Bricklaying Basics

When you build with bricks you're creating something that can be appreciated for generations. It's not uncommon to find structures in complete ruin except for the masonry such as a brick chimney or wall.

The reasons for do-it-yourself bricklaying vary, but the primary reason seems to be cost. Others include learning a valuable skill for starting a new business, or simply learning a new hobby. Planning a bricklaying project begins with gathering ideas and envisioning the end result. Do not overlook this step. Masonry is permanent so be careful and remember you need to do it right – the results of your efforts will be on public display for a long, long time.

As you begin your planning it's important to consider size and scale, location, material selection, drainage and appearance. Make deleted drawings of the planned project so to eliminate design flaws and aid in estimating building costs.

Visit your local home improvement center or hardware store and collect samples of the material you have in mind and evaluate the way they blend with your existing landscaping. Depending on whether you plan on pouring a small slab or building a brick archway, estimate the dimensions of your project as accurately as possible. This eliminates extra shopping trips. Since your using brick the local brickyard is where you'll find the best supply of bricklayers material. They also carry the tools you are going to need.

Speaking of the tools, and to work effectively you are going to have to buy or rent some special purpose tools. I suggest that if this is a one-time project then by all means rent the tools. What follows is a recommended list of tools for doing brickwork:

Mortar hawk – for holding mortar

Wide pointing tool – for placing mortar on brick

Jointer – for finishing joints

Brick tongs – for carrying multiple bricks

Narrow tuck pointer – for placing mortar on bricks

Mason's trowel – for applying mortar

Masonry chisels – for splitting brick

Mason's hammers – for chipping brick

Maul – for driving stakes

Joint chisel – for removing dry mortar

Shop broom – for keeping the work area clean

Bucket and scrub brush

Stiff bristle brush – for removing loose material

Rubber mallet

Pipe clamp – for scoring large quantities of brick

Circular saw (with a masinry blade) – for cutting brick

Hammer drill with masonry bit

Wheelbarrow – for mixing mortar


Cement – for mixing mortar

Particle mask, gloves and protective eyewear

A helpful hint is to build your project, if possible without using mortar. This allows you to see the finished project, make corrections along the way and decide if the end result is really what you wanted.

The last thing I'll cover is choosing, mixing and throwing the right mortar. Masonry mortar is a mixture of Portland cement, sand and water. Other ingredients include lime and gypsum to improve workability and control setup time. Believe it or not the strongest mortar mixture is not always the best for the job. Gone thankfully are the days when do-it-yourselfers had to mix mortar fom scratch, often with disastrous results. These days mortar comes premixed in 50 – 100 lb bags. Today you simply select the correct mix for the job at hand.

Type N mortar is often called for because it offers a good blend of strength and durability. It's commonly used in non-load-bearing projects such as freestanding walls, BBQ grills and chimneys.

Type S mortar is a high strength mixture for exterior use in foundations, brick and block reatining walls, driveways, walks and patios,

Type M mortar is a very high strength mortar for load-bearing exterior stone walls.

There are other types mixes for special purpose but fo the sake of simplicity I left them out o o this article.

Mixing mortar is simple these days. I dump one to two bags of mix into a large wheelbarrow, push it to one side and slowly add water until I get the right texture I want. If it's too thick, it will fall off the trowel in a heap and not in the smooth line you want. Add to much water and it's messy and weak. Just follow the manufacturers directions and you should be fine. If you've never mixed mortar before experiment in small batches until you find the mixture that works. Keep note of your mixture ratios to use later.

Do not mix mortar in large batches unless you are willing to use it all in one application. More than one do-it-yourslf bricklayer has ended up with a wheelbarrow filled with 200 lbs of discharged mortar for this reason. It's best to mix mortar as needed. You can not foresee delays such as bad weather, running out of daylight or worse yet injuring yourself.

Watching a professional bricklayer at work is an impressive sight. I remember as a small child living with my grandparents and watching their new home being built. The mortar practically flew off the workers trowels and the walls seemed to rise out of the ground in minutes. "Mortar throwing" is an acquired skill that takes years to master, but you can use the basic techniques successfully with just a little practice.

Throwing mortar is a quick, smooth technique. Load the trowel with mortar (how much depends on you comfort level), then position the trowel a few inches above the starting point. In one motion, beginning turning your wrist over and quickly move the trowel across the surface to spread mortar consistently. Ideally you want ot end up with a line of mortar about 2 1/2 "wide and about 2 'long.

These are the very basics. There are numerous books and how-to videos on countless masonry projects. Just remember to plan accordingly, take your time and above all … be safe.

Diego Velazquez – A Painter’s Painter, a Realist Star

The Spanish painter, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, or Diego Velázquez, is reputed for his unique and talented skills of integrating color, space, light, and mass in equal value. Born in Seville, Spain on June 06, 1599, Diego Velazquez is noted for his remarkably personal and ingenious style.

Well trained in languages and philosophy, Diego learnt art for a year, under the capable guidance of the painter Francisco de Herrera. At the young age of 12, Velazquez served as an apprentice for five years to Francisco Pacheco, an artist at Seville. It was in this period that the very youthful painter started painting the most banal of things such as earthenware pots, fruits, and fish in the marketplace. One of his famous quotes goes as, “I would rather be the first painter of common things than second in higher art.”

In 1618, Diego married Juana Pacheco, the daughter of Francisco Pacheco. They had two daughters from the marriage. By 1920, the painter had acquired fame in Seville. Later, Velázquez had an urge to travel around the world and therefore went to Madrid in 1622. In December 1622, Count-Duke of Olivares, who was a minister of King Philip IV, summoned Diego. On August 16, 1623, Velazquez painted the King’s portrait. King Philip IV greatly appreciated Velazquez’s work done and proclaimed that no other painter could paint his portrait except for Velázquez. Since then, the painter served as the royal artist to the King.

