Tips for Making Your Wedding Bouquets Last

Because a lot of the wedding preparations start in the morning and go well into the afternoon, the flowers will need to be delivered well before the ceremony. If it's a warm day, you might find you and your bridesmaids with wilted, dropping flowers. But do not worry; there are ways to avoid this as well.

Keeping it cool

Most of the bouquets and other floral arrangements will come in either vases or small plastic bags of water. These are designed to keep them moist and pert until the start of the wedding. And while keeping them in these packages will help the most for keeping your flowers from wilting, there are other ways to spruce them up.

If you should get flowers that are not as perky, then you can run the ends of the bouquets under cold water as you cut the ends at an angle. This will help to create new channels for the water to flow through. Place the bouquets back into their original water and they should become straighter and livelier within an hour or so.

What you may read in some books is that you can use ice cubes in the water to help you make the flowers look better, but this only freezes the routes of water to the flower, and can cause even more harm to a sagging bouquet.

If you decide to take outdoor pictures, they you can take the bouquets out of the water, dry them off with a paper towel and stand and pose. Once you are back inside, you will want to put the flowers back into the water once more, to make sure that they get the most amount of water they can before the ceremony.

After the fact

If you're looking to preserve your bouquet, here are a few tips. Although many florists can help you with preserving the bride's bouquet, you can also do it yourself. One route is to hang the bouquet upside down as soon as you can after the wedding. This helps the flowers to keep their original shape as they air dry. The air drying process will take a while, so do not worry if you're still waiting on them to dry a month later.

Another way to preserve bouquets is to spray them with hair spray immediately following the wedding and hang them upside down. This creates a sort of layer of protection around the petals and can shield the flowers from losing their original shape.

Don’t Forget the Beach Toys!

Announcing a day at the beach to my kids is always followed by a mad dash to find beach wear and gear. The beach bag with our toys has a designated spot in the garage and it’s loaded first by my teenager. This is the same child who is never the first, always the last in the SUV no matter the occasion. He may be the last to buckle his seat belt, but he always assures that there will be beach toys and water toys for everyone. When you announce to your kids that you are going to spend the day at the beach, more often than not, the first thing that comes to mind for your child will not be the sound of the water or the feel of the sand, but how many sand castles he can create. It is equally important to older kids and adults that we have our favorites ready to go at a moment’s notice. The movement of sand and water with our tools, a Frisbee to toss or ball to swat are absolute essentials for the trip no matter how long we plan to stay. When checking the trunk or SUV, be sure you’ve included these with the beach towels and beach chairs.

• Sand shovels and sand pails – There are different types (shapes) of bucket and shovels available in toy shops or in the convenience stores near the beaches. During the off-season, your favorite online beach gear store will have a variety of shovels and pails as well. Our favorite is the Dune Spoon with the 22 inch wood handle and plastic grip. Comes in a rainbow of colors (even tie-dye!). There are shovels that are made from plastics with either a short or longer handles made of plastic or wood. There are shovels too made from metal which cuts through wet sand easily, be careful giving these to very young toddlers. Sturdy plastic will last for many seasons with just a quick rinse after your day in the sand. As for the buckets, there are plastic buckets with strong sturdy handles which can hold scoops of sands that are usually heavy when wet. You can opt for plastic rake too as this is safer than a shovel since it can hurl less wads of sand! Shovels and rakes with sturdy rubber handles provide better grasps for your artist child at work in the sand. Older children may pay attention to the designs a shovel or rake make in the sand as a deciding factor. Depending on the level of creativity, a shovel and rake combo may be necessary for the job. Sand molds are also available either purchased separately or as set with a bucket and shovel. What usually matters most for kids is what design to choose for their sand castle or how to totally cover the adults with sand.

• Catch and Release beach toys and beach games – Balls of all sizes and shapes, Smash-ball sets, Pro-Kadima, and even beach towels patterned like giant game boards for Tic-Tac-Toe Back-Gammon and Checkers are also readily available in the beach toy section. These are particularly attractive to the older “kid” crowd. The possible varieties are endless and all can be stored in a laundry basket or large beach bag (I recommend a Whale Bag) for the next beach trip. What usually matters most for kids is how to totally cover their favorite adults with sand.

• Water toys, squirt guns, floaties and inflatables – A trip to the beach would not be complete without water. What better way to celebrate the trip than with a water pistol, Super Soaker and a flotation device! All shapes and sizes are available in both these toy. Specifically for the flotation device an air pump is a must, either the manual type or the electric that plugs into a car lighter. Check these devices out for an extra feature which allows DEFLATING as well. This is especially helpful for easy storage of the flotation devices after returning home. This can be a perfect time to bond with your favorite young (or old) person and sharing with them many buckets of laughter and great fun-filled moments will have you both looking forward to the next weekend at the beach!

Plan for your next trip to the beach to be an experience you will never forget. At the very least you want to make memories with your young person. All that is required is your favorite beach toys, beach towel and sunscreen.

A Lift Chair For Your Parents

As a child you often feel that your parents are untouchable and very strong, but as you begin to age, you realize that your parents are people just like you. Many times diseases like arthritis affect their ability to move around and it is common for them to have difficulty standing and sitting. Since it is not possible for you always to be around, a lift chair is often used to make standing and sitting safe and easy.

Lift chairs are more popular than ever today and are an investment in safety. This is because the chair can be raised and lowered, which makes it possible to stand or sit safely and without assistance. They can be easily controlled by the person in the chair and use large buttons that are easy to see and feel. This can make standing a simple task and one that does not require help from someone else, so you know that your parents will always be able to stand up, even after they have been sitting for an extended period of time.

