Shopping for Outdoor Patio Furniture: Why Is Hanamint Cast Aluminum Furniture So Popular?

Maybe you have just moved into a new home or just expanded your outdoor living space, either way if you are shopping for new patio furniture you have likely seen the brand Hanamint in you search. Hanamint sells nationally from coast to coast and is in almost every patio furniture store. But why is it so popular?

Over the past few decades, as patio furniture has evolved, one frame material seems to have moved to the forefront in popularity. That material is Cast Aluminum. Cast Aluminum is a process that molds the most maintenance free material into beautiful pieces of patio art. Casting processes enables unique old world styling to become a standard feature in the furniture.

No one comes close to the value that Hanamint provides in their cast aluminum patio furniture. You could shop other brands but would probably be wasting your time. Hanamint has many different sets including; Grand Tuscany, Tuscany, St. Augustine, Mayfair, Berkshire, Stratford, Bella, and St. Moritz. If you want it for your patio, Hanamint makes it. Chaise lounges, dining sets, deep seating sofa arrangements, bar stools, bar height tables, counter stools, counter height dining tables, benches, fire pits, sectionals and bars.

Typically, the most desired finish is Desert Bronze but they also offer some sets in Black. Desert Bronze is a great finish because it looks great with most exterior home colors and patio color schemes. In the daylight, desert bronze shows a rich bronze color with many textures or layers in the finish. At dusk or in low light, desert bronze almost appears black. Desert bronze is that dark.

Hanamint offers and unbeatable amount of high end fabric to compliment their beautiful frames finishes. Sunbrella is the industry leader in outdoor fabrics. Hanamint will buy many Sunbrella fabrics to offer as options on their cushions. Sunbrella became synonomus with quality after being one of the first to offer 100% solution dyed acrylic fabrics. An acrylic fabric will last and last because the sun can only fade the fabric one percent per year. Do yourself a favor and only by acrylic fabric on your Hanamint cushions.

Hanamint recently introduced a 2014 collection called Stratford. Stratford appears more contemporary in design with straight line cross design.

No matter what Hanamint collection you choose, you will be making the right choice. I bought my Hanamint Grand Tuscany Collection online and had a wonderful experience.

Now all you need to complete you ideal outdoor living space is a grill!

Until next time, happy shopping. – Dave

Ripstik Safety

The most important thing about riding your Ripstik is having fun. If you did not have fun on your board you would not tell your friends about it and the Ripstik would go out of business. The second most important thing about riding is safety. The only thing riding safe does for you on the Ripstik is keeps you riding. If you were to fall off your Ripstik and hit your head without a helmet the damage could be so great that you may not be able to ride for a long time. If you have a helmet on you may have a head ache but you are back riding your board, if not the same day, the very next day.

The extreme sport movement has set a good standard showing every professional athlete at say a popular event like the X-Games wearing helmets. Helmets are not nerdy or dumb to wear, it is smart. Just look at the pros, they all wear one and I bet each one of them have their own stories of the time they hit their head, but thankfully had a helmet on. How much more damage would have been done without a helmet. Helmets come in all sorts of designs and shapes and sizes. Find one that fits you right and looks good. Put it on and ride smart.

Safety involves more then just helmets though. Riding safe is just as important. Most of the time there is someone better then you that have more difficult and more dangerous tricks. Chances are they have also been riding longer too. Riding safe means not trying something so far out of your skill level that you may get hurt. Do not jump right to the most difficult trick on your first day. Work your way up. Start with tricks that are easier and build upon all the tricks you already know. You will eventually be able to do the difficult tricks, but if you hurt yourself trying them when you should not be you may never get to try them.

There are also other pads that you can wear such as elbow pads, knee pads and wrist pads. These pads are not as important as a helmet but can often give you the confidence to learn something new. It can never hurt to throw all the pads on if you are trying to learn a difficult trick. You will minimize your injury if you fall so you can jump back up and try it again. Knee pads are usually always a good idea because if you need to bail off a trick then a safe place to fall is usually onto your knees with pads on. This is especially true if you are trying to ride on ramps. Wearing these pads can also give you confidence to take your riding to the next level.

Put on your helmet and pads, ride safe and ride confident. We ride the Ripstik because it is a blast; we put on the pads and helmet to minimize injury so we can continue to ride. Chances are you are going to fall and get hurt. If you have pads on you jump back up, if you are riding unsafe you may not get up off the pavement and onto your board for a long time. Ride safe, ride smart, but most importantly have fun.

Port Stanley Charm

A diverse cluster of settlers poured into Southwestern Ontario by a meandering inlet on the Lake Erie shoreline early in the 1800’s and established a prosperous little community called Port Stanley. This small yet busy harbour was founded in 1804 by John Bostwick, who established and operated both a mill and warehouse. Today, this prosperous artistic fishing village is rich in charm and history offering generous resort living hospitality year round.

King George VI Lift Bridge

There are several very unique attractions in Port Stanley. Most notably, right in the heart of town, the oldest lift bridge in Ontario – King George VI Lift Bridge. The bridge is the essence of elegant simplicity and engineering magnificence.

It is known as a bascule bridge – meaning it is so finely counterbalanced that in the event of an emergency it can be raised and lowered manually(1). A parade of high mast sailboats, luxury cruisers, and commercial craft vessels can be seen passing below the bridge during the navigation season. A brass plaque on the east tower capture tourist attention by revealing a 1937 tragedy where during construction, 8 of the13 men working were killed.

