Disney Baltic Cruise

I would like to explain what my family and I did each day as we enjoyed our family vacation aboard the Disney Magic;

Day 1; We arrived at the port in Copenhagen, Denmark around 1:00 pm, though you can board as early as 11am. Weave ourselves 3 hours to board (the ship sets sail at 4pm) so that we could explore Copenhagen before we left on our vacation. This day included us exploring the boat and signing up for kids clubs. One of the amazing things about Disney, is their kids clubs. They have rooms for different aged kids to go hang out in, participate in activities and make new friends. This gives parents a chance to have some time alone and know their children are safe and having fun. After exploring the boat, everyone came together at Deck 9 to set sail and have fun during "Mickey's Sailing Away Party." During this, everyone waves to the passengers staying in Copenhagen & dances along with Mickey & his friends on stage. Once this is over, we headed to the 6:30 pm theater show. Depending on the dinner time you request (6:00 pm or 8:30 pm) you will either watch the theater show at 6:30 pm or 8:30 pm, the opposite time that your eating dinner. I absolutely love the shows. Disney does an amazing job coming up with themes and special acts to entertain their audience.

Day 2 was a "Day at Sea", so that means we did not stop anywhere. We enjoyed our day watching Disney movies at Buena Vista Theater, participating in games at Vibe (a teen club), eating lunch at Cabanas (the buffet at deck 9), enjoying yet another theater show, & eating dinner at one of the three rotational dining restaurants (Lumiere's, Animators Palate, or Cariocas.) Depending on your room card, you will rotate between these three different yummy restaurants. This night included Formal Dinner. This means we were encouraged to dress fancy (like dresses & skirts or suits for men.) Day's at sea are, in my opinion, one of the best days on the boat. Disney provides their guests with the option of either Cabanas (the buffet on deck 9), Lumiere's (one of the 3 rotational dining restaurants), or one of the quick service restaurants on deck 9. The quick service restaurants include Daisy's Delights (a sandwich , salad, fruit, and cookie stand), Pete's Boiler Bites (a hamburger, hotdog, taco, etc … American fare type of stand), and Pinocchio's Pizza (a pizza stand.) Disney Magic does a fantastic job creating grade A food all day and making sure to cook the food in a fast manner, but keeping the flavor incredible. Now, the food is not the only reason I absolutely love day's at sea. Although food is a key factor, Disney also provides their guests with a news article every night, allowing them to see what activities are brewing for them the next day (you also have the option of using their Disney Cruise Line app to see the activities and menus for each day.) This activities sheet is always filled with karaoke, newly released movies, workout games, and more during the days at sea. Disney makes sure their guests always have something fun and new to do on the boat, knowing some might get bored not having anywhere to dock.

Day 3 we stopped in Tallinn, Estonia. We arrived and walked Tallinn Old Town, which gave us a real idea of ​​their culture. We also explored the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, The Estonian Maritime Museum (an old prison), and Fat Margarets Tower (a large building next to the ship.) Like most of you know, northern Europe has very sketchy weather. Knowing this, I packed a range of different clothes and layers. Tallinn stayed in the 60 degree F area during most of our visit, which was amazing. I wore leggings (lululemon), a tank top (lululemon), a long sweater (Madewell), and tennis shoes (New Balance.) My dad and brother were able to wear just shorts and at shirt, so it really depends on your tolerance for cool weather. I am a small girl, so the wind was a little chilly for me, explaining the long sweater.

Day 4 we stopped in St. Louis Petersburg, Russia. On this day, we decided to get a bus driver and a tour guide (Alla Tours.) Petersburg had multiple churches (Church of the Spilled Blood for example) and palaces (Catherine's Palace), so we needed someone to help us find our way around. I recommend finding yourself a tour guide you trust (like Alla Tours), because during our visit to Catherine's Palace (and a few other city monuments), the line wrapped around the building to get in, but our tour guide found a way to skip the line and sneak us in, in only 15 minutes. Like Tallinn, St. Petersburg's weather was very strange. The morning was chilly and forced me to wear a scarf (Madewell) and a thick jacket (Madewell), but later in the day the temperature got warmer (maybe 67 degrees F) which allowed me to wear just a light rain jacket (Spice) , because Petersburg did tend to sprinkle every so often. On this night, there was no theater show due to all aboard being at 11:30 pm. This means, you had the option of staying out in Russia till 11:30 pm or coming early and having dinner but no show.

Day 5 we stopped in Helsinki, Finland. This day was a bit shorter because all aboard was around 5pm. We decided to ride a carousel to see the town & take a boat ride to explore a small island with history about Finland (Suomenlinna.) We did not realize how large and historic Suomenlinna was, so we were unable to see all of its rich history . I recommend spending multiple hours here, if you decide to visit this location in Finland. This night included the Semi Formal Dinner. This means we had to dress up a little nicer than usual for our dinner, to take pictures. Disney does not require you to dress up any of the nights on cruise, but during these special nights, it is highly encouraged. I wore a mini skirt (Abercrombie & Fitch), a tank top (American Eagle), and sandals (Tory Burch.)

Day 6 we stopped in Stockholm, Sweden. This day was even shorter because all aboard was 3:30 pm. We decided to visit the Armory & the Royal Palace next to it. If you are traveling with any boys or men, I recommend visiting the Armory. It was very cool for my brother and dad to see all of the military armor, weaponry, and royal carriages. We also purchased tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus, but it was very busy and packed (due to all the ships docked in Stockholm that day), I would not recommend buying a ticket for this bus in this town. This night Disney included "Anna & Elsa's Frozen Deck Party", which meant we all went up on Deck 9 before dinner to watch the frozen characters dance and sing on stage. Disney also changed up their theater show on this night. Unlike their normal broadway style show, they provided us with a comedian show.