These chairs feature a lifting mechanism that is installed to the base of the chair. An attached remote is used to lift the chair into the air and when it is fully raised, the seated individual is able to transfer out of the chair and into a standing position. They are also used to make sitting safer and easier, because they allow the individual to lower themselves in a controlled way. In addition to making standing and sitting easier, these chairs also offer the same functionality as a recliner does. The backrest can be lowered or raised electronically and the footrest is also controlled electronically.

While almost all of the chairs that are available today use an electric motor to lift the chair, a few models are still available that use a spring lifting system. None of the reputable lift chair manufactures offer these chairs, but some are still made overseas and sold to unsuspecting people. The spring system is very dangerous and has caused many injuries, so if you come across a chair that uses this type of system, it should be avoided. Generally a reputable company will not sell this type of chair and the big names in the industry, Golden Technologies and Pride Mobility, have never used this type of system, because of their high commitment to their customers.

When deciding on a chair for your parent, it is a good idea to measure their existing chair first. This will give you a way to compare the lift chairs dimensions to your existing chair and find one that is designed to fit your needs.

It can often be difficult to come to a standing position and if you have to help someone do it, you are increasing your risk of a fall. Investing in a lift chair for your parents will make certain that they will always be able to safely stand without having to rely on you to always be there.

Finding the Right Residential Elevator

As individuals grow older, climbing up and down the stairs becomes a wearisome as well as hazardous task. It is then that one thinks of finding the right residential elevator, which can ease the tediousness of such daily activities. With increase in the demand for residential elevators, manufacturers are competing with each other to provide a range of custom mobility solutions for the physically challenged.

For ease and convenience, you can choose a space-efficient and convenient solution that is easier to install, maintain and operate. From the user's point of view, consider a residential elevator with several features including cab size, cab furnishings, speed, safety systems, door configuration, external and internal controls, weight capacity, travel, fixtures / accessories and entrance. To transport passengers or freight, choose a vacuum drive elevator, roped-hydraulic drive elevator, winding drum elevator or a counter-weighted chain drive elevator. From the technical point of view, look at the type and specification of the motor, controls, brake, pit depth, and guide rails in a system. Behind the design, look for the reliability and safety it ensures.

Before buying a residential elevator, gain as much knowledge as you can about residential elevators. Compile a list of features that you want in your elevator, which will help you in finding the right residential elevator. Before identifying the quality provider, check out the various types of elevators home elevator companies offer. Make a comparative study about the providers by taking account of factors such as cost of the elevator, location where you want to install it, warranty and services.

Depending on your residential area, budget and requirements, you can choose the right residential elevator that has the capability to enhance your standard of living. An already installed residential elevator can considerably improve the resale value of homes.

Computer to Plate: Pad Printing Future

Computer-to-plate (CTP) technology is used on a daily basis in offset, flexography, and screen-printing workshops. As for pad printing industry, computer to plate equipment – laser plate-etching systems – have been introduced only recently. However, with latest developments, laser-based systems have the potential to conquer pad printing market over the next couple of years.

CTP benefits:

o Laser systems enable the user to convert a digital graphic file to a highest quality etched image in just 1 to 5 minutes.

o Costs of films, chemicals, consumables shipping, exposure units and removal of hazardous materials are eliminated, as are maintenance contracts on processing equipment and costs of outsourcing steel plate making. Double-sided laser-etched plates can accommodate up to four images, which reduces plate usage.

o There are four steps to make a plate: import the graphic file into the system's software, apply the halftone pattern to the image, specify the etch-depth parameter in the laser's operating software, and press start.

o Laser-imaged graphics are first generation so there is no loss of resolution.

o Etch depth and halftone pattern can be accurately fine-tuned to match the type of image you want to print, the viscosity and rheology of the ink used, the speed of the printing machine, and the durometer of the printing pads used. As specifications can be stored on the computer, resulting image quality is completely repeatable.

o Laser-based CTP systems can accommodate operating settings for fine, combination fine / bold, and bold graphics.

o Laser-engraved plates have a straight-walled etching and more precise inkwell than polymer cliches and thin or thick steel plates.

Choosing a CTP system:

1. Laser type

Today, three types of lasers have been used to make pad-printing plates: diode-pumped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG), Ytterbium fiber laser (YAG wavelength), and CO2. The primary differences between these units are maintenance, spot size, and ability to etch various materials.

Maintenance – The diode-pumped YAG has a diode bar that heats up and can warp after about 10,000 hours of use, requiring costly replacement. The Ytterbium fiber and CO2 lasers have no diode bar so they have no maintenance requirements for up to 70,000 hours of operation.

Spot size – As the wavelength of a YAG laser (1.064 microns) is ten times smaller than the CO2 wavelength (10.64 microns), the former is able to produce more detailed graphics than CO2.

Materials – YAG lasers are ideally suited for metals. A CO2 laser beam is better absorbed by organic materials – wood, paper, plastics, glass, textiles, and rubber.

2. Software

To ensure seamless integration into the workflow of the target company, laser software must be able to import are .ai (Adobe Illustrator), .dxf (CorelDRAW, AutoCad), and .bmp (bitmaps, gradients, process-color images) files.

To achieve halftone or dot pattern, the software must be able to apply different hatches (or separation between the laser lines) to the image. For fine line graphics a small hatch can be applied, for bold graphics a larger hatch will prevent "scooping".

