Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Barbeque (Charcoal Vs Gas) (Part I)

Charcoal barbeques are a must for that smoky flavour, but gas barbeques offer ultimate convenience. It’s no wonder a trend is emerging for people to have both.

Charcoal grill
The biggest pro for the charcoal barbeque is that classic, smoky flavour it gives to meat.
“A charcoal barbeque is a real meat-lover’s barbeque and connoisseurs enjoy creating different flavours using meat smokers and smoking pellets,” says Matthew Lawton of Mitre 10, who believes American brand Weber is behind some of the best charcoal barbeques you can buy.

Charcoal barbeques are inexpensive – a high-end unit costs around $400 and a very basic unit, $59. A good mid-range unit will cost $200. If you spend a little more you will enjoy the additional features and size benefits. However, charcoal barbeques have some factors that some may consider downsides. For instance, a charcoal barbeque can take up to 30 minutes to reach cooking temperature. They can also be a little on the messy side – with ashes to get rid of and bags of coal to buy. For many that’s all part of the job and the satisfaction of ‘caveman cooking’.

When choosing a charcoal barbeque check that it is easy to light, clean and remove charcoal. Because you’re ‘playing with fire’ Roydon warns that charcoal barbeques need to be watched carefully as they can get away on you and burn food.

Features your charcoal grill should have:

  • Sturdy steel construction with a durable porcelain- enamel finish.
  • Heavy-gauge charcoal grate.
  • Large, easy-to-remove ash pan.
  • Adjustable-height chrome-plated aluminium cooking grate.
  • A locking lid for safety when transporting. 

Upgrade features: 

Shelves and warming racks, smoking ability, workspace, storage space, larger cooking grids, rustproof ash- catchers and porcelain-enamelled cooking grates. High- end grates are usually made of cast iron, porcelain-coated aluminium or even stainless steel.

Gas barbecues

Cooking doesn’t get much quicker than a gas grill, simply turn it on and it’s ready. These are ideal for people who have big families to feed or frequently entertain and want things to be quick and easy. The fact that gas barbeques are easy to clean is an additional bonus. Basic models will have a flat plate and a grill, but those wanting quality and style should seek out a stainless steel beast with a hood.

“If you fancy yourself an outdoor chef, a top-of-the-line gas barbeque such as the Gasmate Galaxy Quantum Pro or Stratos 4-Burner Gas Grill can literally become an outdoor kitchen. Look for features such as side-burners, rear burners, roasting dish, rotisserie and warming racks,” says Roydon.

“Gas barbeques start at around $600-$700 and can cost as much as $15,000,” explains Matthew Lawton, who says the top model stocked at Mitre 10 is around $5,000, but $1,500 will get you a great gas barbecue.

Features your gas grill should have:

  • Sturdy steel construction with a baked-on porcelain- enamel finish.
  • Heavy-gauge nickel or chrome-plated aluminium cooking grate.
  • Twoseparateburners,withtwoseparatecontrolknobs for greater heat control.

Look for a durable barbeque that has sturdy construction, metal work and corrosion-resistant paint and fittings. Mitre 10’s Matthew Lawton recommends checking the grade of stainless steel.

“Look for 304 grade stainless steel which is durable – especially if your barbeque will be near the beach, as sea air causes rust.”

Upgrade features:

Shelves and warming racks, flip-up workspace, enclosed storage space, large cooking areas with up to six burners, improved cooking grates (as above), side burners for cooking sauces, rotisseries and infrared cooking abilities, smoker boxes or drawers and stainless steel construction.

The barbeque is to summer as sand is to beaches. Whether you’re looking for portable model for camping or a stainless steel, state-of-the-art appliance, Mitre 10 offers a range of barbeques to meet your needs.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gardening. Right Plant, right place PART II

Formal vs. informal

Generally the type of design for a garden is split into two groups: formal and informal. You can of course have a mix of the two. For the novice gardener, the informal type of planting is especially useful, as it requires less upkeep and attention to detail.
With informal planting, the emphasis is on achieving a more natural design. We look for balance in design. This balance can come from colour, height or the quantity of plants you use.


Incorporating curves will add interest to your garden, but don’t overdo it. A collection of amoeba-shaped beds would be overkill, as would a curvy path that takes you far out of the way of your destination. Long, subtle curves are often best.


A landscaped garden needs movement to add life and interest. No garden is complete without some ornamental grasses to sway in the breeze. Add flowers and berries to attract birds and butterflies. A well-placed water feature can also help to provide movement.