Day 7 was our final day, which means it was another "Day at Sea." This day was a lot like Day 2, except that the cruise included activities like scrap booking all your memories & jack jack's diaper dash (a race between babies who can crawl.) Usually my family and I prefer to eat lunch at Cabanas (the unlimited buffet is always nice), but on this day, my dad and I decided to try out Lumieres for lunch. I had the cuban sandwich and parmesan veal with pasta (two entrees were a must on this day) and my dad had the shrimp and pad thai noodles. Both meals were fantastic! Disney once again found a way to blow us away. Once the day was near to an end, we enjoyed the final show (Disney Dreams) & a dinner at Animators Palate (one of the three rotational restaurants.) After all was finished, the cruise wrapped up the day by having a "See you real soon "party in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3. This show included a wave good bye to all the characters on board and a pin trading session (all the guests on board came together to trade their Disney pins.)

Day 8 was our final morning on the boat, which meant you went to breakfast at the place you had dinner at the night before or eat at Cabanas (the buffet on Deck 9.) For my family and I, we ate at Animators Palate once more. After eating the final meal on the ship, everyone disembarked and headed to the airport to fly home. Disney allows all of their guests to eat and explore the ship before leaving, which was nice because we did not feel rushed to get off the boat and let the new guests begin their vacation.

Things to Know About Three Season Porches

A three season porch is a wonderful option for those home owners who are looking to improve their home. Adding a porch gives you options for another family room, place to read, entertain friends, and family the possibility's are endless. It has become one of the most popular techniques in home renovations and a growing number of home owners in Minnesota are seen becoming more interested in adding a three season porch to their houses. Motivated by the overwhelming response that this concept is receiving, a large number of home remodeling companies are extending valuable service to help home owners to add a porch.

The concept of a three season porch has been a great success in St Paul where a large number of home owners have found it to be a wonderful option to get that outside feel right inside their homes. Different home owners in St. Louis Paul have different reasons to add this type of room addition. Some are looking at turning it into a private room where they can spend some time after work. For some people, the porch has become a great place to socialize and organize small parties for friends. There are also some people who just want to add a porch because they want a space for themselves. Interestingly, a new room addition of a porch works for all kinds of people. Whether you are a kid or a retired professional, a porch makes you feel at home and gives your house a face lift with much added value.

Before adding their own three season porch, St. Paul residents are seen turning to professional home remodelers who specialize in such home improvements. The objective is to make sure that the construction is proper and cost effective. Any professional home renovation company will first take into account the various aspects of standardization that need to be followed while adding a porch. There are different building codes that need to be taken into account to ensure that the construction is safe and legal. For instance, some cities mandate it for the house owners to acquire a permit before they can start work. The state and city also send officers for regular inspections to ensure that the work is progressing in accordance with the (IRC) International Residential Codes. Also with any state or cities codes that supersedes the IRC.

To make things simpler for the home owners, home renovation companies to the needful and take adequate steps to follow the rules properly. To build a three season porch, St Paul renovation companies pay a lot of attention to ensure that the state and city codes are followed and standards are compliant with.

It is also important for the home owners to remain aware and up to date with these codes. They must not approach a company that does not hide by these rules and makes it difficult for the home owners to add a three season porch [http://www.susselbuilders.com/additionals/styles_3season_porches.html] at their house. A specialized home renovation company will respect the codes and follow all guidelines to offer the best service to the clients. It is there before recommended to go for an experienced company that has expertise in dealing with the state and cities building codes for any construction activities.

How-To Get Started With Organic Gardening

How-To Basics of getting started with Organic Gardening.

No matter whether you are an experienced organic gardener or you have simply decided that you would like to become more self-reliant by growing some of your own food, planting a garden requires planning. A properly planned and planted organic garden will naturally resist disease, deter pests, and be healthy and productive. With the spring planting season fast approaching, winter is the ideal time to get started.

Set Goals

What do you want to do with your plot of earth this season? Begin planning by setting goals. Grab your garden map, a pencil, your gardening guide, catalogs, and your thinking cap. List the areas of your yard and garden separately (i.e. lawn, vegetable patch, flower garden), and, keeping in mind the size and conditions of your site, brainstorm! Are you planning a garden for the first time? Do you want to expand your existing garden? Did you have pest or disease problems last year that you’re hoping to prevent this year? What map? To create a map of your yard or garden, measure the dimensions of your site as a whole, and then the individual dimensions of your vegetable patch, flowerbeds, and lawn. It’s easiest to draw your map to scale on a sheet of graph paper. These measurements will be necessary later, when you are determining how much of a plant or seeds to buy. Once the map is drawn, write in any information you know about soil characteristics, drainage, environmental conditions (sunny, shady, windy), and the names of trees and perennial plants that already exist. Your map will let you know exactly what you have to work with, and will give you a realistic idea of problems that need attention or features you’d like to change or add.

Gardening 101

It is important to understand the magnitude of your project before you begin. Getting the background information necessary to fulfill your goals may take an hour or a week, depending upon your level of experience and how involved you plan to get. Consulting your garden guidebook is a great way to begin – I suggest Warren Schultz’s The Organic Suburbanite, The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman, Rodale’s Chemical-Free Yard & Garden, or The Handy Garden Answer Book by Karen Troshynski-Thomas. You can also go to your local library and investigate their resources or contact your local garden club for their suggestions. As you research, write down how long each project will take, what tools you will need, and the approximate cost of everything you will need. This information will be invaluable when you make up your shopping list and schedule of activities. Scheduling and Organization. A schedule of activities lists what you hope to accomplish in what time frame. It will help keep you on track. It is important to be realistic about what you are capable of.

This is not a project that can be taken on alone in a week. Staggering your major tasks over time will make them easier to accomplish and save you the ultimate frustration of unfinished projects. Planning for the long term will aid in your organization. You can create a year-by-year schedule that maps out a time frame in which to achieve your big goals. Obviously, the schedule can change as time goes by, you learn new methods and you rethink your objectives, but maintaining focus on what you hope to create in the long term can keep you motivated on what you are doing now.