In 1629, Velázquez went to learn more about Italian Art. It was during this time that there were some notable changes in his style of painting. During his voyage to Italy, Ambrogio Spinola, the conqueror of the Dutch city of Breda, accompanied Diego. This momentous siege of Breda was depicted in his painting, “La rendición de Breda (1634-1635, English: The Surrender of Breda).” Diego’s paintings mostly included the portraits, and the scenes of historical and cultural importance. The master of Impressionism and Realism, Diego Velázquez inspired many nineteenth century painters of very high repute. Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Francis Bacon, have all repainted Velazquez’s famous works. Owing to this recreation of his paintings, the artist is often credited as the “Painter’s Painter.”

It is predicted that 20 years later, Velázquez again visited Italy. This can be accepted as a fact because the royal archives specify the different dates of his paintings, even though most of his paintings resemble a common personal style. It was during this time that he bought paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese. He then sent them for the King’s collection.

While his stay in Spain, Diego painted the portraits of the King’s other family members also. One of the most notable paintings of Velázquez is, “Las Meninas (1656, English: The Maids of Honor),” which is also known to be his magnum opus. Here the philosophers of art seem divided on who the actual subject of the painting is. Is it Margarita the eldest infant daughter of the King or the painter Velázquez himself?

One of the most influential painters of the European era, Diego Velazquez died on August 16, 1660. Velázquez was a great Realist and it is often quoted that no one could capture genuine features and fix them as uniquely on the canvas as he did. A noted art philosopher has said, “His men and women seem to breathe.”

Kids Chandeliers – Unique Lighting For Kids Of All Ages

Adding an interesting kids chandelier is like renovating a new space with little work and minimal cost. You can easily transition a baby's nursery to a big kids room with classic decor fixtures such as a kids chandelier. These unique lighting options can add new appeal to the furniture and window treatments, by casting a new light or by completing the existing room's theme or decor.

Aside from giving the room a sweet and soft ambiance, kids chandeliers can also blend well with the home decor. Regardless of your child's age, this form of lighting works perfectly in a baby girls nursery, toddlers room and big girls room. There are kid chandelier options to suit any child's personality, style or decor needs. The options really seem limitless which allows for great fun when decorating your childrens room. Many popular styles and themes include mini chandelier versions which work perfectly in a baby nursery or toddlers room, more dramatic iron chandeliers in bold colors such as black that work perfectly in a teen room or classic styles such as nautical or western styles that are enjoyed in many boys rooms. Whatever there style or decor needs, many of the models available today are created with the highest standards of quality and workmanship which allow these chandeliers to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Undeniably, chandeliers have come a long way. Previously thought to be used only in mansions or to light a dining room or entry way. But today's styles of chandeliers include not only those that work in the main areas of ones home, but can also be enjoyed by children of all ages and comfortably add a special touch to your child's room. Today, owning and enjoying a kids chandelier is a common luxury. There are so many styles and designs that fit budgets as vast. On the more affordable end, parents or interior designers can find mini chandeliers or smaller styles that work perfectly to add style and sophistication to a baby's nursery or child's room. For individuals with a larger budget, there are designer and custom chandeliers that feature silk shades, delicate crystals, and satin bows and detailing to be customized to a child's particular room theme or design.

Finding the right kids chandelier has never been easier. A simple online search at an online children's boutique will offer a parent or interior designer numerous options to choose from before making that special purchase. When renovating or redecorating your child's room, consider one of the wonderful options in kids chandeliers.

Misogyny and The Maltese Falcon

Look at any list of "top noir novels" or "best crime fiction books" and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett is invariably near the top. The novel was first published in 1930 and stands as a bastion of the 'hard-boiled' vintage crime stories. Although the plot is quite remarkable, I am not interested in providing you with a rote summary of the events that take place in the novel. If you really want one, you can get one here.

Instead I feel my thoughts drawn to the substance between the plot devices and double-crossings, where one decides if The Maltese Falcon really stands the test of time. If we hold the novel up to the criteria previously discussed concern noir, it passes with flying colors. The rough side of pre-WWII San Fransisco is our setting, and our anti-hero is the private-eye Sam Spade. Enter "Miss Wonderly" aka. Brigid O'Shaunessy the femme fatale, and the stage is set perfectly for our noir-ish romp with mystery. I admit I was unprepared when our fourth character made an appearance, misogyny.

Mr. Hammett characterizes Sam Spade as a typical 'man's man.' He is cool, confident, and level headed. Sometimes the reader is privy to his thoughts, but more often than not his mind is an impenetrable fortress. As a result, he is not only mysterious to the supporting actors in the plot, but to the reader as well. He is a shark among men, and a lion among women, and he always takes what's his. I was prepared for a character who exerts masculine dominance, but not nearly to the extent that Mr. Spade does.

There are three female characters in the novel, and each seemed no better than a plot device or a prop for Sam's advances. All of his interactions with each woman teeter anxiously on the edge of flirtation and raw sexual lust, a balance as dangerous as it is illegally. He touches their bodies, plays with their hair, coddles them, scolds them, kisses them (yes each of them), and in the case of Miss O'Shaughnessy beds them powerfully.

The question I ask is why? Why does he treat his female counterparts this way? Through the entire novel he sees to grapple with his misogynistic impulses. I would not go so far as to say that he hates women (as misogyny is typically defined), but that he fears and distrusts them so much that it taints his interactions with them. His manly impulses drive his lusty sexual attraction for these women, while his misogyny simultaniously attempts to protect him from them. Here is a perfect scene to illustrate my point:

"I've given you all the money I have." Tears glazed in her white-ringed eyes. Her voice was hoarse, vibrant. "I've thrown myself on your mercy, told you that without your help I'm nothing but lost. She suddenly moved close to him on the settee and cried angrily: "Can I buy you with my body?"