The power and frequency of the laser must be variable to finely tune the plate depth to provide the best printing plate for the type of ink, production speed and substrate. The target depth of etch in the plate is .001 "

3. System features

The CTP systems have several available features to consider:

  • Size of system footprint – stand alone or benchtop system
  • Vector-tracing software
  • Micro-adjust focal distance
  • Plate registration systems
  • Particulate evacuation systems
  • Pre-etch laser pointer
  • Availability of auto-load
  • Availability of future expansion

More information please For visit Inkcups Now on page computer to plate pad printing and computer to plate laser Engravers .

Benjamin Adner, president of Inkcups Now Corp.

The Right Wood Stove

As economic and environmental concerns drive more people to explore alternative ways to heat their homes, the unassuming wood stove is making a comeback. With this increase in consumer demand comes a need for solid information on wood burning stove selection and use. There are many options and features to consider when looking for a woodburning stove, fireplace insert, fire pit, or other home heating solution.

In addition to more practical uses, such as home heating, wood burning provides ambiance and comfort is less practical applications, such as an outdoor or patio fire pit. Some people even use wood stoves for cooking, just like the good old days.

Outdoor fire pits, while not strictly home heating do allow people to use there outside space, be it a back yard or just a patio well into the colder months. There is something primal and satisfying about sitting outside around a raging fire on a chilly night. Or maybe you want to host a party and just can not fit all your guest in the house. An outdoor firepit may be just what you need to make it special.

On to the practical aspects of woodburning, heating the home. There is no argument that wood or wood pellets are some of the most cost effective home heating fuels sources. There are many choices for heating your home with wood, such as wood burning fireplace inserts, wood pellet stoves, antique wood burning stoves and soapstone woodstoves. If you like the look of a wood stove of a fireplace, but would rather use a more convenient fuel sources, you can with an electric or gas fireplace insert, or even an electric Amish fireplace.

If you are really brave, you might want to take the leap an go for a wood burning cook stove and kill two birds with one stove, heating and cooking. This, of course is more of a commitment in lifestyle. If you choose to go this route, make sure to do your homework.

Regardless of the type of stove you choose, you need to research your options. Of course, that's why you are reading this. So, shop around, look at specifications and reviews, compare prices and make the best choice for your home and lifestyle.

Slow Cooker Meals – Convenient and Delicious!

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s ironic that a device called a slow cooker (also known as a crockpot) can actually help you save time! The slow cooker allows you to prepare the components of a meal before work or at some convenient time during the day. The cooking meal can then be left unattended while you get on with other things. The meal is planned so that it is ready at your regular dinner time.

So you’re not stuck doing labor intensive tasks over a stove, right at the end of the day when you are most tired and hungry!

The slow cooker is a very simple electric appliance: a tightly covered pot that cooks food at a low temperature for a long period of time. Many people think of one-pot recipes as being limited to stews or soups. The fact is just about anything can be cooked in a slow cooker! Meat entrees, soups, vegetarian, and even dessert!

Slow Cooker Tips

Get one with a removal pot. These can be lifted off the heating base and placed on the stove top. If you choose to, you can brown meats or sauté vegetables and there will be no extra dirty pans. You can also prepare the ingredients the night before, place the pot in the refrigerator and be ready to go the next morning.

Size – Slow cookers and crackpots come in different sizes ranging from 1.5 quarts to 7 quarts (1 quart = 4 cups). Choose one that is compatible with the size of your family.

Do a Test Run – Select a recipe and do a test run on a weekend when you’ll be around the house. This way, you can monitor the progress and note the amount of time your cooker needs. Most cookers have Low, Medium and High settings. Those settings will be at different temperatures, depending on the manufacturer. Even two different cookers from the same manufacturer might NOT require the same time for the same recipe.

Fill the slow cooker to 1/2 or 2/3 full only – If the cooker is too full, the food will not cook evenly.

Keep the lid on! – Every time you lift the lid, it can take up about 20 minutes to regain the lost heat, thus extending your cooking time.

Test for Doneness – Use a food thermometer to make sure that the meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature.

Visit slow-cooker.com for more info about slow cookers, including lots of recipes.

This article may be reprinted if proper credit is given and all links left intact.

Copyright©2005 Slow-Cooker.com

DIY Home Solar Panel System

So you want to build a DIY home solar panel system. Perfect time to get started with the increasing costs of electricity & Global warming. But before you go in head first let's have a look at what must be considered first. Having decided what you want your solar project to do for you, the next most important consideration is the location of the panels, as the panels must be in the sun, year-round.

If you live In the Northern Hemisphere the panels should face south and if you live south of the equator they should face true north. The main reason for this is to maximize on solar input and optimize on input from the winter sun. It can get more complex than this, but that is the general idea.

The above considerations come into play when you choose the location of your DIY home solar panel system. If your roof has a south and / or north facing pitch then that's a good start, as long as your roof is shade-free. Tilt angle is important, particularly if you live in high latitudes. As a general rule, if you have a roof pitch of 20- 50 degrees, then the roof is probably your best panel location.

We are however jumping ahead. The main thing to think about is what you actually want to achieve with your solar panels. If you just want a solar panel to run a few lights or operate a small water pump, then mount the panel on a pole or a portable rack. If it is for bigger house systems (four or more panels) then the roof is probably the ideal location.

If your roof is not capable of holding a larger or multi-panel array, then you must find a location on your property where you can mount a ground rack; again a place that has no shade – (Including shade from trees). I personally prefer a ground rack mounted on concrete footings. The panel array is easier to clean and check, and to expand should you want to.

The question of how many panels one needs in a DIY home solar panel system is of course related to what one wants to do and this involves a more comprehensive discussion than this article allows for. Thus the 'number of panels' topic is addressed proper in Article 4, where the various needs are looked at and system size examples given.