Tool Tutorial

You have a plan! You have knowledge! Do you have tools? Chances are you may be able to obtain most tools at your local lawn and garden store. Bring the list that you assembled in Gardening 101, and, if you are a seasoned gardener, assume that the same pests and plagues will be back that you dealt with last year and buy your supplies now. If you are new to the gardening scene, buy the basic tools that you will need, and then nose around the neighborhood and perhaps your local gardening club to see what is recommended for what you are planting and where you live.

Basic Tools:

  • Diggers – You will need a spading fork for aerating your soil and turning your compost pile. Look for a spading fork with rectangular, flat blades. A manure fork may also be compost-pile friendly when it comes to turning.
  • Weeders – Weeding tools include hoes and short-handled cultivating tools. Both are made in a variety of styles, and you will probably want more than one of each.
  • Hoe
    • hoe types include:
    • Swan-neck hoe – The curved neck positions the cutting blade to skim just below the surface, making it ideal for light work around garden crops.
    • Oscillating hoe – Also called a scuffle hoe or hula, it has a hinged, double-edged blade that barely disturbs the soil surface, minimizing the number of new weeds brought to the surface.
    • Collinear hoe – Designed by Eliot Coleman, the narrow blade and angled handle are useful for cutting off small weeds with little soil disturbance.
    • Eye hoe – Also called a grub hoe, the heavy blade is for hard chopping at tough, overgrown weeds.

Standard short-handled cultivating tools:

  • Hand cultivator – A tined tool, useful for disturbing the soil surface around close planting to uproot young weeds.
  • Dandelion weeder – Made for uprooting weeds with long taproots.
  • Pavement weeder – A trowel for removing weeds in cracks of stone slab or brick walkways.
  • Pruners – Pruning trees and shrubs promotes growth and good health, and pruning out diseased wood helps to control disease problems. Pruning tools come in varying sizes depending on your need. Choose a sharp, high quality pruning tool.
  • Tillers – Tillers will also range in size, depending on the job. There are large, gaspowered tillers for breaking ground or big jobs, and small tillers that are lightweight and are useful for cultivating around perennials. Rent a few tillers to try them out before buying, as they do differ a great deal and can be expensive.
  • Sowers – Wheeled seeding tools that have changeable interior disks for different seed sizes and spacings are available and very handy if you are planting large areas.
  • Comfort tools – There is a plethora of comfort- oriented garden accessories available on the market today. Products range from gloves, to knee pads, to small, wheeled benches/carts. It is up to you to decide what will suit your needs, if you need any at all..

Starting From Seed

Starting your plants from seed will ensure that they are chemical free. Most transplants sold in garden centers have been treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Seeds themselves bought at garden centers may be coated in fungicides, so be very careful about what you buy or buy from an organic seed supplier. To start plants from seed, you need sterile soil, sterile planting containers, and labels. It is better to grow each seedling in a separate container to avoid the damage incurred by ripping roots apart, and to make for a less shocking transplant. If you purchase soil mix, be sure that it is sterile to avoid spreading disease to your seedlings.

To make your own mix, use vermiculite (a mica-based mineral that has been heated to make it expand to many times its original size), perlite (volcanic ash that has been heated and ‘popped’), and sphagnum (moss that has been collected while still alive, dried, and then finely ground). Add 1 tablespoon of lime for each 2 quarts of sphagnum that you use to counteract its acidity. Good recipes for soil mix are 1 part sphagnum and 1 part vermiculite, or 1 part each sphagnum, vermiculite and perlite. Seeds actually need heat, not light, to germinate. The heat from a grow light or sunny window may be enough for some, but placing the containers on top of a warm refrigerator or on a seed-starting heating pad may be necessary.

Keep your seeds moist by planting them in moist mix and covering them with plastic wrap. As soon as you see the first sign of life, remove the wrap and place them someplace where they will receive 8-10 hours of sunlight per day.

Water them care fully with a spray mister, careful not to knock the seedlings over or wash away the soil. Before you transplant your seedlings outdoors, they need to be acclimated to the different climate. Bring them outside and place them in a sheltered, somewhat shady spot for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to the elements over a week or two. Plants have a hardiness zone, an area based on the average annual low temperatures where a plant is most likely to withstand the region’s annual low temperature http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has produced a map that breaks the U.S. into 11 zones. Growing plants that are outside your hardiness zone is not impossible, but they will need special attention. When deciding what to plant, consult a hardiness zone map to come up with plants that are most likely to thrive in your zone (see map).

Garden Design

Switching to chemical-free gardening will not only mean changing your gardening practices, but also your gardening design. Gardening in beds, as opposed to rows, provides for better weed, disease and pest management. Beds are also more attractive and easier to maintain. In a garden bed, everything is planted within arm’s reach. The leaves of adjacent plants shade the soil, reducing weed growth. Diversity in a garden bed also has many advantages. A variety of plants in a mixed bed provide some natural pest protection by making it difficult for pests to find and eat their target plants, or helping to attract insects that are beneficial to your garden and prey on pest insects. It also reduces the chances that pests and disease organisms will build to epidemic levels, as they won’t be able to hop from tasty host to tasty host, as they would if you had planted in rows. Your soil will also reap the benefits of your diverse planting techniques. A good example is planting nitrogen-gobbling corn with nitrogen-giving beans. Pairing up particular plants or planting in variety can help the soil maintain its nutrient balance, ensuring happier plants and a better crop yield. In fact, this technique even has a name – companion planting.

Companion Planting:

Much of the science of companion planting is figuring out what works for you. Many books can give you guidelines about what plants work well together. Some plants are attractants, some repellents, some can be inter-planted with your crops and flowers, and some compete too vigorously and should be planted in separate borders or hedgerows. For example, sunflowers are a good border plant, attracting lacewings and parasitic wasps; radishes are good to inter-plant because they repel the striped cucumber beetle; and marigolds are good to both use as a border and inter-plant, as they attract hover flies and repel root nematodes, Mexican bean beetles, aphids, and Colorado potato beetles. It can be confusing, and not all plants work well together. Your best bet is to start simple, determine what pests you encounter, and work from there, altering the plants in your garden bed as needed from year to year. Often, a mixture of flowers, vegetables and herbs work well together in a single bed.