Some thoughtful plantings can soften the edges of your home and help it blend with the surroundings. Try not to cover your home in an overgrown jungle, but look to the best architectural feature of your home and accent that with your planting.
Adding the plants to your garden is the finishing touch. For most of us, we purchase our plants a few at a time, gradually building up our garden beds. Experience will also be a factor in your choice of plants. For the inexperienced gardener, there are many cheap and cheerful plants that do well in most conditions.
Plant in groups to harmonise colour, texture and foliage. Aim for the plants to compliment each other – tall plants at the back, medium in the centre and ground cover at the front. When planting any trees or shrubs, visualize how they will look after a few years of growth. Try to get a sense of the likely height and width of the plant when it is fully mature.

For all of your plantings, you need to consider the requirements of the plant, soil conditions, sun or shade and the effect that the plant will create.

Tricks of the trade
• Plant in uneven groups as this will more closely follow a naturally occurring planting.
• Less is more when it comes to statues or other garden features.
• Curved borders will give the appearance of length and a greater scale.
• Keep your border curves simple and easy.
• If you have borders on each side of the garden, don’t make the edges match. Stick to irregularity, but get a
balance between the two corresponding edges.
• A garden hose is a very useful aid when forming informal curves. Lay the hose out in the shape you want and cut the edge following the hose along. Before you start, let the sun warm the hose – this makes it more pliable.
• Some plants are naturally bigger targets for pests and disease. Be aware of this when choosing your plants – think about their requirements and susceptibility to attack. For example, roses require a lot of maintenance to keep them free of pests and disease.
• If time and money run short, there is nothing wrong with leaving areas in lawn to be developed later.
Finally, keep in mind that you needn’t have a five-figure budget to achieve an exceptional landscape. Whether your landscape venture is a two-month project, or a Saturday trip to the nursery at Mitre 10, the key is to select your plants purposefully and place them thoughtfully. The result is sure to bring you years of enjoyment.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gardening. Right Plant, right place

Right Plant, right place

By Sandy Johnson

There is no denying the importance of outdoor living to all the people in the world (especially New Zealanders) – it is an integral part of Kiwi culture. Our homes benefit from the luxury of space and this leads us to value ready access to our gardens.

Landscaping the garden is just like furnishing a room. While there are a few extra considerations, the basic principles are very similar. Start by looking through magazines and books for design elements you like. Remember this is your garden – it should reflect you and your family’s lifestyle.
There is one important question you need to ask yourself before you start planning a new garden or revamping an old one – how much time do you have to spend on the garden?
Knowing how much time you have will determine the type of garden you can work towards.
Time and finances are variable factors, but they should be considered early on.

Getting started

When faced with the bare open spaces of a new garden or a developed garden that you want to change, it is tempting to rush in and try to change everything at once. The best advice is to take the time now to think and plan your strategy, as this will save you time and money in the long run.
Start by drawing up a plan of your garden. Sketch the property boundaries, then draw all the permanent features on the plan. This will allow you to visualize a framework that you can work around. Include the following permanent structures on your plan:

• Garage
• House
• Decks
• Shed
• Paths
• Fences
• Pool
• Driveway

Remember to include in your plan any large trees that will be staying. Mark them showing the approximate spread of the shade thrown by them.

Start a scrapbook or garden diary and list the things you like about your garden and features you would like to get rid of. Then add a wish list of the features you would like to have. Get to know your garden and how it functions. Know which part of the garden gets the morning sun and which areas lose out in the winter. It is also very important to know where the prevailing wind comes from as planting for wind protection is wise.

Walk through your garden and see how easily it flows from the back to the front, or from the deck to the lawn. Understand which parts of your garden get boggy in the winter or dry out in the summer.
With this knowledge you can make the following decisions:

• Which views you wish to screen out for privacy.
• Which views you want to enhance.
• Thebestplaceforyourutilityarea,includingtheshed, compost bin and clothesline.
• Whether the garden needs more paths to get from one area to the next.
• If a playground is needed, where it will go.
• Where your entertaining space will be.
• The best place for a vegetable garden.
• Whether you need to mark out boundaries.

Plan for equipment access
At some point in the life of your home, you will be faced with a project or repair that requires getting machinery into your backyard. Even if it is just the mower on a weekly basis, plan for it in advance – tearing out your plantings is very upsetting.

Focal points

A focal point is something that directs you visually and makes you feel surprised, moved or engaged. Typically a specimen tree or a statue can be a focal point, though there are many other possibilities. It could be an architectural feature of your house or even a borrowed view.
The trick is to make features stand out, yet not stick out. It should be somehow connected to the rest of the landscape. Scale is also important.
For example, if you are lucky enough to have several acres with broad views, then a large oak tree would be fitting. Alternatively, an ornate garden bench or small statue will work for smaller gardens.


Friday, October 21, 2011

About Plants and shade

Six Ways to grow in the shade
by Sandy Johnson

Shady areas can be difficult to get plants to grow in. The “trial and error” method can really test your patience and your gardening budget. There are a few simple tricks we can share with you to make gardening in the shade a success.