Let's have a cursory look at what panels are generally available and what they can do for us. Single solar panels (technically called 'solar modules') are available in power ratings from as little as one watt up to 200 watts and above. Whilst the former may cost just a few dollars, the 200 watt giant is likely to cost you over $ 1,000! Solar panels for home use almost always have charging voltages of 16-21 volts to charge 12 volt battery banks, and whilst a 5 watt panel will yield.40 of an amp of charge, a 200 watt giant will yield around 10 amps. This article is addressing the independent off-grid home owner and so 24 volt grid-connect panels are not discussed here.

Like any other product there is good, not so good and poor quality panels available and, beware the price does not always tell the true story. One does have to careful, since the bulk of your investment will be tied up in the panels; so choose well! Top of our list for strength, quality, build and good consistent output are Kyocera panels; and with a cell efficiency approaching 16% they have a lot going for them!

Solar panels can be easily self-installed and wired up following the instructions supplied. An electrician is rarely necessary, except possibly when the system is to be wired through an inverter to feed the household AC circuit. Unless an electrician is certified by the utility company he can not wire your system into the grid. But as said above this is another topic for a later article.

Now, time and time again, I have seen and demonstrated that DIY home solar panel installations, especially smaller installations are 'doable' and satisfying – and give a great boost to the economic viability of your system.

Is it cost effective to install a system? Without doubt, 'yes' If there is no grid; and with little doubt, if the sun shines brightly most of the year and you consider saved costs. Not to forget the independence it creates also

But do always go for quality components, or you will surely compromise output and therefore the economic advantages you gained in going down the DIY home solar panel road!

Smartest Flooring Choices For Home Resale Values

Popular flooring choices per region is what should guide you when deciding what type of flooring to install in your home in regards to resale value. There are several factors you need to consider to make a smart choice. The value of your home and location are the most important. Also, you need to choose a flooring style that is popular in your area. Here is a list of the most popular flooring choices for various areas in the United States.

It is almost impossible to make overall generalizations, so I am going to break down the most popular flooring choices in several ways; by home value, home locations and specific rooms. As far as flooring color, it is always important to go with a light to mid range color, and not something too exotic. The specific flooring color and species needs to match your home design.

For homes that range from 50,000 – 100,000; the most popular flooring choices are Vinyl and Carpet. For homes that range from 100,000 – 200.000; the most popular flooring choices were some kind of tile or stone and carpet.

For homes above the 200,000 dollar range there was a dramatic increase towards tile, hardwood flooring and area rugs.

Installing flooring for specific rooms: Vinyl is most popular for kitchens and bathrooms, and Carpet for bedrooms and living rooms. In the past the most popular flooring for living rooms has been Carpet, but the last 10 years has shown a definite change in the amount of Hardwood Flooring installed in these spaces.

As far as geographical location there were some areas that showed specific trends.

Northern California; in this area there is an increase in the sale of eco friendly flooring. Bamboo, Cork and Reclaimed flooring are constantly gaining in popularity. Upper scale homes in California are seeing an increase of installations of Antique French Limestone.

New York; Parquet wood flooring has been very popular in New York City. But, recently there has been growth in Stained Concrete. Stained concrete is gaining in popularity in New York Loft apartments.

Florida; Beach communities are specials areas in consideration to flooring. Because of moisture, Engineered Hardwood Flooring is recommended. But also, Tile, Marble, and stone are big sellers.

North Carolina; Reclaimed Hardwood flooring is growing in popularity among high end home owners, especially Reclaimed Pine Flooring.

Tennessee and Georgia; most popular flooring choices are Vinyl and Carpet, but Engineered Hardwood flooring is gaining in popularity.

Chicago is seeing a growing tend toward Luxury Vinyl Tile instead of Ceramic Tile. There is an increase in sales of luxury wood look products. Vinyl is more durable than Hardwood and is not as cold as Ceramic or Porcelain Tile. Hardwood Flooring is very common in upper middle class homes. Solid Hardwood is the largest seller.

Colorado and Utah; increases in the sales of Engineered Hardwood Flooring, but Carpet is the most popular flooring. Solid hardwood flooring is second for higher value homes.

Arizona and New Mexico; these states shows increases in Tile (specifically Porcelain Tile), Laminate and Vinyl Plank Flooring.

Texas; the biggest selling products are Hardwood and Carpet, but Laminate sales are increasing.

Growing trends in commercial flooring installations: Stained Concrete, brightly colored Linoleum, Aluminum Flooring and Vinyl Plank Flooring.

There are many flooring trends that impact specific areas or specific home design types. If you are interested in your homes resale value, it is always a good idea to contact a local real estate agent to get input before buying new flooring.

Top 10 Things To Consider In A New House Plan

Seeing that I have recently finished building our new home I thought I'd share some insights into the design of a new home. There are many new house plans available today and the sky's the limit on features and styles. The biggest problem with the design process is once we've decided that we'd like to build a new home human nature kicks in and we want it to happen over night. The problem with that is we typically do not spend enough time evaluating and considering the design aspects of the new house. The most important thing to remember is spending extra time in the beginning will prevent you from having second thoughts once the house is done. The following list are ten important things to consider when choosing a new house plan.

1. Style – I think the style of the home is the best place to start. The style of the home will connect with so many of the choices you make so its important to spend some quality time thinking about the style you'd like to live in. Are your preferences more modern or traditional? Do you want a house that is similar to your neighbors? What house style will hold the best value in your neighborhood? What style house will closely match your interior style and existing furnishings? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself and your family. This was a tough question for my wife and I as we grew up on two sides of the country and our styles are very different.