For a good guide to the basics of companion planting, consult Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening: Companion Planting. Making your bed. Making your bed can be as simple as marking off 3-by-5-foot sections of garden with pathways left between them. However, to optimize the advantages of planting in garden beds, raise your beds. Raised beds provide lighter, deeper, more nutrient-rich, water absorbent soil. Raised beds, however, must be regarded as permanent in order to maintain their splendor. They cannot be walked on or broken down at the end of the season. You can build sides on your bed with bricks, rocks, or cedar 2-by-4 or 2-by-six planks to maintain the shape instead of raking and reshaping the bed every year.

Stay away from pressure-treated wood, as it is treated with wood preservatives that are harmful to you and the environment. How do you achieve raised beds? With double-digging, of course! (This is also known as hard work.)

Double-digging raised beds.

1. Dig out the top one-foot of soil along one end of the bed. Keep the soil in a wheelbarrow or on a groundcloth.

2. Loosen the exposed subsoil by thrusting in a spading fork and twisting its tines back and forth. For extra benefit, add a small amount of organic matter and work it in as you loosen that subsoil.

3. Once the subsoil is loosened, move over and begin removing the topsoil from the next strip of garden bed. This time, instead of keeping the topsoil that you are removing, shovel it over the subsoil to which you have just added the organic matter. You can add a little more organic matter to the topsoil as you shovel.

4. Repeat step 3.

5. When you have reached the last row of your garden bed, use the reserved topsoil to cover the last area of exposed subsoil.

6. Plant!

Composting

Compost is a great fertilizer and can aid in pest prevention. Compost is created when microorganisms, earthworms and nematodes consume and breakdown organic matter into simpler compounds. This process happens more quickly in an active compost pile because these microorganisms have the required heat, air and moisture, and a diverse supply of raw materials to digest. An active pile requires turning every week to add oxygen and keep the decomposition rate high; a passive pile is a pile of organic matter left to decay over time – usually in one to two years. Whichever method of composting you choose, the first step is making a compost pile. You can layer the materials in a heap, set up a heavy chicken wire frame (this works well for a passive pile), build wooden or concrete-block bins, or buy a commercially made bin to hold your pile.

Some commercial bins have built in rotating turners that will make your job much easier. The ideal size for an active compost pile is 4 feet by 4 feet, though size can vary. Choose a location that is shady and well drained for your pile. Clear away any surface cover at the site, loosen the soil with a spading fork, and put down a layer of wood chips or brush as a base. You can toss in garden or kitchen wastes, grass clippings, newspaper, manure, and sawdust. Avoid adding kitchen waste that is heavy in oil and meat products. Shredded materials make better compost more quickly. Try to alternate layers of plant material (chopped leaves or straw) with nitrogen-rich materials (kitchen scraps with manure and blood meal). Keep your pile moist, at a similar level to a squeezed-out sponge, and keep open piles covered with a tarp or heavy canvas so that they won’t become waterlogged in the rain. If your pile becomes too dry, add water with kelp extract to moisten it and stimulate biotic activity.

Turn your active pile regularly, mixing and loosening the materials with a spading fork, to prevent overheating and keep microorganisms happy and active. Ideal active compost temperature should be within 140° to 150°, or at slightly higher temperatures if you are composting diseased plant material, around 160°. Your organic compost pile will yield rich humus that will be an ideal fertilizer to your garden. It will save you the money of buying commercial, synthetic fertilizers, many of which have shown to contain toxic waste. Healthy soil makes for hardy plants. Planning your garden can be the most important thing you do this growing season. With a solid plan in place and established

goals, you can minimize your pest problems and potential frustration, and maximize your growing season, and your garden’s beauty. All this while saving on your grocery bill and increasing the quality of food you ingest by leaps and bounds. By planting an organic garden you will also be reducing your carbon footprint via producing some of your food (requiring no transportation or storage at the grocery store or packaging) thus contributing to our culture’s sustainability in general. Check out Thrifty & Green for more articles on how you can save money and live green.

Suppliers:

* Seeds of Change, 888-762-7333, seedsofchange.com

* Gardener’s Supply Company, 128 Intervale Road, Burlington, VT 05401, 888-833-1412, (fax) 800-551-6712, gardeners.com

* Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery, 3244 Highway 116 North, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 707-823-9125, harmonyfarm.com

* Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, P.O. Box 2209, Grass Valley, CA 95949, 888-784-1722, groworganic.com

* Gardeners Alive, 5100 Schenley Place, Lawrenceburg, IN 47025, 812-537-8650, gardensalive.com

Resources:

* Bradley, Fern M., ed. Chemical-Free Yard & Garden, Eamus: Rodale, 1991.

* Troshynski-Thomas, Karen, The Handy Garden Answer Book, Detroit: Visible Ink, 1999.

The History of Mahjongg

During a recent visit to my parent's house I noticed a solid black briefcase on the kitchen table. I was curious as to what was inside. From it's size, I thought it might be a laptop computer. My mom opened the briefcase to reveal several colorful tiles and game pieces. She informed me that it was her Mahjongg tile set. She plays this ancient Chinese game weekly with her friends.

I am a big fan of playing Mahjongg on the computer. I surprised if there were differences in the rules of my mom's physical board game versus my computer game. There are many differences indeed, just as there are many versions of Mahjongg available. The board version is an intense game of strategy, logic, and planning. My mom plays with three other players and has to work with a partner. The computer version I play is basic in comparison as I just try to match tiles together to remove them from the Mahjongg tile pile.

What is the history of Mahjongg? Mahjongg is an ancient Chinese game that has a debatable origin. There are several theories as to who invented Mahjongg. Some believe that Mahjongg was not invented until the middle of the 19th century. Believers of this origin keep that Mahjongg was based on current Chinese card and domino games.

Others believe that Confucius invented the game around 500 BC. Confucius was known as a great Chinese philosopher. The theory that he started Mahjongg is based upon observation that game tiles and popularity related to his philosophies and travels.