Their faces were a few inches apart. Spade took her face between his hands and he kissed her mouth roughly and reluctuously. Then he sat back and said: "I'll think it over." His face was hard and furious (Hammett 57).

Aside from being one of the most amazing exchanges in all of noir crime fiction, this is grossly sexist. Sam is furious because he wants her to buy him with her body, but he hates her for it. His response is calculated perfectly to retain his power over her. By telling Brigid that he would "think it over" he kept her offer on the table and placed himself in the position of deciding when or if it will be accepted. Perhaps he believes if he were to succumb to her offer initially, he would be fully in her thrall and surrender his masculine power to her feminine usurpation. Through this line of thinking, one can almost imagine the femme fatale as a sort of succubus, "a demon in female form" which exists existence is "to have intercourse with men" (Succubus OED). We can only guess at what Sam Spade is thinking when he denies Brigid's advances, but it clearly appears tied to the idea of ​​a loss of something other than virtue. My money's on power.

Another noteworthy interaction occurs between Sam and his personal secretary Effie Perine (the second of three females in the novel). For contextual purposes, they are discussing Iva Archer (the third), the widow of Sam's dead partner Miles. Sam is sitting at his desk resting his head against the hip of Effie, who stands at his side:

"Are you going to marry Iva?" she asked, looking down at his pale brown hair.

"Do not be silly," he muttered. The unlit cigarette bobbed up and down with the movement of his lips.

"She does not think it's silly.

He sighed and said: "I wish to Christ I've never seen her."

"Maybe you do now." A trace of politeness came into the girl's voice. "But there was a time."

"I never know what to do or say to women except that way," he grumbled, "and then I did not like Miles."

"That's a lie, Sam," the girl said. "You know I think she's a louse, but I'd be a louse too if it would give me a body like hers."

Spade rubbed his face impatently against her hip, but said nothing (Hammett 27).

Effie begins by trying to ascertain Sam's intentions with Iva. She has clearly seen some signs of a serious relationship between them, yet Sam dismisses all of it as "silly." The reader gets the subtext that Effie herself is interested in Sam (why else would she ask?), And then it becomes more apparent when she calls Iva a "louse" and says she's jealous of her figure. Perhaps she believes that if she looks like Iva she could demand Sam's affection, instead of being firmly in the role of confidant. You will note that Sam admits that he does not know how to deal with women except in "that way," which is the way that plays their feelings and teeters between flirting and disgust. The more you examine this passage the saddle it becomes, because you can feel the pain that Sam is inflicting on Ms.. Perine when he nuzzles his face against her hip. Basically, he is confirming his desire to "play" with her when he wants while remaining un-entangled romantically. She means nothing to him.

The last scene that can not escape mention occurs near the end of the novel. Sam is led to believe that Brigid has stolen a 100 dollar bill. He takes her into a bathroom at gunpoint and they share this interaction:

In the bathroom Brigid O'Shaughnessy found words. She put her hands up flat on Spade's chest and her face up close to his and whispered: "I did not take that bill, Sam."

"I do not think you did," he said, "but I've got to know.

"You will not take my word for it?"

"No. Take your clothes off."

"I will not."

"All right. We'll go back to the other room and I'll have them taken off."

She stepped back with a hand to her mouth. Her eyes were round and horrified. "You would?" she asked through her fingers.

"I will," he said. "I've got to know what happened to that bill and I'm not going to be held up by anyone's maidenly modesty."

"Oh, it is not that." She came close to him and put her hands on his chest again. "I'm not ashamed to be naked before you, but-can't you see? -Not like this if you'll make me you'll-you'll be killing something?"

He did not raise his voice. "I do not know anything about that. I've got to know what happened to the bill. Take them off" (Hammett 196).

The bathroom search scene is the most degrading and misogynistic in the novel. Dashiell does not go into perverse detail, as if Brigid were performing some kind of strip tease, but the cold manner in which Spade deals with her is shocking. Keep in mind that this is after they have slept together (probably more than once, I do not recall exactly). Once again we can see that the woman in the scene has misinterpreted Sam's behavior. She thought that her relationship meant something to him, and he assures her that it does not. Just like the scene with Effie, the more we dwell on what is happening here, the more painful it becomes. For Sam really is "killing something," he is killing the part of Brigid that loves him, and killing the part of himself that she loved. This murder scene (for that is really what it is) hinges upon Sam being unable to sacrifice his power or knowledge through trust. He is tortured by the idea of ​​not knowing, and having to place his trust in another human being, especially a female. In order for him to retain his power (which is in knowledge), he must force her to strip so that he can know with a certainty that she does not have the bill.

The problem with this novel (and possibly all noir) is that all of the women are viewed through this patriarchal, misogynist lens, and so that they act out the roles that a male author and audience require of them, not necessarily the roles they would actually play. Johanna M. Smith defined it this way: "texts by [Dashielle Hammett] subscribe to a gender-based, individualist ideology in which women are male-defined" (Smith 80). Stephen Cooper, in his article "Sex / Knowledge / Power in the Detective Genre," said that "Spade is the genre's ideological model of male self-containment. [Female figures] function primarily as sexual foils to the detective, [and] also as initial obstacles to and ultimate resources for the detective's inquisitive / acquisitive will-to-know. Notwithstanding the high profile given to "romantic interests" by the genre, such service suggests the exploitable continuum between, on the one hand, sex and knowledge, and, on the other, knowledge and power "(Cooper 23-24). The point is, all of the power both in sex and in knowledge rests in Sam Spade. The females are expendable victims of his occupation, both detective and male. For in the noir world Hammett created, Sam must either victimize them or he himself will become the victim of robbed masculinity and power.