2. Number of Bedrooms – This question may seem simple and easy to answer but it is worth thinking about and discussing. The easiest answer to this question would be based on your current family size and needs. You may need a two bedroom today and need a four bedroom down the road when your family grows. Or maybe you need four bedrooms today yet your kids will be off to college in a few years.

3. Single Level Vs. Multiple Levels – Whether or not your new house has only one level or more is really a personal decision. Some people really enjoy having single level living with no stairs to climb up and down. Some people prefer the more traditional cape and colonial home styles with bedrooms on the second floor. Some land sites are quite small and someone looking for decent square footage may only be able to build a multi-level house. If you think you may retire and live in your house as you get older the single level house may appeal to you.

4. Master Bedroom Suite – Today's new house plans typically offer a master bedroom suite. These suites often have generous closet space, large private bathrooms with soaker tubs, jetted tubs, large walk-in showers and even walk-in closets. These suites generally increase the value of the home and make the house more marketable if you sell in the future.

5. Bonus Rooms (Laundry, Play) – One of the most popular trends in today's house plans are dedicated laundry rooms and the renewed popularity of pantries. In fact, in my new house we made the mudroom a combination laundry and pantry. Some house plans offer laundry on the second floor of multi-leveal houses. A word of caution if you choose a second floor laundry. Make sure you insist that some type of extensive drain system be installed in the unfortunate case there is a broken washing machine hose.

6. Number of Bathrooms – The average number bathrooms in new houses has steadily increased over the years. The average home in the US has 2 1/2 baths and the average appears to be heading towards 3.

7. Kitchen Style – I could write an entire article on this topic, however, the main point here is that many house plans have just a basic kitchen layout. My suggestion is find a house you like and then modify the kitchen to your liking. Plenty of home supply stores will design you a new kitchen free of charge based on the floor plan so do not let a simple kitchen layout deter you from a house plan you really like.

8. Floor Plans – When evaluating floor plans try to visualize how you will furnish the house and how you plan on using different rooms in your daily life. Get a tape measure and measure rooms in your current house to get an idea of ​​how big a 12'x15 'room really is. Often people have a hard time visualizing the size of a room and later when the house is done they are not happy with the size. I really suggest spending time on the evaluation.

9. Functionality – The functionality of the new house plan is really one of the most important aspects for your long term comfort and use of the house. If you put the dining room on the other side of the living room so that you have to carry meals through the living room you will soon realize that's not very functional. The same is true about the proximity of bathrooms to bedrooms. Again, I think its important to compare where you currently live to the house plan and think about your likes and dislikes.

10. House Site – The house site can sometimes play a big part in the style, floor plan and functionality. For instance, if you have a very small site you may need two floors. Or maybe your lot is really hilly and needs a drive under garage. Just make sure that when you pick a couple of plans you evaluate them based on the lot as well.

If you get one thing out of this article remember this, plan, plan, plan and plan some more. The more you plan and evalulate your new house plans the happier you will be when you're finally living in your new house.

Keep the Glow of Your Brass Railings

Anything that shines like gold almost always attracts people. Admit it or not, that golden glow is just so irresistible.

The same reaction is shown by people to the brass railings. Having that same gold like color makes brass an attraction. Whether it’s installed on stairs at home or in commercial buildings such as hotels together with the stair railings or in the bathrooms as hand grab rails, brass evokes an elegant and high end feel to any interior space.

But you have to know that brass railings need regular maintenance to keep their glow. As they’re prone to corrosion and staining, regular polishing is very important. There are techniques to follow, though, to ensure that your brass retains its shine for a long time.

Brass railings installed at bars as foot rails are exposed to the shoes of people and therefore prone to scratches especially if they don’t have that protective coating. Those used as hand rails whether at home or at commercial buildings are not exempted from scratches either especially from the rings of people that come in contact with the brass material.

For your home bar or stairs that use brass railings, it’s best that you learn the ways to properly clean and polish the material. The secret actually is buffering.

Cleaning

The first step to a shiny brass railing is to clean it. Use a soft clean cloth and wipe it on your tubing to remove dust and dirt.

The solution

Next is to apply a solution to your tubing. Depending on your choice, you can purchase the readily available metal polish or brass cleaner. You can buy these from hardware stores and drugstores. Or you can create your own solution using ingredients available at home.

Prepare one-half cup of all purpose flour, one-half cup table salt and one-half cup powdered laundry detergent. Mix these three and then add three-fourth cup white vinegar, one-third cup lemon juice and one-half cup very warm water. Continue stirring until all ingredients are mixed well.

Applying the solution

Now take a small amount of your mixture using a soft and clean cloth and then apply on the brass railing. Be gentle when rubbing and make sure you do a circular motion. Don’t use too much pressure.

Afterward, rinse with cool water and let it dry. Once dry, buff the brass railing using a soft cotton cloth until you achieve your desired shine.

Coating

For coating purposes, the olive oil is ideal if you have been using the home remedies when polishing your brass rails. But if you’re using the commercially available polishes, you may not need to apply additional coating as the solution itself already contains protective oils that coat your brass as you clean it.

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. If it is not lacquered, it becomes more prone to oxidizing and tarnishing.

But did you know that it contains anti bacterial properties that help kill germs in places where the brass material is installed? In fact, brass has been used in making surgical instruments and other medical equipment.

Is Your Deck Trying To Kill You?

If it’s constructed improperly, your deck could be considered a lethal weapon. One of the most important parts of a home inspection is a very close look at the deck when present. The number of accidents seems to be increasing, and we are regularly hearing or reading in the news about decks falling and people getting seriously hurt. There are many reasons why a deck fails, however the most common has to do with inferior construction and age.