Mahjongg made its way to the United States by the early 20th century. The game was translated into English. In 1937 the National Mah Jongg League was created. The rules of Mahjongg were reviewed and revamped.

Who plays Mahjongg? Mahjongg has had a variety of players. The game requires four players and takes a few hours to play. Therefore, it is an ideal game for parties or special occasions. Players in China have played Mahjongg to celebrate life events.

When Mahjongg became popular in the United States it was primarily played by the Jewish population. Mahjongg is now making its way across all backgrounds and age levels. The physical tile game is familiar to the older generation while the computerized version is bringing in the younger generation.

How do you play Mahjongg? Good question. The answer is that it depends. There are basic rules, but rules tend to vary based on the geographic region. The main goal of the game is to find matching tile suits and complete the 14 to 17 tile set. There are rule books that cover the Western version of the game.

The Mahjongg game that my mom plays is closer to the ancient Chinese version then the computerized version I play. She enjoys the complexity and strategy of Mahjongg as well as the benefit of playing with her good friends.

Mahjongg is an exciting game to try whether you want to play with friends or on your own. I find playing the computer versions both entertaining and relaxing. Many games websites, such as Grandmatrix.com, have several PC versions of Mahjongg available. The different versions are akin to the variety of Mahjongg history, rules, and players around the world. Start your exploration of the Mahjongg variations by searching GrandMatrix under the keyword 'Mahjongg' and you will be well on your way to fun!

Backpacking Stoves – Three Reasons For Using A Backpacking Liquid Fuel Stove

When hiking in the backcountry, there is hardly any worse thing that spending a lot of time searching for firewood to made your meals. Do not get me wrong, I love campfires during my trips, but they are not the best way for cooking my meals everyday. This is one of the main reasons why carrying a good backpacking stove is a must for anyone traveling in the wild. However, before deciding to buy one, you must consider what kind of stove is the best for you? Basically, we can divide backpacking stoves in three types: alcohol, pressurized canister, and liquid fuel. In this article, I will state three reasons for using a backpacking liquid fuel stove in your trips.

1. You can use liquid fuel stoves in the widest range of situations. So, if you only can buy one stove, then buy a liquid fuel. You can use them effectively in any kind of weather, so they are perfect for using in winter. High altitudes do not represent a problem for them either. Whereas canister or alcohol stoves can fail if the weather is too cold or you are traveling at very high altitude.

2. The heat output of the liquid fuel stoves is the most powerful. So they will cook your meals in the least amount of time. This difference is not against alcohol stoves. Cooking with alcohol stoves can take an unnecessary amount of your time. With canister stoves, in optimal conditions, this difference in cooking power is least noticeable, however you only need a little wind and it appears again.

3. One of the most important objections against liquid fuel stoves is the price. Buying a liquid fuel stove is most expensive than buying any of the other two types of stove. Especially, if we consider that alcohol stoves can be homemade. But that is not true if we compare liquid fuel stoves with canister stoves. In the long run a liquid fuel stove is cheaper than a canister stove. That's because the disposable canisters are more expensive than white gas. So to the initial cost of a canister stove we must add the cost of canisters along the time.

Of course, liquid fuel backpacking stoves have downsides. They are heavier than the other types of stoves, and require more maintenance in the field. After all, no type of stove is perfect for everything. The ideal would be to have various stoves and to use the appropriate stove for each occasion. However, if this ideal were not possible, then a liquid fuel stove could be more than enough.

Black and Decker Rice Cookers Review

Black and Decker's products and services are marketed in more than 100 countries, and has manufacturing operations in eleven countries. Through their businesses, they have established a reputation for product innovation, quality, end-user focus, design, and value. Their strong brand names and new product development capabilities enjoy worldwide recognition, and their global distribution is unsurpassed in their industries.

Black and Decker's objective is to establish itself as the preeminent global manufacturer and marketer of power tools and accessories, hardware and home improvement products, and technology based fastening systems.

The Black & Decker Rice Cooker came with a heavy-duty tempered glass cover with a steam vent built right in. The removable cooking bowl has a non-stick coating which allows for easy clean-up. It is also marked along the sides indicating the water level for the various measurements of rice. The main part of the rice cooker is made of metal.

It has a 75-minute timer with automatic shut-off. It has a plastic lid and parts are generally easy to clean. It cooks rice and steams meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Operating the Black & Decker Rice machine is really easy. A measuring scoop comes with the rice maker. With the directions is a Cooking Guide which tells how many scoops to use and what line to fill the water up to for how many servings of rice desired.

This rice maker includes Drip Tray with Flavor Scenter screen for flavoring steamed food with herbs and spices. It also has a 2 1/2 quart Steaming Bowl. Its rice bowl holds 4 cups cooked rice.

The Black & Decker Rice Cooker is covered by a one year limited warranty. Black and Decker rice cooker is a handy appliance for anyone who cooks rice and / or steams food often. It is particularly useful for college students, apartment dwellers or anyone who is short of space in the kitchen or does not have a proper stove.

This cooker can simplify mine-making. It is very much worthwhile that everyone can give their thumbs-up on this appliance.

Solar Panel System DIY – 6 Things to Think of Before Doing So

Many people today are becoming more aware of solar energy and would like to build their own solar energy systems. Some people will build it to save money, to reduce electricity bills, or share the global green walk. Whatever the reason you have, you will need some help, I have take some basic steps and identified great resources you may need to consider to help you build your own solar energy system that fit you needs.

These are some basic point you need to put in mind before building your solar energy system:

  1. Identify the goal of the system: whether you make it to heat water or generate electricity or may be both.
  2. What is your geographic orientation: solar panels must be subject to the maximum amount of heat and energy from sun, so if you are in the southern hemisphere your solar panel should be in the north, while if you are in the northern hemisphere your solar panel should be in the south.
  3. Maximum exposure: I know this is some times hard, but we have t face it solar panel need sun, if your roof is surrounded with tress that mean the panel will not receive the sun light wide at which you need to think of another place like the back yard.
  4. Look for any thing that may shade the light from reaching the panel
  5. Your climate: what is the climate in your area, the more sunny is better, while the cloudy is not so bad but it will reduce the effectiveness of the panel.
  6. Get a qualified professional : to connect the electric components if you are not a veteran in this

These are basic things to think about when you want to make your own solar panel, keep in mind how much money it will save you, so do not bother taking care of all these stuff.