The Port Stanley Terminal Railroad

A road linking Port Stanley port to neighbouring towns was constructed in 1822 to accommodate the droves of immigrants landing on the North Shore of Lake Erie. In 1844, there were as many as 148 boats recorded in the busy little harbour. By this time in history, there was a vast rail network spreading across North America and in1856 Port Stanley was linked with a new enterprise – The London and Port Stanley railway (L&PS). The L&PS thrived and brought close to a million vacationers a year to the village. Today, tourist can revisit the past and ride in an authentic completely rebuilt and refurbished L&PS railcar circa 1940. Operated by volunteer crews, after overcoming a barrage of hurdles, a group of railway advocates rescued the abandoned railway following a 1982 washout of the tracks. Today there are over 400 departures per year that take place beginning in March and operate well into December with various special rides; including, Easter Bunny Express, Murder Mystery Train rides, and Santa Workshop Tours.

Port Stanley Festival Theatre

For those who wish to take their Port Stanley experience to a whole other level, the Port Stanley Festival Theatre offers a wide variety of theatrical treats. Rivalling the finest theatres in larger cities, Canadian play productions celebrate the artistry in drama, comedy, musicals and a variety of other events throughout the year. It is located on the main street in the old Town Hall building. The Port Stanley Festival Theatre shares the building with the local library and tourist hotspot, interpretive center. The building also home to many visual artists and craftspeople as well as the Stork Club Museum. The once famous Stork Club was a swing dance club boasting the largest dance floor in the area and attracted several big band names in the early 1950’s. For almost 50 years, the entertainment magnet flourished until a fire destroyed the building entirely. The museum is dedicated to the history of the Stork Club and the display of big band memorabilia.

Exceptional Main Beach

Undoubtedly some of Ontario’s greatest riches are the beaches of Port Stanley. Main Beach is the real star. Fully trained life Guards patrol in the summer months and a treasure trove of activity is available for everyone – young and old alike. This beach has been recognized as the only Lake Erie shoreline to achieve a ‘Blue Flag’ status meaning it meets strict international criteria; including water quality, safety and environmental practices. Stroll along the seemingly endless shores or spend quality time engaging in recreational activities. There is an outfitter in town and on the beach who is able to help you enjoy the spacious freedom of the tepid open waters. The municipality has revamped the eastern shores of the main beach with a boat launch, two pier jetties, a large children’s play-structure, and benches. Countless people have witnessed a spectacular sunrise or sunset in the summer months and often stay to take in the star filled skies on a clear hot summer night. Whether you are relaxing to the soothing waves lapping upon the finest sandy shores of this clean award winning “Blue Flag” beach or enjoying a competitive game of beach volleyball you will love your time here.

Little Beach

Tucked away almost entirely out of sight at the east side of town is ‘Little Beach’. Well protected shallow water with ample parking and can easily accommodate hundreds of sun-seekers. It is best suited for families with small children with its shallow water and buoyed swimming area. There are no life guards here but a first-aid response area with several life saving implements for emergencies.

Erie Rest Beach

Another hidden treasure that is well worth hunting down is ‘Erie Rest Beach’. Suited for those who want a little privacy and relaxation, this beach is situated several hundred meters west of Main Beach. It’s 250 meters wide and has a beautiful sand beach with a gradual decline into the water. There is a portable washroom and no lifeguards here but the benefit is solitude.

Accommodation and Dining Steeped in History

Inns, bed & breakfasts, and fully equipped cottages are some of the exquisite choices for over night accommodations available in Port Stanley. Imagine a lake breeze kissing your cheek from your room as you soak in the ambience of the vibrant nightlife. Top notch service, tranquil contemporary surroundings, and a restful sleep.

On the corner of Bridge and Main Streets is the Kettle Creek Inn. It is situated on two lots of land that was originally owned by Colonel John Bostwick who sold them in 1849 to the Justice of the Peace, Squire Samual Price. In 1918, The Price family sold their home to the Williamsons, who opened “The Garden Inn”. During this time, two frogs were sculpted and placed on the sidewalk out front. Kettle Creek Inn was established in 1985 and is currently open year round. Guests can relax on an outdoor patio with a smorgasbord of delicious menu choices.

The Samuel Shepard House is located at 324 Smith Street on the southwest corner of William and Smith streets in Port Stanley. This beautiful century home was built in 1854 by Samuel Shepard who was an insurance agent and merchant specializing in grain and produce. Samuel Shepard was also a designer of windjammers – they were considered to be the finest boats that ever sailed into the harbour. He began a tradition, known as the “Shepard Hat”, awarding a top hat to the first captain to arrive in Port Stanley, after the spring break up. The Shepard House stayed in the Shepard family until 1947, today it is a bed and breakfast called the Windjammer. It also is a fine restaurant where you can dine under a shielding porch or inside where you will find a great deal of character. There are 21 superb eating establishments within the village hamlet that will tantalize your taste buds. The majority of restaurants feature their special recipes for Fresh Lake Erie perch.


Stroll the streets of Port Stanley and you will find heaps of treasures in the wonderful family owned boutiques and antique shops. Window shopping, souvenir hunting, chic style searching, or home d├ęcor accumulation there is something for everyone. Imported gifts, quality clothing, jewellery, home made candies and unique artistic designs are waiting for you.

One of the oldest structures in Port Stanley, the Livery, was a blacksmith shop among other things and is now known as the Darbyshire House. It has also served the community as a confectionary shop, and the Village Hall – temporarily. Today it is a commercial retail store on Main Street where the main level still has it’s original paneled pine doors and large display windows.

Another centric building is The Russell House on Main Street. Built by John Sweeney, shortly after his arrival in the early 1870s, Russell house was constructed with locally made strawberry bricks. It was one of the first hotels to service the early day travellers who arrived by lake, rail and stagecoach to Port Stanley. Over the years it has served as a butcher shop, a plumbing shop, and offices for doctors, lawyers and insurance agents. It was also a bank, the Sterling Bank. Several of the staff members lived in rooms on the second floor, including a young banker named Mitchell Hepburn, who later became Premier of Ontario. Today it is a retail store.