Any time you hire a home inspector, make certain the inspector will include a close inspection of the deck. Also, make certain the inspector has the proper qualifications and knowledge needed to provide a proper inspection. Just walking around the deck and looking for some physical damage is most certainly not enough. There are specific items to check in order to be certain the deck is safe for use. Here is a list of things that should be investigated on your deck at the time of the home inspection.

1. Hand Rails – they should be strong, correctly supported and the proper height.

2. Balusters – openings between them should not exceed four inches. Any opening larger than that can allow a small child to fall through.

3. Support posts – if the deck is not attached to the house, make certain the posts are not rotten and that they are braced properly. The posts should be properly secured to the footer base as well.

4. Ledger board – if the deck is attached to the house, there needs to be a ledger board properly secured to the house structure. Lag bolts should be used to anchor the ledger board to the house and proper flashing installed to prevent water from draining behind it.

5. Joist hangers – all of the joists should be attached to the ledger board using joist hangers. In addition, every hole should include a nail where the hanger is secured to the ledger board as well as to the joist. Missing nails can limit the overall structural stability. If joist hangers are not present they can most certainly be added, and should be.

6. Age – how old the deck is can have a direct impact on its structural stability. Older wood can have damaged components from moisture intrusion and dry rot. If any rot is present, the lumber will need to be replaced. If the damage is significant, it will be best to replace the entire deck framework

7. Flashing – flashing, flashing, flashing! It’s surprising how many people underestimate the importance of properly installed deck flashing. Missing flashing where the deck is secured to the house, will most definitely allow water to enter at the rear of the ledger causing the joist which is supporting the deck to rot away. If this happens, the deck could very well collapse.

8. Steps – often overlooked as a contributing factor in injuries. Steps should be secure, sturdy and evenly spaced. Stairs should be constructed according to the IRC building requirements. Minimum width for stairs is 36 inches, maximum riser height is 7¾ inches, and minimum stair tread depth should be measured at no less than 10 inches. The tread width and riser height should not exceed the smallest by more than 3/8 inch. There should be a minimum 6 foot to 8 foot headroom clearance and illumination at the top landing. It’s also best to provide a 3 foot by 3 foot landing at the bottom, or it can be on flat ground.

If these items are checked and no issues found, you can be fairly certain the deck is safe to use. It’s important to not overload the deck either. Just because it’s built correctly does not mean it can hold more than what it’s designed to handle. Regular inspections are recommended and proper maintenance is a must. This can help keep the deck safe and strong, allowing you to enjoy your deck for years to come.

Creating Your Deck

Timber Decking

Timber decking continues to be a popular addition to many a garden. It can be used as a natural alternative to a patio and allows for an attractive decking area to be created that can help make optimum use of space.

Planning Your Deck

To ensure that you get the maximum benefit from erecting a decking area it is essential that you create a thorough plan. This plan should include basic factors such as the size of your deck. When considering this you will need to take into account the shape and size of your garden, as well as a consideration for any specific garden features that you may want to incorporate into the decking plan.

You will also need to consider the ground layout and conditions when planning your deck. Sloping ground or banks may require a multi layered deck to be planned for and this will require a different type of construction than a flat decking area.

Finally you should carefully consider how you would like to use the decking area. This will then have an affect an access points and what edging / balustrade you could use to create a safe area for your children.

Decking Materials

Once you have planned the location and size of your decking area there are then many different options to consider, when selecting your materials. The main consideration is that of the deck board itself. There are a wide range of deck boards available from various suppliers and they all offer something different. The factors you should consider when choosing consist of the look of the deck board including the pattern and colour, the quality and type of timber used to create the deck board, the length of the deck board and the treatment used on the deck board.

The deck board itself will make up the essence of your decking area and so needs to be carefully considered. You will however also need to select accompanying products to complete your decking area. This could consist of baluster, handrails, decorative posts, decking lights and the essential base timber, including posts and rails.

Further Help & Advice

For further help and advice on creating your own decking area, I would suggest you contact a local stockist. If you are based in Sussex, Surrey or Cambridgeshire I would recommend you contact AVS Fencing Supplies Ltd; hwy website out lands check at Http://www.avsfencing.co.uk/retail/products-by-use/decking/materials/

Summer Camp Challenge: The Rock Climbing Wall

The rock climbing wall is both a metaphor and real-life challenge. It signifies both a physical feat that requires strength, endurance, and flexibility, and a testimony to the growth that kids who attend overnight summer camp go through on their way toward becoming young adults.

Most kids can not climb the rock wall when they first show up, but in just 4 weeks, many do. During the course of it, they go through a few phases.

Spying the Monster

Upon first spotting the rock wall it seems like nothing more than an insurmountable task. Sure, the older kids can do it, but not all of them. Some of the counselors can, too.

This is an amazing accomplishment that only truly incredible people can do. However, this point-of-view changes when someone quite normal does it.

It can be Done!

Nothing helps someone succeed like seeing another person complete a task, especially if it's someone who they should be able to do things better than. At coed summer camp, boys see a girl climb, and then they are all suddenly like the runners who followed Roger Bannister into the glory of running sub 4-minute miles.

By being exposed to new groups of people and challenges that are not present in their daily lives, children find that when they go to camp they are doing things that would have been otherwise unimaginable.

This is transposed in all aspects of their lives.

Succeeding in all Things

When children get to the top of the mountain (or rock wall) they get a different outlook on life. Everything that was a certain way before they achieved this feat is no longer the same. Something in them changes from what they knew they could not do into an endless list of open possibilities.