Remember you will enjoy the free energy the rest of you entire life, you just pay one time, and rest all the time.

Appalachian Vineyard Flooring – Wine Name But Hardwood Floors

When Anderson Hardwood Floors puts time into making a new product line they think things through. Consumers asked for wider plank flooring with some distressing and a real “vintage” look. Appalachian Vineyard collection was the answer Anderson thought the whole country deserved, and they were right. Then the designers at the Anderson Design Center in Clinton, SC went to work creating the most beautifully hand distressed and hand stained hardwood products. The whole collection is absolutely breathtaking.

The main focus of the Appalachian Vineyard collection is the three maple colors available. The maple planks as well as the whole collection come in 6-1/2″ wide engineered construction. As well as being 6-1/2″ wide the Vineyard collection is distressed for the vintage or worn look that home owners have come to enjoy. In the maple the three colors are Vineyard Maple Chablis, Vineyard Maple Madera, and Vineyard Maple Chateau. All three have colors of wine related products and really appeal to high end consumers.

The next two products offered in the Vineyard collection from Anderson are the distressed hickory products. Hickory is the hardest domestic specie ranging in hardness from 1800 – 2300 psi on the Janka scale. This product on average is 30-50% harder than American oak products. Add that to a wide plank distressed real hickory wood veneer and you have got a dynamite hardwood floor that you and your guests will love discussing over a nice glass of wine and cheese. In the Appalachian Vineyard hickory products the two colors are Vineyard Hickory Cabernet and Vineyard Hickory Tuscany. Both colors are outstanding visually and will add significant value to your home.

Last but certainly not least is my personal favorite, the Vineyard Fumed Birch Pomerol. When you see this hardwood flooring product your bottom lip will actually drop. The fuming process brings out so many colors and marbles the wood grain so well that you will never find another floor that looks that this one. The fuming and distressing process creates a work of art right on your floor with tons of color variation. This floor will definitely be the talk of the cocktail party.

Appalachian Vineyard flooring comes backed by a brand new 50 year finish warranty. This is the longest finish warranty in the hardwood flooring industry to date. Put that together with a trusted name in flooring like Anderson hardwood floors and you could not go wrong. All of the distressing is done by hand as well as hand rubbed staining process. Vineyard hardwood is a classic addition to any home so find a sample today and start living the dream.

What's Your Potential

It's not hard to count the seeds in an apple, but how can we count the apples that can come from a single seed? It's like that with our potential. We can not really know what our full potential is.

When Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile, it was thought to have been impossible. Within weeks of him breaking this invisible barrier, dozens of others did it, too. Since then, thousands have run a sub four-minute mile.

Virtually every sales team has a few star salespeople who consistently outsell others by two, three and often ten times. You are unique, just like everyone else. This statement is actually true. Everyone IS unique. Of the over 90 billion people who have lived or are living on the planet, there have never been two people identically alike.

We each have a unique potential. And it's up to us to discover what that is and then to live it. Einstein believed he used less than 10 percent of his brain power. If one of the smartest people who ever lived left 90 percent of his thinking capacity on the table, what are the rest of us doing? I'm dedicated to the passionate pursuit of potential. My studies and my experiences are about being the best I can be.

I've got a long way to go, and I'm always looking for ways I can maximize my time, my talents, my knowledge and my opportunities. It's what my life and Success Networks is about. I guess it's good that we have so much potential, because there will always be more to which to aspire. We can strive, and we can thrive in the process.

It's good to take some time to think about our special gifts and talents and how best to apply them. We certainly have a purpose. We have something special to bring to the world and it's incumbent upon us to do just that.

Ask yourself some questions: What's my true potential? What would I attempt if I knew I could not fail? Where am I taking the easy road? What have I accepted about myself or my life that is less than my best?

How can I deliver my best to the world? How can I contribute the most? I believe that in order to live an extraordinary life, we must constantly challenge ourselves to fulfill our unique potential.

What tools do I need to become more effective? What skills do I need to develop? What knowledge and experience do Intend to gain?

Do this without putting yourself down. Start from where you are. Reach down deep for that other 90 percent. You can have more and do more because you can become more of who you are.

Remember that everything extraordinary that has ever been accomplished was once thought to be impossible. Think big. Go and grow.

Cadillac's 2010 DTS Frontal Impact Protection System Gets Highest Ratings

The 2010 DTS, Cadillac's full-size luxury sedan, has no safety-related changes this year.

The DTS comes standard with front, side, and curtain side airbags; traction control; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; brake assist; daytime running lights; and GM's StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control system. Unlike many cars in this price class, the DTS does not offer seat belts pre-tensioners or other pre-collision systems.

The DTS offers several novel safety options. The Side Blind Zone Alert system flashes warning lights in the side mirrors and sounds a tone if another vehicle is in the Cadillac's blind spots. The Lane Departure Warning system triggers a dashboard light and a warning chime if the DTS leaves its lane without signaling. Both systems are standard on the Platinum model and optional on the DTS Premium; they are not available on base or Luxury models. Premium and Platinum models also include Ultrasonic Park Assist, a rear-obstacle detection system.

Road tests say the DTS has acceptable emergency handling, but its panic stopping distances are longer than average for this class.

The NHTSA awarded the Cadillac DTS five stars (its maximum rating) for driver protection in frontal impacts. The DTS received four-star ratings for front passenger protection, side impact protection (for both front- and rear-seat occupants), and rollover safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Cadillac's frontal impact protection Good (the highest rating), but side impact protection ranked only Acceptable; many comparably priced sedans receive Good ratings in both areas.

GM classifies the standard OnStar system as a safety feature, because it will automatically contact emergency personnel in the event of a crash. However, OnStar requires a monthly fee after the first 12 months.

