbol on the shirt is the prefect size for a little pillow, so I decided that’s how big it would be. I then went around the symbol (with the t-shirt inside out) with a row of pins to hold the material together.

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Here’s a close up. If you want to make a different shape, just think about the front of the t-shirt as the front of the cushion and pin it from there.

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Once you’ve pinned it around, you can cut it out of the t-shirt. This will make it a lot easier to sew.

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Once you’ve cut it out, it’s time to sew. Not rocket science, just run the sewing machine around near where the pins are. The only thing to really remember is that we need a space to put the filling in, so leave a decent gap.

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I just did a simple zig zag stitch – something strong over looks.

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Here’s the pillow now that has been turned inside-out. The symbol is now very visible and the hole left to put the filling in is obvious.

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I happened to have some left over wadding, so I used that. The rest of the t-shirt, plastic pellets, wadding – there are lots of things you can fill a pillow with.

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Once you’ve put the filling in, don’t be afraid to over fill it a bit – it will settle down as you use it. You can also see below that I have placed a pin in the filling hole getting ready to sew that up.

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Then the final sewing needs to be done to close up the filling. Don’t forget that you will see this piece of sewing, so be mindful.

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And this is how the finished product looks in situ. Works really well. ­čÖé

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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Sewing

 

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