Other Interesting Landmarks

Col. John Bostwick donated one acre of land in 1826 to erect a place of worship. In 1845 Port Stanley’s first place of worship, Christ Church, was constructed using a combination of British Classical and American Colonial styles. It’s most outstanding architectural feature is its tower and spire. Almost ten years after it’s construction, in 1854, a 400 pound bell was acquired and harmonized to where it is today. The church was an important part of religious and social life for the early settlers in the young village. Today, if the church is open, you are welcome to walk in and view the lovely commemorative stained glass windows and stroll the grounds. There are headstones of prominent church members, the grave of Colonel John Bostwick, and a provincial historical plaque detailing his life.

Down Colborne street, heading south, on the right hand side is another church – St. John’s Presbyterian Church built in 1852 by Congregationalists. It is a perfect example of pioneer architecture – featuring a white classical shape, gothic, and Romanesque windows. A Presbyterian congregation was established in 1854 and rented space in the newly constructed church. By 1871 they were able to purchase the building for $420. Today the church still continues to worship and provide community services as well as joint ventures with the Port Stanley United Church across the street. The Port Stanley United Church was originally a Methodist Church, erected in 1889 by a congregation that existed as early as 1836. Complete with a rectory on the north side, and carriage sheds behind, the front vestibule was added after the building became a United Church.

There is a very well preserved single story white home on the Corner of Hetty and Colborne Streets that is basically been unaltered since it was built in 1840. It is known as the Thomson House. Built in a Greek Revival style with cornices and pilasters, this one and a half story white clapboard dwelling was once the home of Eliza Thomson – acting librarian. Around the turn of the century, the south extension of her home served as the Port Stanley library for four decades while the house was her residence. It later served as the office of Dr. Clinton A. Bell.

Port Stanley was and still is, the home of a thriving commercial fishing fleet. In 1910 there were 22 fishing tugs operating from the harbour. An interesting bit of unique architecture is the Cork Kiln, built around 1915 during the boom of the fishing industry in Port Stanley. Located near the end of main street and built into the side of the hill, this design provided a natural dry heat to the cork used for floating fish nets. Just north a few steps is a large gray building located at 194 Main Street. It was once the home of the East Side Fish Company and constructed in about 1917. The unique design had a number of windows that exposed east, south and west symmetrical facades providing natural heat from the sun. It was used as a place where nets could be mended and stored.

Col. John Bostwick’s original residence is also located on Main Street. When disaster struck and his home burned down, Manuel Payne purchased the property and used yellow brick to create an early Victorian style home on the remaining original foundation in 1873. Architectural enthusiasts can still recognize the mixes of Gothic Revival gables, Italianate style quoining, and the bay windows. Manual Payne was a landowner, railway agent, telegraph and telephone operator, a custom’s officer, express agent, issuer of marriage licenses, and the first postmaster of the village.

Best Beach Tents – 5 Things to Look For in a Great Beach Tent

The best beach tents can come from many different companies, since many companies put out excellent products. However, the very best options have similar characteristics that you’ll want to look for. Whether you’re looking for a tent for your baby or for the whole family to enjoy some shade at the beach or in the backyard, here’s what to check for before you buy.

1. Quality

The number one thing that sets the best beach tents apart from those that are only so-so is their quality. Look for shelters that use durable materials for both the supports and the fabrics. If you’re looking for a super-cheap tent that will only last for a couple of trips to the beach, this isn’t as important. However, if you really want to make an investment in a tent that will last for several summers, high quality construction and materials are paramount.

2. Ease of Assembly

The best tents are easy to assemble, no matter what the weather. Many lower-quality options are difficult to put together, especially if it’s windy outside. Tents that make their users particularly happy are ones that are simple to put together with just one or two people. A pop up beach tent is a good option here, since it can be easily erected in just seconds, but they will cost a little more. There are also plenty of easy-assembly options on the market that aren’t actually pop up tents.

3. Durability

A tent made of high-quality materials will obviously be more durable over time, but you also want to check for one that’s durable in all sorts of weather and wind. Make sure your beach shelter will stand up in the windy conditions that seem to be ever-present on beaches. For the most part, even the best beach tents need to be staked out, so the tent you buy should come with stakes specifically designed for sandy beach conditions to ensure that you can easily set it up and make it stable in the wind you’ll often find at the beach.

4. UV Protection

The best beach shelters offer more than just shade – they provide UV protection from the sun’s harmful rays. This protection often comes in the form of specially coated materials that are meant to block out UVA and UVB rays with the most effectiveness. UV protection is great in all beach tents, but it’s especially important for beach tents for babies and kids!

5. Extra Features

Some models are just simple tents, and they can be fine for a day at the beach, but the best tents for the beach will have extra features that make them more user-friendly. Look for cross-ventilation windows that can be closed for extra privacy, fold-down doors that can trap some of the sand outside of the beach tent, pockets to hold your odds and ends during the day at the beach, and integrated sand-bag-pockets to keep your shady retreat from blowing away in the wind.

Advertising Your Business With Vinyl Lettering Is Easy, Affordable and Will Last for Years

Create your own sign with the foremost choice in signage; our sturdy, weather-resistant custom vinyl banners are an excellent choice for outside or indoor use. Style your own banner by adding graphics to push your event, celebrate a birthday or day of remembrance, or announce the launch of your new business. Custom vinyl cut banners are sturdy and can be ordered in a variety of weights for indoor or outdoor use. These materials are the same material that the majority billboards are created out of. Most banners have a strength of 153 lbs x 149 lbs, a tear resistance of 66 lbs x 63 lbs, a temperature resistance of -22F to 180F, and have passed the Calif. State firefighter, NFPA 701 Flame check. Be sure that when purchasing that you select the correct type of material for your needs. Some materials are manufactured for strictly indoor use and are not recommended for those that may want to display these outside.

Installation is very simple and can be done by almost anyone.

One of the easiest types of advertising to install, most banners use some type of strings, cords or bungees to connect the corner grommets to a stationary object. Poles, fences trees, walls or just about any area you like can be adjusted to hang your banner. For a more permanent mounting you can use screws and washers to mount your banner to a more solid surface such as concrete and wood.