1. Shade level
Determine the degree of shade you are dealing with, as this will guide you to make better plant choices:
Full shade – This is an area that receives no direct sunlight. The shade can be cast from trees, fences or the walls of your house or your neighbour’s house.
Dappled shade – This is where there is a mix of sun and shade. The area will receive sun at some parts of the day directly or filtered through foliage.
Part shade – This is the easiest type of shade to deal with, as the area will only receive shade for part of the day and be in the sun for the rest of the day.

2. Treat the soil
In shaded areas, just as in the rest of the garden, it is important to treat your soil. It is not unsual to have dry, poor soil in shady spots, which will restrict growth. Before planting, add a liberal application of compost and dig it through the top layer of soil. Shady areas also need water, though not as much as areas in the sun, so water occasionally in the hottest times of the year.

3. Increasing the light
The more light that the area receives, the better the plants will grow. Thin out the branches from trees that are casting the shade or remove low branches. This will also give you more space to work in.

4. Root competition
This is a common problem in shady gardens as large trees responsible for shading have large roots that take up a lot of space. Their root systems also use the water and nutrients, making it very difficult for other plants to thrive. This is where plants with a small root system such as ferns and bromeliads are perfect.

5. Height
Add some height by using pots or containers. They can be planted with a permanent plant or changed every season with annuals. Using pots is also an effective way to get colour into a spot that might be very wet. A sculpture is another way of adding colour and interest to a dreary area.

6. Stick with a good thing
If it works, then plant more. If your plant choices are limited or the area is very large, then plant in large groups – this is an effective way to create a stunning display, especially when the plants flower. Choosing plants that flower in lighter colours like white, light blue and pink will also help to brighten shade.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your Walls (House Painting)

(Thanks to How-To Magazine)

Painting your home inside or out requires careful planning and choosing how your paint finish is going to look is one of the key fundamentals of any painting project.

Gloss paint
Gloss paints have a highly reflective smooth surface and can help to reflect light and add a touch of class to surfaces. Solvent borne gloss paints are generally the toughest, most durable and most stain-resistant type of paint meaning you will benefit from a high polish finish that will last.
Gloss paints are easier to clean than paints with less surface smoothness making them ideal for areas exposed to heavy traffic or heavy use, especially where fingerprints, grease or grime are common.
Some areas where gloss paints are useful include kitchen, bathroom and laundry room walls; cabinets; banisters; doorways; windowsills and frames; and interior trim. Certain gloss paints can also be used on furniture.
The highly reflective appearance of gloss paints tend to highlight surface imperfections, making it essential to have a well prepared surface prior to applying. If walls or woodwork are either marred or irregular, it may be best to select paint with less sheen.

Semi-gloss paint
Semi-gloss paints, as the name suggests, have a slightly glossy appearance that is not as highly reflective as that of gloss paints. These types of finishes offer good stain resistance and are easy to clean, so they are especially popular among families with young children.
Paints with a semi-gloss appearance are excellent for use on many of the same areas as gloss paints. They are ideal for walls and woodwork which are subject to wear, including: kitchens and bathrooms; hallways; foyers and bathrooms; children’s rooms; playrooms; doors and doorways; windows and trim.
Eggshell, satin or low sheen paint
Paint manufacturers use various names for finishes whose sheen levels are lower than semi-gloss, yet more lustrous than flat paints. Among the terms commonly used are “eggshell”, “satin” and “low sheen”. (Satin or
low sheen paints sometimes have a slightly higher sheen than those with eggshell finishes).
Paints in this category tend to impart more warmth and depth to surfaces than flat paints. They resist stains better than flat paints, although not as well as semi-gloss and gloss paint. Eggshell, satin or low sheen paints are a good choice for rooms or areas where some sheen is desired and good cleaning properties are necessary.
Examples include: hallways, bathrooms, children’s rooms and playrooms. Occasionally, these types of paints are used for ceilings. However, their slight sheen will tend to highlight surface imperfections more so than flat paints.

Flat paint
Flat paints diffuse light, so they tend to conceal surface imperfections better than paints with higher sheen levels. As a result, they are a good choice for general use on walls and ceilings, especially those that are dented or rough.

Collected Quotes from Albert Einstein

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

"Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."

"I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details."

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."

"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."

"I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice."

"God is subtle but he is not malicious."

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

"The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

"Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing."

"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

"God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically."

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

"Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."

"Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity."

"If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

"In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep."

"The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead."

"Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves."

"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!"

"No, this trick won't work...How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?"

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."

"Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever."

"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeeded be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

"One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year."

" of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought."

"He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

Here we go!

The first step.