The view from the top really is different.

Successful Campers who Climb the Rock Wall go on to Climb Other Mountains

Among the many great success stories of those who have climbed the rock wall is David Katz. David grew up in New York City and is the younger brother of Matthew Katz, whose accomplishments are so long that listing them here would make this piece unreadable.

Always standing in the shadow of such an amazing sibling, it was hard for little David to see the opportunities one can only spot in the sunlight. However, one day at camp, away from his big brother's influence and glaring spotlight, he decided to attempt the rock wall.

Naturally, he was not able to ascend the great beast on his first try, nor the second, but counselors and campers alike began rallying behind him, cheering him on, and suddenly it was as if his success was their own.

Encouraged by this esprit de corps, David spent many hours working his way up, meeting small goals of climbing to just the next grip on his way to the ultimate goal. And when he did, the entire camp came together for a grand celebration.

David Katz has since climbed greater mountains (Columbia University being one of them), but this first one is the one he remembers as truly the ultimate challenge.

How to Switch to an Upright Golf Swing Plane and the Benefits it Has to Your Distance and Accuracy

As a golf instructor I can see no reason why golfers should not adopt an upright swing plane regardless of their physique or flexibility.

Yet, if you go online to search “golf swing plane” you will see multiple explanations about the subject and just as many differing versions about what is correct and what is not correct.

As I will show shortly from a purely mechanics and physics point of view, the benefits in distance and accuracy far outweigh those of a flatter swing plane and for those reasons alone I recommend and teach the concepts of adopting a more upright swing for all my students.

Swing plane angles are usually associated with a golfer’s height.

Golfers who are shorter in height are said to have a flatter swing plane.

It is also common to see golfers adopt a flat swing motion due to characteristics of their physique that limit the range of their swing flexibility, such as their chest and mid section size.

On the other hand taller golfers naturally swing with a more upright swing plane simply because of the increased height of their shoulders from the ground.

But, the physical characteristics of a golfer are not the only things that govern their swing plane angle.

What also determines swing plane is how they position themselves in their setup, and how they rotate their shoulders on the backswing…

Swing Plane Angle

Before I get into the specifics of an upright swing let me first define how the angle of the swing plane is often understood.

I say that because I am sure like most passionate golfers you have read Ben Hogan’s book “Five lessons. The modern fundamentals of golf” and his explanation of swing plane is probably one that is stuck firmly in your mind.

Here is his explanation…

Try to image a golfer forming a right angled triangle in their setup position.

The vertical side of the triangle is formed from the top of their shoulders/neck to the ground around their feet position. The horizontal side is formed from the club head and ball position to that point on the ground that meets the vertical side of the triangle.

The hypotenuse, or long side of the triangle, is determined from the club head to the point on their shoulders.

The classic understanding of the angle of the swing plane is that it is the angle between the hypotenuse and the horizontal side of this triangle. (Remember the plate of glass illustration in Hogan’s book resting on the golfers shoulder…)

You can now imagine how this angle would increase or decrease due to the height of the golfer and why swing plane is often associated with the golfers shoulder height.

The reason why I say this is how swing plane angle is often determined is that there is a big assumption with this theory that is incorrect most of the time…

What it assumes is that the club head swing path follows this same angle throughout the backswing so that the high point of the swing lies on an extended line that is drawn from the ball through the top of the shoulders to the hands at the top of the swing…

The reality is that the angle at which the swing “actually” rotates can be totally different resulting in the hands reaching the top point of the swing either below or above the point of the “Hogan plate glass definition.”

The reason for this is that the swing plane angle is not only influenced by your setup, it is mostly determined by the plane around which your shoulders rotate.

Your setup might show one swing plane angle that may be entirely different from the actual plane of rotation of your shoulders.

Here’s why…

Rotational Planes of your Shoulders

To understand your shoulder rotation motion, stand upright in front of a mirror. Hold your arms out straight from each side. You can rotate your shoulders in a horizontal plane around the axis of your spine… which is easy to do.

Now try and rotate your shoulders in a vertical plane by lifting your right arm and dropping your left arm so that you maintain a straight line from hand to hand across your shoulders. The axis of rotation in this plane is a point on your chest just below your chin….this motion is not very easy to execute.

The reality of your shoulder turn on the backswing is that it is operating in a combination of both vertical and horizontal motion.

As you would expect, a shoulder turn that is moving more in the horizontal plane will create a flatter swing plane.

One that is operating more in a vertical plane will produce a more upright swing plane.

So when we go back to the classic Hogan explanation of the swing plane being governed by the setup and height of the golfer, the only way that a golfer will be on that same plane at the top of their swing is if the combined horizontal and vertical movements of their shoulder turn happens to match that angle.

This seldom occurs…

Having this understanding that swing plane is affected more by your shoulder rotation than your setup and height allows you to make adjustments to your backswing to gain some of the benefits from an upright swing path.

Here are some of the key reasons why I always recommend a more upright swing plane that are based on the mechanics and physics of the swing.

Improved Consistency of your Swing Accuracy

The first reason affects the accuracy and ball flight path of your shot.

If you have ever reviewed my free video on the “Understanding the mechanics of common swing faults” where I outline the physics of why your shots “fly” in the manner the do , the outcome of all your golf shots boils down to two major factors:

o The direction your shoulders are aiming at the point of contact with the ball

o The orientation of your club head face at the point of contact with the ball

The flatter your swing plane the more your shoulders are moving in the horizontal plane.