I hope you do not mistake my negative criticism of misogyny as a reflection of my perspective on this novel. Truth be told, I loved this book and will likely read it again and again. I simply find extreme fascination in the gender issues that are taking place in its pages. From a critical point of view, The Maltese Falcon absolutely stands the test of time because many of the issues explored are still being practiced contemporarily. The argument is whether or not Dashiell Hammett intended social criticism or if his work was merely a product of the age in which he wrote. Although I admire his deft hand as a writer, I am leaning towards the latter belief.

Works Cited
Cooper, Stephen. "Sex / Knowledge / Power in the Detective Genre." Film Quarterly 42.3 (1989): 23-31. JSTOR. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. New York: Vintage, 2007. Print.
Smith, Johanna M. "Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction: Gendering the Canon." Pacific Coast Philology 26.1 / 2 (1991): 78-84. JSTOR. Web. 5 Apr. 2011.
"Succubus." Welcome to the New OED Online: Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 06 Apr. 2011.
my copy of the text was purchased from Amazon

I Strained My Neck Shoveling!

Yep, you read that correct. Not a lower back injury but a neck injury. The mechanism is the same but I wanted to address neck pain in this article. The fact of the matter is: you can strain any muscle or joint doing just about any activity.

In this example a patient of ours was shoveling snow and he turned his head while lifting the shovel to toss some snow off to the side. He mentioned he was careful with his back – bending his knees, using his thigh as a fulcrum, not picking up too heavy of a load, etc. But when he turned his head to the right he immediately felt his muscles on the right side of his neck, from the back and side of the head to the upper back, seize up. He said it felt like a major spasm or cramp.

We’ve seen this many times before, this same thing can happen in the lower back, or leg as well. People sometimes may describe it as a “Charlie horse” sensation. So why can this happen doing an activity you wouldn’t think would cause it?

The answer is this: Sometimes a muscle or a joint is on the verge of getting irritated. Let’s say for example the night before the snow storm you were on the computer for hours; your neck was tight after but it seemed to go away. Then you went to bed and got up early to shovel. Half asleep, while everyone was still in bed, you put your jacket and hat and gloves on, braved the cold, and started shoveling.

From the above example you can see how the shoveler’s neck was probably still irritated from the night before (it may have gotten worse while sleeping too), then without getting the muscles warmed up a bit (taking a shower, or stretching a bit would have made a huge difference), or even drinking some water (this helps hydrate the body obviously, in this case muscles and joints, helping to prevent injury). In this case the individual probably shocks the body a bit, going out in the cold and starts to do a good amount of physical activity.

Now I’m not saying doing this nor something similar will cause a neck or back injury, and I know that most of us have been guilty of it in the past. However if one makes a habit of doing these kinds of things often you can and will eventually hurt yourself. I’m going to give you some tips you can use to heal the neck once you do strain it, but keep in mind the real goal is to prevent it from happening. Believe me, I’ve seen people that have strained it so bad or have strained and restrained over and over, that their neck is to the point where it doesn’t heal so easy or fast. So as you can probably guess my first step to healing a strained neck is to prevent it in the first place.

Healing a neck sprain/strain:

1. Try to avoid and prevent it from happening. This especially goes for those of us who have injured their neck before and have an idea of what causes it.

2. Improve or correct spinal alignment. To do this, see a chiropractor, osteopath, or someone that does this professionally. A massage often helps because a good massage can help relax the muscles and ligaments, allowing the spine to shift back in place.

3. Use natural therapies first. Heat and Ice are easy to do, don’t cost a thing, and you can use them anytime. It’s actually rare that a prescription muscle relaxer is needed.

4. Start doing gentle neck stretches once you start feeling better. This will help elongate the muscles, breaking up muscle adhesions and preventing future strains. The most commonly needed stretch is the lateral head tilt. Slowly bring one ear toward your shoulder until a stretch is felt; hold for 10-20 seconds, relax and repeat.

5. Home muscle massage. Use you finger tips to find those tight spots to massage out. You’ll find it’s often a “good hurt” type sensation. Once you get a massage or spinal alignment you’ll have a better idea of what it feels like.

6. Use a cervical pillow for sleeping. This also helps relax the muscles by helping to align the spine. It can and should be used a one of your neck pain prevention methods also.

There you have it! Next time you strain your neck or feel a neck spasm about to start, use the tips above. My best recommendation is to use the above list above for prevention or neck spine maintenance if you will. We’ve all heard it before but I’ll say it again: An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure!

8 Tips to Cheer Up Depressed Pets

What if laTely, you've beenicing your pet sleeps abnormally (more than usual), eats less, seems sad, and spends most of its time moping round the house. All these behaviors are totally opposite to his or her normal behavior. Without a doubt, you may start to worry! Depression is what your furry friend may be experiencing. This condition is not dissimilar to that of humans.

You're used to seeing your pet happy because he or she is always there for you whenever you're down. The mere thought of seeing your furry friend crestfallen makes you sick. Now it's your turn to be there for him or her. How do you cheer up your best friend? What are some of the methods you can use?

If your pet is depressed, here are 8 strategies to use to cheer him / her up:

1. Spend ample time with your pet

One of the most effective ways to cheer up pets is by spending more time with them, especially when they're depressed. Now, more than ever, he or she needs you – your undivided attention. Spending quality time together shows your pet how much you love and cherish him or her. To transit from the pits to his / her joyful, happy self, simply give your pet your support, care, and love.