Care of your vinyl lettering and banners:

Taking care of your banners and custom vinyl lettering is easy and requires little effort. I recommend that clean them often with a little warm water and a clean cloth. Simply wipe them down and allow them to air dry. When storing your banners it is recommended that you first clean them thoroughly with warm water and allow to dry; then either store flat or roll banner and store in a tube to protect he banner from being crushed and possibly damaged. All vinyl banners and lettering should be stored in a cool dry place. When taking your banner out for use, simply unroll and take out any wrinkles that may have formed by placing in the banner in the sun or a warm area for a couple hours and it should look as good a new!

Vinyl lettering and banners get the needed information to your customers in an easy yet direct manner and are one of the most reasonably priced forms of advertisement for your business.

5 Fundamental Guitar Skills All Guitarists Should Learn

Guitar skills are what it’s all about when you’re learning to play the guitar, but sometimes you can’t be sure where to start and what’s important to learn. You see famous guitar players moving all over the fret boards with their sweet techniques and it may get confusing as to what you should learn.

The best way to go at it is to cover all of the basics and introductory skills that will allow you to start learning songs quickly because we know that’s what you want to do. So, just to get you down the right track, here’s a list of 5 very important skills that every guitarist should know.

1. How to form and transition between chords

You can’t play songs or get even close to jamming around the campfire unless you know at least three chords. There really isn’t all that much to playing the guitar besides knowing chords and having some lead riffs to go along with them.

Once you sit down and actually hash out what the chords are to your favorite songs, then you can begin to get down to business.

2. How to warm up before practicing

Most guitarists don’t know what it means to warm up before playing their practice material and it can be holding them back. One of the most important aspects of practice time is warming up. I guess you could think of it like eating breakfast in the morning.

3. Hammer-ons and pull-offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are some great guitar skills that are used in almost every song with lead riffs because they’re so impressive to hear, yet easy to play.

To execute a hammer-on, you simply press a finger very quickly onto the fret board on a string to get it to ring. To execute a pull-off you reverse the action and attempt to sound the note by pulling away with your finger.

4. How to follow a tempo closely

All of these riffs and chords don’t mean squat if you can’t go along with a drummer or any sort of beat in real life. It’s alright to plan on playing by yourself forever, but most of the time, musicians like to progress into a band.

Learn to pay close attention to a metronome when you play in order to get that beat ingrained in your skull so that it almost haunts you in your sleep.

5. Double-picking to improve your playing speed

If you’re playing every note by moving the pick in a downwards motion every single time, you’re wasting your talents. Eventually, this method is going to slow you up and you’ll need to start double-picking.

Double-picking is when you strike a string by moving the pick downwards and then hit the string again when bringing the pick back up. You essentially double your picking speed with this new way of picking.

Now, all of these skills are extremely important to learning how to play the guitar properly, but nine out of ten times, it takes the guidance of a professional to truly get a beginner off their feet. Whether it’s from books, magazines, videos, or the internet, there’s usually a guitar instructor that knows how to get you going.

The newest craze of learning guitar skills is by way of online guitar lessons that you can access from your home computer. They’re very convenient and affordable and they can turn you into a great guitarist by teaching you skills like:

* Tackling lead riffs and licks with less stress

* How to remember tons of chords without having to look them up

* How to remember more songs so that you don’t run out of material

* How to create a great practice schedule that will keep you motivated and won’t burn you out

Down Syndrome – Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Down syndrome is the most common genetic disorder that causes severe learning disability in children. Children with Down syndrome have some distinctive features which include flattened facial features; a protruding tongue; a small head; upward slanting eyes; unusually shaped ears; broad, short, hands with relatively short fingers; and poor muscle tone causing excessive flexibility. Down syndrome is not inherited, but is caused by 3 types of genetic variations involving the 21st chromosome, which include the Trisomy 21, the Mosaic Down syndrome and the Translocation Down syndrome. Advancing maternal age and a family history are risk factors for this condition. Complications of this condition include heart defects, leukemia, a susceptibility to infectious diseases, dementia in later life, and other structural and functional problems in the body.

The Ayurvedic treatment of Down syndrome is aimed at improving physical and cognitive deficits, preventing complications and attempting to normalize life for the affected children, to the extent possible with medicines. Medicines like Trayo-Dashang-Guggulu, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Vish-Tinduk-Vati, Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Sunthi (Zinziber officinalis), Marich (Piper nigrum), Pippali (Piper longum), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Nimba (Azadirachta indica), Patol (Tricosanthe dioica), Draksha (Vitis vinifera), Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Kuchla (Strychnos nuxvomica) and Indrayav (Holarrhina antidysentrica) can be used to improve muscle tone and co-ordination. Massage of the entire body using medicated oils like Mahanarayan oil, Mahamash oil and Mahasaindhav oil is also very helpful.

To improve cognitive performance and prevent dementia, medicines used are: Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Jyotishmati (Celastrus panniculatus) and Kushmand (Benincasa hispida). In order to reduce susceptibility to infectious diseases, medicines used are: Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Pippali, Yashtimadhuk, Abhrak-Bhasma, Laghu-Malini-Vasant, Madhu-Malini-Vasant and Suvarna-Malini-Vasant. Medicines like Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Shrung-Bhasma, Laxadi-Guggulu, Arjunarishta, Arjun (Terminalia Arjuna) and Amalaki can be used to reduce disability from heart defects. Medicines like Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Laxadi-Guggulu, Suvarna-Bhasma and Heerak-Bhasma can be used to prevent or treat leukemia. In order to improve or correct hearing loss and poor vision, medicines like Tapyadi-Loh, Kaishor-Guggulu, Punarnavadi-Guggulu, Abhrak-Bhasma and Ekang-Veer-Ras can be used.