Making the Picture Necklace Which Is Soldered

The picture necklace which is soldered or the soldered picture necklace can be your choice for the handmade or personalized jewelry or accessories fans. The necklace is made from the slides of the microscope which can fit for your jewelry collection.

Before you start the process to make the necklace, it is better for you to prepare the tools. You will need the tools like the microscope slides (rectangle and square), scissors, flat decorative items, foil tape, glue which has the industrial strength, needle-nose pliers, flux, jump ring, ball chair or the necklace cord, and the soldering iron.

For who still do not know where to get the tools, here are some tips. You may find the microscope slides in the local hobby shop. It is better for you to visit the hardware store to get the other supplies for the soldering process and the foil tape. You may want to find the interesting logo, postage stamps, message, photos, or even press flowers to be displayed on the necklace. The important thing for you is finding the things which can be pressed between the microscope slides. You can keep the necklace or give them to other people as the gifts. If you are getting better and can produce more beautiful necklace, you can sell them.

Follow the steps below to make the necklace. First, you need to clean your working area from the dust or debris. You can start to work by tracing the slides to the two photos and clippings. Trim them so they can fit. You have to glue the photo's backsides so they can join together. Smooth the photos with your fingers so you can seal together. You must wait for the photos to dry.

The next step is pressing the two-sided of the decorative material between the two slide. Hold them together by using the foil tape. Mix the flux with some drops of water until you can get the flux paste which then you apply the paste to the tape. Placing the jewelry jump ring on the center's top and joins it to the frame. Do not forget to heat the soldering iron. It is better for you to heat it and place it in the iron's holder. It is to avoid the hot tip accidentally touch your hand or the things around your work area.

After the iron is hot enough, you need to sold the area which is covered with the flux. After the slide is dry and has the solid structure, you can put the necklace cord, lace, ball chain, suede cord, and other necklace material.

Common Uses of High Power Diode Lasers

There are certain technologies that have proven to be useful across a wide variety of applications. An example of this is high-power diode lasers. Although the laser itself has not changed much since its absorption, different applications for the laser have come to the fore. Here are a few of the more common uses of the high-power diode laser, many of which you may not have considered in the past.

One of the more common uses of diode lasers is in material processing. For example, a wide array of welding and soldering applications make use of diode lasers. Plastic is often welded by lasers, as it can easily melt the plastic and then cause it to form a seal that is complete. Metals are also easily capable to be manipulated with the use of lasers, including cutting and welding.

One of the benefits that you get when processing materials with a high-power diode laser is the fact that it does not damage the material in the surrounding area where the cut or weld is taking place. This benefit may be seen in many different types of materials, including plastic, metal and wood. It provides you with the stability that is necessary to get a variety of cuts done very neatly and quickly.

The medical industry has certainly benefited from the use of diode lasers and will continue to benefit in a variety of ways. One of the types of medical uses of the diode laser is cosmetic. As an example, many people go in for laser hair removal and this is done by use of a diode laser. It does not burn the hair but rather, the light affects the hair and kills the follicle, causing it to be less likely to grow again.

Many surgeons also use lasers to make more precise cutting when they are taking care of your medical needs. This is something to be considered, as lasers can help reduce your recovery time and may limit bleeding during a surgical procedure. One of the more common types of surgical procedures that makes use of the high-power laser, is laser eye surgery, although there are other uses which are also beneficial to us.

At times, high-power diode lasers are used for science and research for measuring purposes. After all, lasers are available to measure over extremely long distances as well as very small distances much more accurately than other types of devices. Scientists also use lasers in many other ways as well and we tend to benefit from that research on a daily basis.

Although there are other applications for lasers, these are some of the more common that are used. There is no doubt that as we continue to advance as a society, lasers will play an even greater role in providing us with the products and services that we need. Although the technology itself has not changed much, our ingenuity and ability to use such tools in different ways benefits us now and in the future.

The Use of Fiber Optics in the Medical Field

Although fiber optics is an innovation in telecommunications technology, it is also a discovery in medicine,. Because fiber optics is made of very thin and flexible strands of plastic or glass fiber, it can be used in the medical field for various diagnoses like endoscopy. The field of medicine which uses a small incision for treatment is Endoscopy. With importance on the diversity technologies involved, the manufacturing techniques of fiber optics for imaging and illumination are considered in connection to their existing uses in communications.

The imaging and illumination components of endoscopes are the most significant and prevalent applications of fiber optics in medicine. These strands can be inserted to various parts of the body, including blood vessels and even lungs. Flexible and rigid multiple fibers composed of step-index fibers and graded-index imaging rods are broadly used for visualization of internal organs and tissue which are reachable through natural openings or transcutaneously.

The endoscopy device is constructed to hold two bundles of optics in which one will be provided with light and the other diffuses light back from the body which is reflected from the tissue. The reflected image will supply a complete image of the affected tissue. Endoscopes are created in line with the need of the use. Low-loss fiber optics are employed to transmit laser energy for surgery and photocoagulation. To provide plenty of illumination for viewing and color photography, multicolor laser light is transferred through a single thin fiber optics.

At present, endoscopes are utilized to study knee, shoulders, and joints with the use of the arthroscope. An arthroscope is a straight and cylinder-like tool with a series of lens and bundles of fibers which has a size of 1/12 – 1/5 of an inch. It will be inserted into the joint through a tiny incision and will do all the examinations. A light is then transmitted through the fiber optics to illuminate the joints which will help the physician to examine the joint thoroughly. The arthroscope can measure temperature and is helpful in performing surgery through incision.

The usage of fibers optics are rapidly spreading out into a variety of areas. Its applications in medicine produce groundbreaking instruments that are beneficial in the diagnosis of diseases. Let's not forget that because of the development of fiber optics in telecommunications technology, it has also produced other related devices like transceiver modules and Ethernet converters for telecommunications applications, as well as other medical applications from what is mentioned above. For sure, SFP Transceiver application is a must have technology in whatever field, be it telecommunications or medical.