2. Indulge your pet in outdoor activities

Whether you own a cat or a dog, taking him for a fun afternoon out in the park is an effective way of cheering him up. At first, the pet will not seem enthusiastic. However, as you two enjoy each other's company, you'll be surprised by how jovial he'll turn out to be. Some physical exercise, a change in surroundings, and some quality time with you, will go to bring back enthusiasm in your pet.

3. Show your pet you're happy

Did you know pets and dogs are very intelligent when it comes to telling if you're happy, just by looking at your face? Consequently, when he's depressed, avoid frowning or showing him or her that you're sad. An effective way to cheer up your dog is by staying happy yourself.

4. Socialize your pet

Is your dog or cat depressed because he or she lost a companion or family member? If yes, then you need to take your pet to the park, or to a daycare center, where he or she can socialize with others. According to studies, animals enjoy same-species companionship. Therefore, you should not hesitate to try out this strategy.

5. Reward your pet for positive behavior

This strategy is more of a positive reinforcement. When he or she shows any sign of getting over depression, you should give your pet a treat or pat on the head. It's important to note that you should not be overly sympathetic as this will encourage others to remain depressed in order to enjoy the same attention. You need to show him or her how pleased you are anytime he or she eats meals properly, or plays with you in the park.

6. Comfort your pet with favorite toys

Does your cat or dog have a favorite toy? A great way to cheer up your cat is by giving him or her toys to play with. Most pets have a tendency to find comfort in familiarity. They'll be more cheery if they are around their favorite toys.

7. Play him or her some music

In the same way music calms and soothes human beings, most pet owners admit that music is also magical to pets. Surprisingly, you'll be able to lift up the mood of your pet by playing him or her some soothing music. Just ensure that the volume is not too high. The last thing you want is to make things worse.

8. Take your pet out for a ride

This strategy works wonders especially if your pet enjoys going for rides. If possible, bring your entire family with you when stepping out for a ride. In addition to enjoying the family's company, he or she will also enjoy the fresh air.

Chances are very high that the depression affects your pet will also affect you. Consequently, before the two of you sink into depression, you should act fast. You must find ways to cheer him or her up as soon as you can. The above are some simple ways you can cheer up your pet.

Commercial and Residential Elevators

Commercial and residential elevators provide smooth and safe up and down transportation in any home or commercial environment. These devices utilize cutting edge technology and are ideal accessibility devices. While of great functional value, elevators add elegance to residences and commercial settings. They also increase the value of your homes.

Advantages and Safety Features

There are comfortable to use, at the same time maintenance free. These can be customized according to individual needs. Both commercial and residential elevators are mainly meant for comfortable floor-to-floor transport of physically challenged people. Here, these are available with a variety of safety features to ensure the safety of the users. The significant features found in these models include:

o Durable design
o Variable speed
o High lifting capacity
o Emergency battery
o Interlocking facility
o Backup lighting
o Noise free
o Manual door swing
o Alarm buttons

A Variety of Options to Choose from

Elevators are available in a range of finishes, colors and sizes. The interior paneling of the residential elevators are available in wood, glass, stone, metal or laminate. Commercial elevators are with rated load of 635 kg, rated speed of 0.15m / s, ADA accessibility standards, submersible variable speed valve, magnetic sensor and more. Residential elevators are designed depending on the user's convenience. These come with standard closet size space with a lifting capacity of 500 pounds, special inter-lock facility, in-cab alarm, and telephone jack.

Maintenance and Servicing

Although most of the elevators provided are free from manufacturing defects, the need for repair and maintenance may come after continuous use over a period of time. Most of the suppliers themselves provide quality installation services as well as maintenance of the products supplied, thereby, putting their customers at ease. They provide periodical checks and ensure proper and safe functioning of the products sold.

3 Reasons to Get a Personalized Number Plate

Personalized number plates are exactly that – a plate that is personal to the owner. Typically when a car is bought, it comes with a registration number. This is specific to the vehicle.

Personalized plates are often called cherished plates or private plates. The terms are reliably inter-changeable. Whatever term you use, practically anyone can get a personalized number plate.

Previously personally numbered plates were generally associated with the rich and famous but these days anyone can get one. There are a number of reasons why personalized number plates have grown in popularity over the past several years.

Here are just three:

1. Investment

People invest in all things – property, gold, wine, art, savings and bonds. Another way to invest your hard earned cash is with personalized number plates. Believe it! There are many, many examples of proven return on investments. Take 1 SAJ for example. It was bought in the mid nineties for about £ 3,300 and it is now valued at around £ 30,000. That's not a bad return of investment by anyone's standards.

It does take knowledge of course to know what to invest in but help is always at hand by a specialist company like our own. Look for exclusive numbers and solo numbers. The number 1 shows scarcity with any combination of letters. It's a very popular choice – eg, VIP 1 was first used on the Popemobile when Pope John Paul 2nd visited Ireland. It last sold around £ 200,000 back in January 2006, an increase of 135%.

2. Fun

Having a personalized plate is fun. You do not have to have a registration that makes sense to everyone else. You can have something that makes you smile everytime you get into the car. eg, you could use something like DO57 COW for your girlfriend sometimes or MS61 TCH for your mother in law.

Personalized private numbers make great fun gifts, instead of the usual perfume or jewelery. I've seen marks that read something like this, eg, JHZ 1. I'll use my name as an example – JH for Jayne Henry, and 21 for the date of my birthday.

Celebrate an achievement, a wedding anniversary or something you love with a personalized plate. Certain registration plates are not as expensive as one would imagine.