A judicious combination of Ayurvedic medicines can thus help to reduce physical and mental disability and dramatically increase the life span for people with Down syndrome. All such patients should be under the regular care and supervision of a team of physicians specializing in Down syndrome.

Cubism, Picasso and Michelangelo – What Links Them?

At the dawn of the 20th century, painters in Paris began experimenting with new ideas. Among others, Cezanne was breaking away from the idea of ‘reporting’ the world of nature in paint. He was cutting natural forms into geometrical ‘bits.’ Sisley was taking a scientific approach to colour, devising ‘programs’ to trigger a psychological response in the viewer. Seurat, in his too-short life, developed a method of placing tiny daubs of colour, each placed close beside its complement, so that the viewer’s brain did the work of mixing these ‘pixels’ of colour optically. This became known as Pointillism.

  • ‘Bits, programs, pixels’ – today, in the age of computers, it all sounds oddly familiar to us. Two influential schools of artistic direction arose in the 1890s: Impressionism and Cubism.

Cubism claims Pablo Picasso for its founder.

Picasso‘s stupendous output includes paintings and drawings, sculpture, collages and ceramics. He produced art prints and designed stage sets for ballet. His talent for self-promotion was at least as extraordinary as his energy for making art.

Michelangelo, the peerless sculptor, was also the architect of many of Rome’s most famous buildings. St Peter’s basilica in the Vatican is a draw-card for tourists but it may never have reached completion without the genius of Michelangelo.

After 40 years, construction had stalled because the original plans for its vital component – the enormous, iconic dome – proved unworkable. Michelangelo was called in to re-design the dome and his intervention wrought the engineering solution, combined with awe-inspiring beauty of design.

In his writings, Michelangelo modestly declared himself ‘no painter.’ He clearly identified his ability as a painter to be secondary to his work as a sculptor but he left us the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by which to judge his self-assessment.

Each of these men, so distanced in time, place, artistic style and personality, display two traits in common. They are:

1. Out-of-the-box thinking.

2. Ability to put ideas across by using the simplest language.

Michelangelo once gave this advice to painters: ‘Painting most closely approaches perfection when it most closely resembles sculpture.’

Michelangelo wanted to engage people on their most human levels – emotional, intellectual and spiritual. To achieve this, he knew he must persuade the viewer to ‘suspend disbelief’ in just the same way a novelist does.

The artwork needs to tell a story with enough impact to capture the attention of the audience. It must be ‘larger than life.’ Yet it must be realistic enough to make us forget that it is an artefact – ‘just’ a painting or ‘just’ a sculpture, made by a human being ‘just’ like ourselves.

In painting, this trick depends upon the painter’s skill at creating an illusion of ‘depth’ on a two-dimensional surface.

  • This principle held painting’s Truth for hundreds of years.

Picasso told the world something different: ‘Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.’

Cubism rests on the creation of a single picture plane, devoid of any sense of ‘depth.’ Shown in this shallow space, all objects are reduced to their simplest expression as cylinders, spheres, cones and cubes. Cubist pictures are deliberately detached from human sentiment.

They remind us we are looking at something artificial, not a representation of something we may encounter in life.

  • And of course, this is the truth about Art.

Art historians track Cubism as a radical avant-garde movement from its beginnings in 1906 to its final phase in 1921. From our vantage point today, fifteen years seems a short lifespan for an idea that caused such turmoil in the whole world of Art.

Michelangelo’s art – especially his sculpted figures such as the ‘Pieta’ in the Vatican and his ‘David’ in Florence – has the power to take our hearts and shake our minds, 500 years later.

The Advantages of Dome Skylights For Homes

Dome skylights offer many advantages to the homeowner. They are lightweight and require little, or no maintenance. They are the best choice for a skylight if you live in a climate with extreme temperatures since they keep energy transfer to a minimum. They can be purchased as a single, double, or triple dome, but if you are looking for energy efficiency you should only consider a double or triple dome.

A dome skylight is suitable for any roof, including flat roofs. In fact they are particularly well suited for flat roofs due to the fact that they shed water quickly because of the “self-cleaning” aspect of the dome. Typically, the dome’s height is approximately 25% of the width of the skylight which allows the water to quickly flow off the surface.

The ability to gather light from many angles is another big advantage of the dome skylight, unlike a flat skylight which only allows direct light to enter. If illuminating a room is the main concern then a clear acrylic dome is the best choice. If you are looking for a more gentle lighting effect then a white or bronze acrylic dome is the best alternative-especially for light-sensitive people. The white or bronze skylight has the effect of softening the light entering the room and tends to eliminate the glare.

Finally, a big advantage of an acrylic dome skylight is that its shape is much stronger than a flat acrylic skylight. Flat sheets of plastic typically have a much greater tendency to expand and contract which can lead to earlier failure of the material.

Overall, the choice of a dome skylight will be determined by your individual needs but, in general, it will be one of the best options if you are looking for a skylight with energy efficiency, ability to illuminate, and longevity.

How to Play Corona Solitaire

Corona Solitaire is a fun solitaire game, requiring skill, planning, and patience. There are decisions to make throughout the game, but you may not know if the game can be finished until the very last card. It is quite an obscure solitaire game, but those that play it find it immensely fun… in fact, it’s one of my personal favourites, and I can’t stop playing!

The aim is to build 8 ascending suit sequences in the foundation stacks.

The opening tableau is maed up of 2 decks, and consists of:

  • 8 foundation stacks, which are all empty,
  • 12 manoeuvre stacks, each with 3 face-up cards, and
  • a talon, with 68 face-down cards.

Cards can be moved in the manoeuvre zone if they are the same suit and 1 less in

rank. So a 7 of Diamonds can be played onto an 8 of Diamonds, and a Queen of

Spades can be played onto a King of Spades. Kings cannot be moved in the

manoeuvre zone at all.

When a manoeuvre stack becomes empty, a card is automatically taken from the top

of the waste pile. If the waste pile is empty, a card is automatically taken from the


Clicking the talon will move a single card to the waste pile. You can only cycle

through the talon once.