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Fireproofing Contractors

Industrial fireproofing contractors not only provide industrial coating services to protect your steel structures from corrosion, but they also provide fireproofing measures to protect properties and assets from burning. Thus, it is also a fireproofing contractor. In most cases, they also inspect your properties for potential fire breakouts and perform necessary actions to reduce or even prevent those risks from happening.

In detail, some of the most common fireproofing needs are:

Structural Steel – Fireproofing contractors spay the steel with specialized coating to make sure it will not reach the critical 540 degrees celcius mark and will check if the structure is covered with at least a layer of protective concrete or fire-retardant solution.

Electrical Circuits – They check for short circuits and make sure the wires and components will not reach 140 degrees celcius.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas Containers and Pipes – Full inspections are make and the containers are checked for leakage and BLEVE which stands for boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion. They also cover it with a fire-retardant solution. Coatings for the gas container and pipe industries are an absolute must due to the hazardous materials contained inside.

Pipe Bridges and Vessel Skirts In Oil Refineries and Chemical Plants – The refinery industries will not pass their regular inspections and can be shut down on a monthly basis of certain safety requirements are not met. The goal of a fireproofing contractor in these potential lethal conditions is to inspect and coat any critical pieces of machinery or pipes which make any contact with flammable materials. Again, its important to make sure the structure will not reach 540 degrees as well.

Traffic Tunnels – Vehicles transporting flammable materials can quickly raise a tunnel's temperature. If it becomes too hot, a fire might happen, so contractors line the tunnels with protective concrete to keep it from burning.

Most fireproofing contractors rarely or no longer use asbestos for fireproofing because it is proven to cause asbestosis, a fatal lung disease. Instead, they use lightweight endothermic materials such as gypsum, perlite, vermiculite and pyrocrete 241 to help structures absorb a reasonable amount of heat.

Some of the leading fireproofing contractors will partner with companies like Carboline to fireproof structures. Oftentimes they will implement the Nullfire Intumescent Fireproofing system that uses Pyrocrete 241, the industry's leading fireproofing material. Industrial fireproofing contractors are needed all over the world to perform these types of coatings. Carelessly stored materials and lead to catastrophic disasters which can harm environments and people in the surrounding areas. Whenever a company is working with anything hazardous, it's always a must to contact a fireproofing professional to have them cover and coat equipment which will prevent accidental fires.

Natural Stone Flooring – Add Durability and Lasting Beauty to Your Space

If you’re considering a remodel, whether large or small, you may want to take a close look at natural stone flooring.

Natural stone flooring can add lasting beauty to your space, be it bath, kitchen or living areas. Stone flooring is strong and durable. After all, some of the oldest buildings still in existence were made of stone – can you see how well it lasts?

Natural Stone Flooring Is Available in Many Styles and Textures

It used to be that only the wealthy could afford to have stone in their homes. Stone was difficult to mine, and so required many man hours to pull the stone pieces from the earth.

After it was mined, there was the extensive and labor-intensive shaping process where the stone was cut into tiles or tumbled to smooth rough edges.

Today mining practices for stone are much more efficient, allowing production costs to be reduced and placing natural stone flooring within the grasp of almost anyone.

What Sizes Are Available in Natural Stone Flooring?

Natural stone flooring is available today in many styles and textures. You can find flat tiles in sizes like 12 x 12 inches, 13 x 13, 16 x 16 and as large as 18 x 18 inches.

If you’re looking for something more varied and unique, you might consider pebble tiles. This is a new product made recently available.

The pebbles are small, hand-selected stones that are glued to a wire mesh. The wire mesh makes it very simple to place the piece on the floor or wall with thinset, so even the do-it-yourselfer will find this attractive. Once the thinset cures, about 24 hours, then you simply grout the little pebbles like traditional square tiles.

The result is a modern, crisp feel that will be sure to wow your friends and neighbors!

What Types of Stones Are There?

Natural stone flooring tile is available in granite, limestone, travertine, slate and marble.

The more commonly known large square tiles are always popular.

In addition, you can choose natural mosaic or glazed mosaic tiles which are small flat stones with crisp edges, moon mosaic tiles which are small, completely round stones, “sliced” pebbles which are small oblong stones, or natural, glazed or polished pebble tiles which are simply little stones in various colors.

Natural pebble stones look just like the stones you might see at the bottom of a running stream.

If you opt for these type of tiles, the pebbles are hand-selected and applied to mesh backing so that the stones “fit” like puzzle pieces. This makes installation a breeze!

Whether you like a small or large tile look, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for.

What Are the Advantages to Natural Stone Flooring?

Actually, there are several advantages.

The first is quite simply that your home will look elegant and up-to-date with natural stone flooring.

Another advantage is that stone is highly durable. Stone does not absorb spills, and clean up and maintenance are easy.

Natural stone flooring can increase the resale value of your home. After all, stone flooring has been the epitome of “opulence” for centuries!

Stone tile is also slip-resistant, naturally, so safety is improved in your home. There is no sealant or conditioner required to maintain your natural stone flooring, and stone is naturally resistant to stains.

Stone is versatile, and flooring is just one application. If you’d like to modernize a room, simply tile one (or more) walls. Try a stone tile wainscot. Add a stone tile border. Accent a specific area, like perhaps a counter top or backsplash with tile.

Let your imagination run wild, because stone tile can make your ideas shine.

Where Can You Find Natural Stone Tile?

Actually, many retailers offer stone tile. Your local home improvement stores will carry a few lines of stone tile, but to find the greatest variety you’ll want to look online.

Many stone masons and stone specialty retailers will provide a large selection of their products online so you can decide which look and color you prefer as well as get a good idea as to what it will cost.

Bear in mind that if you do buy from an online retailer, shipping costs can be a major factor in determining your budget. For example, one sheet of the wire mesh natural stone pebbles can weigh as much as 5 pounds.

Ask the retailer if they offer shipping discounts. Some retailers will ship free if you place an order of a certain size.

Whatever your choice, you’ll find that natural stone flooring is a great way to improve your home’s look!