3. Promotion

There are a myriad of ways to market a business. There are flyers, websites, blogs, articles (like this one!), Trade shows, newsletters. The list is quite endless – it's only limited by your mind! A clever way to promote a business is by using personalized mark.

Lets face it, registration plates are viewable by everyone, practically everywhere – when you're parked and when you're in traffic.

A plumbing company based in London, Pimlico Plumbers have cherished registration plates on each of their company vehicles. Each plate relates to their business; the following are examples of the registration they own: LO02 OLD … RAD 5 …. B19 TAP … GAS 6 … 8 WC … 80 G … S11 OWER … 8 WC .. X1 EAK … BOG 1 … GA51 EAK … LO02 LOO … DRA 1N … WC 55 … LAV 1 … HA51 EAK … LO02 TAP … G2 LOO .. FLU 55H

These are just three reasons to get a personalized plate. There are plenty more but whatever your reason, make sure you get something that means something to you – or your pocket. It will be well worth it.

Things to Consider When Buying Coal Stoves

Coal stoves are a truly effective way of heating a home, however before you run out and buy one for your own home there are certain factors that need to be taken into consideration first. It is crucial that you know what these factors are as this will help you to determine just which is the right one for your home.

Firstly, you need to assess wherever you have the space available to have a chimney installed on your property if you currently do not have one. Albeit some coal stoves today have their own metal chimneys which can be attached to an outside wall, you need to find out whether planning permission is required to install such an item first. The easiest way to find this out is by contacting your local authority and see what regulations they have with regards to the installation of brick or metal chimneys to a property that currently does not have one.

If you actually do have a chimney already at your home it is important that before you get any kind of coal stove installed you have it thoroughly inspected. There are plenty of company's who will carry out such inspections and provide you with details of any problems and what needs to be done to rectify them. Also arrange at the same time to have the chimney thoroughly cleaned.

A chimney is essential as this is what helps to vent the stove and so prevent toxic fumes from having access to your home. So even once installed you will need to make sure that it is regularly maintained. To prevent the build up of soot in your chimney it is important that you arrange to have it inspected and cleaned every six months to a year depending on how much it is used. Certainly those that are being used continuously should be cleaned every six months.

After the chimney issues the next thing you have to take into consideration when buying coal stoves is what size you want. The size you select will depend upon what size of home you have and just how many rooms you intend to heat using it.

After taking the above factors into consideration and you have selected your coal stove you now need to get it installed. It is best if you use a company who has plenty of experience in the installation of such equipment and not just the stove but also the other bits and pieces such as the chimney parts. Hopefully the store where you purchase your coal stove from will be able to recommend a company that can carry out these works for you.

It is vital that after your coal stove has been installed that you regularly check it over before it is lit. Over time just by looking at your coal stove you will be able to quickly identify any seals, grates or glass that needs to be replaced because they have become worn or damaged. This is especially crucial if you only have yours lit during the winter months.

Coal stoves as mentioned are a great way of ensuring that your home remains warm through the winter months. However, if you really want yours to be truly effective you need to make sure that you take care of it properly and that you use the best kind of fuel possible.

Gyros: Perfection Packed in a Pita

Gyros, essentially vertically roasted meat, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce, are very popular worldwide as a lunch item. They're tasty and all food groups are represented providing the perfect midday meal.
What is a Gyro?

The word in itself comes from the Greek word for "spin", and this is what it does. Meat, commonly pork, veal or lamb, is stacked in a cone and broiled vertically. Chicken is another common ingredient. The layers of fat keep the rest of the meat tender while the heat also makes it crispy. The meat is sliced ​​very thinly from the cone and put inside a pita with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki, a yogurt, garlic and cucumber sauce.

Another important part of the gyro is the spices. A mixture of paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic is mixed in with the meat. Everyone has their own recipe. Some contain parsley, allspice or cumin in addition to the other spices.

This is a traditional gyro. Nowadays you can find all sorts of fillings. In Greece it's popular to put fried potatoes in them as well, and you can even find vegetarian versions with falafel in place of meat. It's really just a sandwich then. Pickled vegetables, lettuce and mayonnaise are also common substitutes.
In Greece the pita bread itself can be found in plain, Cypriot or Arabic. Plain is the most common, and thickest of the three breaks. Cypriot is thinner and splits to make a pocket, while Arabic pita is crispier and flatter.


Contrary to popular belief, gyros-pronounced "yee-ros" -did not originate in Greece, although the name was itself is Greek.

Gyros actually come from Turkey. Known as a doner kebab in Turkey, they were invented in the 19th century and bought over to Greece. They're also similar to shawarma which originated in the Middle East.

The first gyro in the United States was made in Chicago in the mid 1960s. There is a quite a bit of discussion as to who actually made the first gyro in Chicago, but they were in fact invented there by a John Garlic, as told in a New York Times article from July 14, 2009. Regardless of how they made it to the United States, as they were not the only ones to catch on, the gyro remains an ever-popular fast food and lunch item.

Make Your Own Tzatziki

While you can put all kinds of sauces on gyro, Greek tzatziki is still the best. This creamy sauce has lots of garlic for flavor and the cucumber helps cool off spices from other components of the dish.

Tzatziki is simple and easy to make. It tastes great as a spread on sandwiches, a dip for veggies or even as dressing for salad.

To make your own:

Mix together 1, 16 ounce container of Greek yogurt (regular yogurt is too runny), half of a finely chopped cucumber, and two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Some prefer to add chopped fresh dill and a little squeeze of fresh lemon for added flavor.

Gyros are one of the healthier fast food options out there, as long as you skip the fried potatoes, and they are a big step up from a two dollar burger. They're packed full of flavor and when cooked the real way, over a vertical rotisserie, there's nothing better.