Only a single card can be moved at any time, and stacks can not be moved as a


Whilst the rules seem simple, the game itself is quite complex, often requiring

considerable planning. In particular, deciding when exactly to clear a stack can have

a huge impact on the game, because it changes what cards you currently have in

play. It often pays to hold-off on clearing a stack, so that a more valuable card is

put into play.

At the start of the game, it helps to look for inversions. This is where a card is

obscured by the same suit but higher rank. For example, a 2 of Diamonds

underneath a 7 of Diamonds. Inversions can make the underneath card hard to

expose, and not paying attention to them can cause games to become unsolvable. It

often pays to try and move inversions where possible, so in the example above, it

would be beneficial to move the 7 of Diamonds onto an 8 of Diamonds, to get

access to the 2, rather than put a 6 of Diamonds onto the 7.

If you play solitaire, or like a challenge, then give Corona Solitaire a go… I’m sure

you’ll love it!

Landscaping Tips – How to Install a Classic Stone Border

Step 1: Planning

The first step to installing a stone border is to PLAN. Choose a stone that matches the architecture (shape and color) of the home and identify the color of mortar that will look best (grey or beige).

Next, decide where the stone border will go. Think about future landscape expansions too, it is easier to add the space now then trying to redo the border later. Sprinkler systems are also an issue, design the border to stay clear of any sprinkler heads.

Tip: Most home improvement stores only carry a traditional grey mortar, but I will explain how to custom mix mortar to make a beige color in Step 4.

Calculations: Figure 1 ton of stone per 100 feet of border, and calculate one bag of mortar per 3 to 5 feet.

Step 2: Layout

Now that all the planning is out of the way and all the materials are on hand, it’s time from some fun! It’s time to lay the outline of the stone border. I recommend using a garden hose, or some other object that will allow for easy adjustments until the final layout is determined.

Once the final layout is in place, use marking paint to spray the outline. This will act as a guide when digging.

Tip: If there are long curves, use 1/2 inch diameter PVC pipe and grade stakes to help get a smooth curve. Determine the beginning and end points of the curve and drive in one stake at each end. With the PVC pipe wedged against the two end stakes, push the middle of the pipe until the desired curve is achieved. Drive in the middle stake to hold the pipe in place.

Step 3: Preparation

Dig along the outline created in Step 2 to approximately 4 inches deep by 4 inches wide. This may need to be deeper and wider depending on the type of stone used. Once the trench is dug, layout the stone along the border for easy access. Only lay out what can be installed for that day. Also, have the mortar, wheelbarrow, water hose, shovel, rubber mallet, bucket, sponge, level and trowel ready to go.

Step 4: Installation

Now it is time to start laying the stone. First, mix the mortar in the wheelbarrow, adding only enough water until the mortar has the consistency of peanut butter. Start on one side of the trench and lay two to three inches of mortar into the trench. Next, lay the first stone into the mortar and tap slightly with a rubber mallet, only using enough force to set the stone slightly in the mortar. Repeat this process until the border complete, using a level along the way to make sure the border has an uniform height (not necessarily level). Fill in the gaps between the stones with mortar, making sure to leave drain holes about every 5 feet to allow water to drain from the landscaped areas. Use a damp sponge to wipe off excess mortar from the stone every ten feet, this will keep the mortar from drying and staining the stone. After allowing the mortar to dry for a day, backfill with dirt along the border to cover up the base.

Tip: Only mix enough mortar that can be used in a 30 minute time period, don’t mix so much that it hardens during use. Some stone looks better with a beige mortar. To accomplish this mix four parts masonry sand to one part white Portland cement. Mix these two together before adding water. The stone yard should have both of these in stock. Figure one-half yard masonry sand and two bags of white Portland per one hundred feet of border.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Escelating Density Training and the Olympic Lifts

There’s gotta be a better way!

I’ve been competing in Olympic Lifting for about 8 years, on and off. It’s a wonderful sport filled with great people and challenging, but rewarding exercises.

While the Olympic Lifts and their variations have been a part of my programs since I started nearly 15 years ago, they were, frankly, starting to let me down.

My training became stale and I was not producing on the platform. I decided to take a break from the O-lifts for a while and stumbled on an article by Charles Staley, strength coach extraordinaire, about his Escalating Density Training (EDT) system. For those of you unfamiliar with EDT, here’s a brief explanation from one of Charles’s Articles.

If you know when it’ll be over, you’ll work that much harder. The EDT system employs time frames for work sets. When the time frame ends, you’re done, no matter what you have or haven’t accomplished. Your goal is to discover ways to do more and more work within these time frames. As the old saying goes “You can work hard, or you can work long, but you can’t work hard for long.”

My take on EDT was always simple. Time your work, record what you do, then, the next week, you try to beat your total number of reps, amount of weight used, or time you completed the work in. It’s a very simple and straightforward way of tracking progress.

I liked the idea and formulated a basic template. Unfortunately a football induced knee injury meant I was going to have to scrap that idea for a while. I read about the EDT for Arms program and decided to specialize for a while. Well, 6 weeks later, my knee was healed and my arms were much bigger and stronger. I decided to look at this EDT program much harder.

I wanted to go to one more Olympic Lifting meet. My last 3 had been disappointing, missing weights I had hit in training, always feeling like I’m leaving a ton of potential on the platform, especially in the C & J. I wanted to get one good meet in, then move on to Powerlifting for a while.

But, what to do? My old approach was not working at all. I was on the path of following percentages and extreme specificity. Problem was that I’d often have to go up to 95%+ of my contest maxes and it would just be too heavy and not provide enough reps to really refine the skill.

Then I was watching a tape of the Bulgarian Olympic Lifting team training and I noticed something strange.