This means they are only “aiming” at the target at a point just before contact and shortly after contact. That is because the club head motion is moving more “across” the target line like a baseball swing rather than towards the target line like a putting swing.

Outside of this very small region the direction your shoulders are aiming is further to the right of the target on the down swing and further to the left of the target on the follow through (opposite for lefties).

The success of a flatter swing plane requires a high degree of “timing” and balance in the swing through the contact point since there is very little margin for error.

The level of “ball spin” generated by a poorly timed swing also determines the accuracy of the shot.

The relative difference between the shoulder swing plane and the orientation of the club face at the point of contact determines the amount of spin generated on the ball.

The more the shoulders are moving “across” the target line the greater the ball spin created leading to exaggerated hooks or slices.

On the other hand an upright swing is produced by the shoulders moving more in the vertical plane which means the time the shoulders are moving down the target line is a lot longer during the swing.

The result is that the club head moves down the target line over a larger region of the swing giving a higher margin of error for timing and balance problems.

The impact on ball spin is also reduced, because the shoulders swing less “across” the target line at contact for a poorly timed shot.

In both cases the consistency of your swing accuracy will improve the more upright your swing plane angle…

Higher Swing Power and Distance

Observe all of the big hitters on tour and one of the common features you will notice is most adopt an upright swing.

I wrote about this in a previous Turnberry newsletter but it is worth reviewing the reasons why an upright swing plane generates more power for the swing:

o The hands and club head will be higher off the ground at the top of the swing generating more “potential energy” for the swing. When you think of the energy that can be created by hoisting a 20-30lb weight above your shoulders and dropping it, you will understand where increased energy comes for the swing. That weight being the combined weight of your club and arms.

o You use your powerful muscles down your right side and the top of your left shoulder which can generate more power for the swing than using the power of your lower back muscles rotating around the base of your spine in a flatter swing.

Improved Balance

Your balance during the backswing and downswing is affected by the centrifical force of rotating the club head as it is in motion and on what angle that force is acting on your trunk.

The centrifical force generated by the club head moving in a circular path acts to pull your shoulders forward toward the ball which can affect the stability of your trunk during your swing.

To give you and exaggerated example of the effect this might have on your balance, try to imagine the action of an athlete throwing the hammer.

In this case the athlete has to overcome the enormous centrifical force needed to rotate the hammer by “leaning back” in order to stay balanced during the spin.

A flatter swing plane has a similar impact on the balance of the golfer who has to counter the effect of the centrifical force need to rotate the club head with the lower back muscles in order to hold the trunk in position during the swing.

During an upright swing this centrifical force is being generated more up through the trunk and legs from the ground generating less effect on your lower back muscles allowing your trunk to remain more stable.

How to Generate an Upright Swing

As much as you might expect your setup to impact the plane angle, it impacted more by your shoulder rotation.

I encourage you to start your swing with a “downward rotation” of your left shoulder…

Many golfers initiate their swing by moving their hands.

For golfers who may be stiff in their trunk flexibility, shoulders or may have a few inches more around their mid section than they would like, starting the swing with their hands encourages them to “wrap” their swing around their body causing a flat swing plane.

That is because their shoulders are moving more in the horizontal plane.

The net swing results can be excessive slicing, with the ball starting the flight path heavily to the left, or pushing the ball to the right.

This is because the region where the club head is moving down the target line is very small lowering the margin of error for accuracy in the swing as I covered earlier.

Start your swing by a downward movement of the left shoulder and you will counter this problem.

It ensures your swing begins with more of a vertical rotation of the shoulders. By doing so your shoulders will be rotating more down the target line.

Mirror Exercise for Correct Setup

The other area that will affect your swing plane is your setup.

I encourage you to practice this swing initiation drill with your left shoulder turn in front of a mirror at home.

As you turn watch your hand motion. Adjust your setup in order to make it easier to turn vertically and move your hands along a more upright swing plane.

Here are a few pointers to help you:

o Let your arms hang vertically down in the stance with your hands positioned no more than six inches away from your leg

o Keep your back straight from the hips up. Do not let your shoulder hunch forward

o If you are large chested you may want to lean forward more in the stance to give your arms more clearance to move straight back rather than wrap around your body

As you go through this routine you are likely to feel muscle stiffness in the back swing that you are not used to…especially in your left shoulder.

That is because it is much easier to rotate your shoulders horizontally around your spine than to rotate them vertically.

This is normal since the motion in the vertical plane uses different muscles in your golf swing.

Shoulder Flexibility

Many golfers are just too stiff in the shoulders to do this effectively and when they first try an upright swing plane on the range they find the results disappointing.

Should this occur, shorten your backswing considerably because the stiffness of your golf muscles in the upright swing plane is causing other areas of your swing to breakdown.

Caution: Never allow your left elbow to break when trying to swing more upright. You will defeat the purpose of the adjustment to a higher swing plane and only cause yourself more timing problems.

An exercise I recommend to improve shoulder flexibility in the vertical plane is to take a broom handle and place it across your shoulders and then wrap your elbows and arms over the top of the handle.

For some people this may be a stretching exercise in itself, so do it gently without stressing the shoulder muscles.

Now move the handle straight down one side as far as you can go, and hold for 60 seconds. As you hold the stretch, do not allow your hips to move sideways in the opposite direction as this will counter the stretch.

Likewise keep your trunk upright and straight as much as possible during the stretch.

Now do the same motion in the opposite direction.

After a few days of this stretch, you will find your distance on the range will improve as you begin to extend your backswing more. However, you should see marked improvement your accuracy consistency right from the start the more you swing down the target line.

Good Luck!

Regards,

Les