Composite Doors – Secure Your Home

If security is your main concern, then a composite door is the ultimate choice for you. uPVC and wooden doors offer limited protection against potential attacks, falling short due to their design, materials and hardware. Two thirds of burglars gain entry through a door, so it is essential that you have a door which offers you the vital security you need to protect your home, family and belongings. As well as extra protection, a well secured home can add value to your property and benefit your insurance cover.

Whilst uPVC and wooden doors are easily kicked in, panels giving way and wood cracking, composite doors resist dents and cracks. The combination of materials used offer a much higher level of security than any other door, even before you consider the hardware used; other doors are likely to be security risks even with the best lock fitted.

Composite doors most often come with a Yale multi-point lock as standard. These locks have an anti-saw, anti-drill, anti-pick and anti-bump cylinder with hardened pins to protect the lock. With a high performance 6-pin cylinder and enhanced key security of over 100,000 combinations, it is an above adequate lock to have securing your home. The high security lock is tested to an enhanced standard and approved by SBD (Secured by Design).

Secured by Design is a UK police scheme which is working to phase out poor security, raise industry standards and reduce the number of opportunities for criminal activities. SBD approved products have been tested to a greater level of attack than standard security tests and then certified as meeting the high 'police preferred' specification of security. The tests are kept up-to-date by using statistics on how burglars gain entry to properties as a guideline.

A multi-point lock has 3 different handle types for you to choose from. A lever / lever handle is often used for back doors – unless the deadbolt has been locked, you can open the door without needing to use a key. A lever / pad handle is more typical in front doors – a key is required if the deadbolt is locked or not. This prevails possible intruders from following you in, but the door is not fully secure until the deadbolt has been locked and the multi-point locks have been thrown. Finally, a split spindle lever / lever handle shows the same as the standard lever / lever handle, but operates in the same way as a lever / pad handle; the spindle is split internally and operates different parts of the multi-point locks.

Additional hardware is available for composite doors to upgrade the level of security. Spy holes offer extra protection by allowing you to discreetly view outside without needing to open the door. Security chains can protect you from intruders, allowing you to open the door promptly to talk to callers or accept small packages, with the door remaining a protective barrier. Laminated glass has a sheet of plastic fused between two panes of glass, creating an invisible, impermeable barrier that prevents intruders from breaking in.

Understanding the Plank Exercise – The Most Under-Rated Core Exercise

You can retrain your deep abdominal muscles and increase your core stabilization by using the popular exercise known as the plank. Most people are sedentary, overweight, inflexible, and have bad posture, and all of these things can be associated with back pain.

In a study done by physiotherapists in Australia, the researchers concluded that people who suffered from chronic lower back pain had weak and uncoordinated core muscles. To improve core stabilization, the therapists used the plank as well as traditional strengthening exercises for the core and entire body.

In this study, there was an emphasis on the deep abdominal muscles, especially the transverse abdominus. And after the core training program, the participants demonstrated increased strength and coordination in their core muscles.

So in order increase the support for the lower back you must retrain the deep muscles and transverse abdominus to work more efficiently. In order to do this, I often recommend the plank and many variations of the plank.

The plank is a great exercise to retrain your ab muscles to work more efficiently. It is an isometric exercise. "Iso" means "same", and "metric" means "length". Isometric literally means same length, or isometric simply means that you hold one position without moving.

You do not need any special equipment. All you have to do is get down on the floor and balance on your forearms and toes. Simply hold yourself in a straight line forming a human plank.

The secret to getting the most out of this exercise is pulling your belly button towards your spine. When you pull your belly button towards your spine, you engage and retrain the deepest abdominal muscle to support your back. When personal trainers and pilates instructors say to pull in your stomach, they're saying this to cue you draw your belly button closer to your spell.

In the beginning, you should aim to hold the plank position for 10-20 seconds at a time, but as you get stronger aim for 30-60 seconds. If you have difficulty with the full plank, you can do a modified plank and balance from your knees and your forearms. Some people find that the plank may be uncomfortable on the elbows, and if you are uncomfortable on your forearms and elbows, you can balance from your hands and toes.

Once you master the regular plank, you can try the side plank version for the obliques and lower back. During the side plank, you can balance from your hand or your elbow, and you can change your foot placement to suit your comfort. If you stack your feet on top of each other, you will have less stability than if you stagger your feet on the floor.

The plank and the side plank are really great exercises for the core, and once you master the regular plank and the side plank you can create endless variations to spice of your core workout. Try 1 leg at a time, or place your hands or feet on something unstable like a stability ball. If you have not done the plank before, give it a try in your next core workout.

Book Review – Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss

"No wonder it's so hard to lose weight- our bodies are designed to keep weight at all costs; it's a matter of survival." It's embedded in our DNA. " In essence, we are designed to gain weight, expounds Mark Hyman, MD in his new bestselling book Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss . This books follows on the heels of his previous bestseller, UltraPrevention: The 6-Week Plan that Will Make You Healthy for Life that he coauthored and proves to be every bit as informative. Dr. Hyman, who has a passion for the cutting-edge science of Western medicine and alternative health for over 20 years, maintains that Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss is not just another of many weight loss books on the market. Rather, the book is your body's owner's manual for overall health. He distills his knowledge into a healthy lifestyle, which reduces the factors of a number of epidemic health problems and degenerative diseases currently plaguing us, while at the same time we also gain the positive side-effect of weight loss.

Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss dives in by turning much of what we believe as conventional wisdom concerning weight loss on its head. Much of what we think we know about weight loss actually has been making us gain weight. As evidence, the book points to the fact that despite the $ 50 billion we spend on weight loss every year in America, whether it's diet pills, programs or exercise routines, they all have a disqual success record. In fact, for every diet we go on, we end up gaining five pounds on average in the long run. Obesity is now overtaking smoking as the number one cause of preventable deaths with almost 70 percent of the adult population and one third of our children now overweight. Compounding the problem are the profitable foods the food industry pushes, entrenched pharmaceutical companies and our own government's recommendations, especially when it comes to the "food pyramid" or low fat in our diets.

In part I, Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss exposures seven hoary myths that make us unhealthy, gain weight and keep it on. First there is the Starvation Myth: Eating less and exercising more does not equal weight loss. Next is the Calorie Myth: All calories are created equal. Third is the Fat Myth. Eating fat makes you fat. Fourth is the Carb Myth. Eating a low carb or no carb diet will make you thin. Fifth is the Sumo Wrestler Myth: Skipping meals helps you lose weight. Sixth is the French Paradox Myth: The French are thin because they drink wine and eat butter, and last but not least is the Protector Myth: Government food policies and food industry regulations protect our health. Moreover, the book points out that the introduced man-made substances such as "trans-fats", which are found in nearly every processed and packaged food because they never spoil, are adding to our overall exploding health and weight problems over the past 30 years. This consumable plastic disables our metabolism by actually turning on a gene in your DNA, which slows metabolism causing you to gain weight. The book also discusses another danger to our health: the man-made supersugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, which is used to sweeten almost everything these days including soft drinks. These supersugars quickly enter your bloodstream and trigger hormonal and chemical changes which induces insulin surges that tell your brain to eat more and your fat cells to store more fat.

If there are substances and foods that we eat that can trigger negative results, then surly there are ways to make us healthy and loose weight. Part II of Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss gives us the keys to turn on our metabolism and fat burning genes, turn off your weight gain genes, and program your body to lose weight automatically. The book takes this even further in part III by providing menus and recipes, along with exercise and lifestyle treatments designed to create healthy metabolism and overall health. This section of the book is designed so it can be customized to meet your unique genetic needs to optimally awaken your fat-burning DNA.

Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss provides a viable road map to navigate our way back to health and fitness. And in so doing we will be successful in our quest for long-term weight loss without counting calories, fat grams or carbs. We do not have to starve ourselves; we simply need to eat in harmony with our genes.

Design the Perfect Professional Porch Railings

It is possible to create almost any look you are after when it comes to porch railroads, and whilst some people may prefer to have a simple, modern homely look, others prefer a more professional one. So just how do you create the perfect professional porch railings?

Creating the Right Professional Railings for Your Porch

First of all, professional railroads need professional installation so if you are planning to install them yourself; you really need to know what you are doing. Creating a proper plan of action and preparing everything beforehand is essential if you want to do things properly.

You will need various different parts to create a professional look. So, you will need:

o Balusters

o Finials

o Rails

o Posts

You will need the above for both the top and bottom parts of the railroads. If you do not have the right equipment you can easily find it at a lumberyard or even online from the comfort of your own home. Once you do have the right parts, planning is essential and generally what you need to do is to measure the area that the railroads will be placed. This will give you an estimation of the amount of equipment you will need. Overall a porch railing plan is essential if you want to get it right.

What Professional Porch Railings Generally Look Like

When you think of professional railroads, it may be hard to get a picture in your head of what they actually look like. However, usually most people consider professional to be contemporary and something which adds a little touch of elegance to the home and garden. They will usually have some kind of detail to them such as a flower pattern in order to make the house look a little more homely, whilst keeping the professionalism present at all times.

Once you have your porch railing plan you will be able to decide upon which design you would prefer. There are hundreds to choose form and you can also select from different materials. Wooden railings can be used to create a professional look but overall iron railings are generally better, especially wrought iron railings.

Finally professional railroads tend to be installed properly so this is where your porch railing plan will come in. You need to follow it to the last letter and ensure that everything fits properly and there are no overhangs or uneven surfaces etc. If you follow the steps mentioned you should end up with professional looking results!

Preventing Mishaps on Stair Treads

Stair treads are one of the most aborted parts of your stairs. This comes as no surprise since the other name for them is the 'step', meaning that they are being stepped on boundlessly every day. This is also keeping them always safe to use is a must for every home or office. After all, you've already heard about many accidents that happen on the stair case. So here are some effective but simple ways to prevent mishaps with stair treads:

A good point to start with is ensuring that your stair treads are durable enough to withstand constant abuse and pressure since they take the bulk of the weight of whover is using the stairs. Investing in stair parts that are durable will also ensure the safety of your stairs.

Start off with your material. If you are using wooden stair treads and a fully wooden staircase, it's best to use hardwood made from a reliable supplier of stair parts / supplies. If you are using concrete or steel, it's also a good way to have a safe and durable staircase. Do not forget to keep it too. Always be on the lookout if it needs repair.

Do you have small kids in the house? Then installing some anti-slip treads should do the trick. This type of stair treads has a non-slip surface which offers great traction whenever you step on them. Trips and slips are drastically minimized when these are used. Also, never leave anything lying around near or on your stairs. Things like toys and rugs should be kept away from stairs. If it makes you feel safer, you can also install end gates for your stairs. You can put these at the topmost and the bottom end of your staircase. This is to prevent your small kid from using the staircase without your supervision.

Using high shine floor polish on your stair treads is a very bad idea, because this will be only increasing the chances of slips. Stair carpets should also be secured completely. When it comes to maintenance, it just basically involves wiping down the treads, stair railing, and balusters, just to keep dust at bay. Just keep the high shine effect on the hand railroads or on the balusters.

Preventing mishaps on your stair treads is easy if you will follow the tips previously mentioned. Making sure that safety of your stairs is not taken for granted should be every homeowner's priority.