They didn’t follow any percentages, nor did they worry about a prescribed number of sets and reps. I hauled out a few of my other tapes and saw that while every team did things differently, the one thing they had in common was that they picked a lift for the session, then worked it extremely hard for 30 minutes. Hmm, this got me thinking, “I wonder if I could use the principals of EDT to prepare for my last meet?”

Being a lifter with a decent Snatch, an excellent Jerk, and a sub-par Clean, I needed to formulate a plan to work my weaknesses, yet still hit my strong points.

I came up with a basic template fairly quickly.

Day 1

Zone 1 – 30 minutes

Snatch – Singles or doubles for a 30 minute block. I didn’t follow any percentage guide, but I was usually in the 85 – 95% range. Sometimes I’d work up to a Training Max and try to hit it as many times as I could.

Zone 2 – 25 minutes

Clean Pulls

Front Squats – If this zone seems like a lot of work, it’s because it is. Reps were between 1 and 3, and rest periods were as short as possible. Remember, we’re trying to increase density here.

Day 2

Zone 1 – 30 minutes

Front Squat – 30 minutes of doubles and singles with whatever felt heavy that day (training max)

Zone 2 – 25 minutes

Incline or Push Press -Typically 1-3 reps (1-8 for the Incline work)

Rows/Chins/General Back Work -Higher reps, usually sets of 5-8

Day 3

Zone 1 – 30 minutes

Clean and Jerk – 30 minutes of doubles and singles with whatever felt heavy that day (training max)

Zone 2 – 25 minutes

RDL’s or SLDL – Usually doubles or triples

Clean and Clean Pull – These were for speed and form, usually done for 1-3 reps. One rep of a clean, followed by 1-3 reps of Clean Pulls

Zone 3 – 10 minutes

Optional Arm Work -If I felt like doing some vanity work, I would. If I was tried, I didn’t. Reps were 4-8.

The sessions were fairly similar for the entire 12 weeks. Progression was measured in three ways:

1. Beat the number of reps

2. Add weight

3. Same weight, same reps in less time

The first thing I noticed was my work capacity was greatly increased. Also the ability to “follow myself” became almost automatic. In a meet, if you miss a weight, you are cut down to 60 seconds rest, and must repeat the attempt. This used to be fairly difficult, as one minute is not a lot of time to rest in between max attempts. However, after just a few weeks, I was hitting 90%+ for set after set with ease.

About 4 weeks in I decided to play with exercise order. Whereas most people put the classic lifts first, I would often put the accessory lifts first and the snatch or clean and jerk second or third.

Blasphemy, I know. We’ve all heard it a million times. “The Olympic Lifts are a high-skill exercise and should always be done first.” Well, anyone who’s ever been in a meet knows that you might attempt your first Clean and Jerk two or three hours after completing the Snatch. You will be tired at this point and if you are not used to doing the lifts in a fatigued state, you’re done. While no training program can replicate a meet, doing Snatches after 25 – 30 minutes of heavy leg work will certainly help.

I was about at the 9-week mark that I started to notice huge jumps in weight. I took week 8 off, other than pulling a light sled, stretching, and walking. When I got back in the weightroom in week 9, the weights were flying up. I had not only surpassed my previous meet weights; I was doing them for 12-15 singles!

This is another huge strength of the EDT program: It builds amazing levels of confidence.

Going into a meet wondering “Wow, can I actually DO this weight?” is much different from; “Ok, a new P.R., but I’ve done it in the gym fifteen times.” Which mindset would you rather go to the platform with?

I pushed hard through weeks 9 – 12. I did a de-load the week before the meet to allow my body to recover, as at this point I was getting beat up from the much heavier weights I was not using. Meet day came and it was almost anti-climactic.

The Snatch went easily, hitting a P.R. of 10kg. I felt I had more in me, but I had a decent lead and didn’t want to risk it. Now on to the Clean and Jerk. This is the lift that has disappointed me time and time again throughout the years. I decided to open with the same weight I ended with last meet.

Smoked it. Next up, a 10kg P.R. attempt. The weight came up so easily that I actually missed racking it! So here I was, following myself, shooting for a 20+lb P.R. This time I was ready for the bar, racked it, and smoked the jerk. I won the meet easily and wondered why I didn’t try this sooner!

Take Home Lessons

Following my program completely might be a mistake for you. I provided it as a template and it’s up to you to figure out your weak points and strengthen them.

You’ll notice I Front Squatted for most of the program. I’m not anti-Back Squat and it would be perfectly acceptable to use both or alternate. Front Squats have always had a much more positive impact on strength for me, and that’s why they were so prominent in the program. It should be said however, that my legs got much bigger and stronger, and that strength carried over big time to my next cycle.

The best approach would be to learn the principles of EDT and start to apply them to your training as soon as you can. Experiment; find an approach that fits you and your needs. With some hard work and smart planning, EDT can help you too have your best meet ever!

Public Speaking – 3 Ways to Make a "Signature Speech" Work to Market Your Small Business

Public speaking is powerful stuff and the word is out: creating a Signature Speech to market your business is a must. As the foremost expert in creating a speech to market your business, more and more I am invited to speak to record-breaking large groups of home-based business owners, solo professionals, and entrepreneurs about how to put together your own Signature Speech.

Once smart business people understand what a Signature Speech is, they get why it’s so powerful. Just in case you’re not clear on what it is, here’s my definition:

Your Signature Speech is a persuasive presentation you prepare to market your business to a live audience filled with your ideal target market.

I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to show you three ways to make your Signature Speech work to market your business.

1. Is the Signature Speech the same as an elevator speech or resource box at the bottom of an article?

Answer. Nope. It’s MUCH longer and although it’s technically a persuasive speech, it’s not “salesy” at all. Provide lots of useful information that your audience can apply right away. Tell folks what, why, and how.

2. How long should my Signature Speech be?

Answer: You need a speech that is about 35-40 minutes long. From there you can add or take away some info to meet the time requirements of most groups. Some will invite you to speak for as little as 20 minutes while others will want you to speak for up to an hour.

3. How do you get bookings?

Answer: It’s much simpler than you think. Groups everywhere are starving for speakers willing to speak pro bono. Start telling everyone you know and meet that you have a speech ready to go. You’ll get invited. Then call every Chamber of Commerce within driving distance of your home. You’ll get booked.

If you don’t have a Signature Speech ready to go just yet, you may want to get on that right away. You’ll soon see your number of sales and prospects increase in a hurry as a direct result of marketing your business with public speaking.

My Review of Teppanyaki Grills Includes Andrew James in the UK and the Presto Range in the USA

For some reason there has been a massive upsurge in interest in electric indoor grilling, and the Teppanyaki cooking method in particular. There could be many reasons for this. Here in the UK the weather, to be blunt, can be the deciding factor. Regardless of this, and wherever you are, climatic conditions can seriously affect our plans to have a barbecue. Indoor electric grilling, particularly with the grills that cook both sides of the food at once are great! But where is the theatre in that? You really can’t entertain your friends and family that way, but I can show you how to add theatre and excitement to indoor electric grilling.

Teppanyaki! That’s how! Electric Teppenyaki grills. If you have a flat piece of iron or steel plate, and a heat source, be it charcoal, gas or electric, your cooking will qualify as Teppenyaki style. ‘Teppan’ meaning ‘iron plate’ and ‘Yaki’ basically meaning ‘grilling’. In terms of cooking indoors for friends, using electric is very sensible. No carbon monoxide or noxious fumes and of course, electric grills are totally controllable.

There are companies that have recognised the value of combining a flat cooking surface with electric heat for indoor use – Andrew James’ Teppanyaki grills are excellent value here in the UK, but less available, as yet, in the States. However, Presto (in the US) do have a range of grills that fit the bill and allow indoor electric Teppanyaki.

The Andrew James range of Teppanyaki grills is based around three grills

  • 46cms x 24.5cms 1800 watts @ 230 volts
  • 63cms x 23cms 1800 watts @230 volts
  • 88cms x 23cms 1800 watts @ 230 volts

As you can see, they are all quite large, though they do all share the same 1800 watts of heat. This does mean that the 88cms grill will use the high power setting more than the 46cms version will. Not a problem, 1800 watts won’t break the bank! Andrew James also supplies combination grill / griddles in all sorts of guises if you are interested in these types of variations.

The Presto range in the USA is also quite interesting.The model that appeals to me in particular for Teppanyaki style entertaining in the States is the Presto 07061 22-inch (about 66CMS) Electric Griddle with Removable Handles. At 120VAC and a meaty 1500 watts of heat, you are going to have no problem in entertaining friends and family. This is Amazon’s #1 best seller in the Grills and Griddles category, and boasts more than 330 customer reviews.

We can set the scene for what may be a wet and windy day outside, but we have decided to hold an impromptu grill (of course we will call it a barbecue). There’s you and your partner, maybe a couple of kids and possibly three or four friends. You’ve done a great salad and have fresh bread and all the sauces. The centre piece is the Teppanyaki grill. It’s covered in food and looks great. You’re in for a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable time. Total – Absolute – Bliss.

Electric Wok and Its Benefits

If you love foods that can be fixed in a wok, you should consider purchasing an electric wok. It doesn’t take up much room so it can store easily and fits perfectly on your countertop when in use. One of the biggest benefits is that no stove is required.

Why an Electric Wok

When we think of a wok, most of us probably think of some sort of stir-fry foods that are cooked in the wok. There are actually a number of other cooking processes that a wok can be used for. It is a multi-functional piece of cooking equipment that can create healthy and tasty meals. In addition, a wok cooks fast and at various temperatures.

Benefits of Using an Electric Wok

Self-contained – It’s a standalone cooking tool. The wok has a built-in heating element that heats the entire cooking surface to ensure even cooking of the food within the wok. Most have a longer electric cord to ensure any electrical outlet can be reached. In addition, the temperature control will range from warm/low to high so that you can keep foods warm or cook food very quickly.

Compact – The average sized wok is 14 inches in diameter which can hold about 6 to 7 quarts and is perfect for a family. This is about the size of an average skillet that you might use on the stovetop so it doesn’t take up much counter space. This makes it perfect for smaller kitchens or on the buffet table and guests can cook their own foods.

Multiple cooking options – Just about any food you love to eat can be fixed in a wok. From vegetable fried rice to French fries, the wok can handle the job. You can steam, boil, fry, braise, saute, sear or even tempura. In addition, since most heat to the requested temperature in about 3 minutes, you won’t have long to wait before eating; it’s faster and healthier than eating out.

Easy cleanup – Clean up is a snap. Although there are stainless steel woks available, most have a non-stick coating which makes them a breeze to clean. If the wok has a separate base, the wok and its lid should be dishwasher safe. If it’s an all-in-one unit then typically it shouldn’t be submerged in water.

Portable – Since an electric wok is self-contained, it can be taken anywhere there is electricity. You can take the wok to work or even camping. Remember, its compact (weighs on average 4 – 5 pounds) and heats quickly so the small space it uses and the small window of time to cook makes the wok a must have kitchen tool.

Reduce your electricity bill – Do you like to save money? It has been noted several times of the wok being self-contained and has different temperature levels. The combination of these two features reduces the number of burners and/or microwave you have on which reduces your utility bill. In addition, your traditional stove can take a while to reach the appropriate temperature you need while the wok takes about 3 minutes and actual cooking time is less as well. With less time turned on, the less electricity you will use thus lowering your electric bill.

If you are in need of a cooking tool that offers a lot of benefits like heats fast and doesn’t take up much space, consider getting a wok. You can cook just about anything in a wok that you can on the stove but in a smaller space and in a shorter period of time. There are a number of quality woks on the market today, simply choose the electric wok that best suits your needs.