Masonic Gifts


At 71 my father’s been a freemason for almost thirty years and I know, without knowing much of what goes on in his meetings, that he takes great pride and pleasure at those gatherings. I’ve met some of his ”brothers” and although I can’t really see the appeal, they seem like a nice bunch of men. Always friendly and helpful.

My Mother passed away

My mother passed away some three years ago now. My parents were married for over 40 years and it left a big hole in my father’s life. The lodge meetings has given my father something to be involved with and I know it has helped him during his grieving.

Many Lodges

He doesn’t just belong to one lodge. He has several that he visits regularly and that keeps him busy and gets him out of the house at least 20 times a year, sometimes more as he attends some of the instruction meetings as well.

Other freemason Orders

A Masonic Gift for my Father

I thought that as he approaches his 30th year as a mason, it would be nice to buy him a present to celebrate. It would make sense that this is a Freemason related gift in some way.

He’s got various bits of regalia that he takes to each meeting so it was hard to come up with something that he doesn’t have. My sister, who knows a bit more about freemasonry than I, contacted my cousin, also a Freemason for some ideas. Someone suggested this Masonic Gifts website to visit.

Freemason Gift Ideas

Eventually we decided that a Masonic ring would make an ideal present. I wanted to get something that had a Masonic design, a square and compass are “craft” symbols I was told. So that was our criteria. And also something regal but not too expensive. But not cheap either a a ring that looked good and well made. Something that celebrates my father’s journey through great masonry.

We Chose a Freemason Ring

Eventually I found the Freemason Gold ring Here. The site is very easy to use and I just went straight to the craft ring selection and made my choice. The great thing about the site is that it’s run by masons so they select the best of the bunch.

I now have to wrap the ring and present it to by father at our next family gathering. I know he’ll be surprised and very pleased.

Electric Kettles with Temperature Control

Our New Addition

We bought a new kettle a few weeks back. And although it’s hard to get excited by a kettle this one is rather good so I’m going to tell you all about it.

We drink tea in our house, not English tea, with milk and sugar but Chinese green tea. Quite a lot of it. Plus it’s supposed to be good for you. You can drink it hot or cold, something you can’t do with tea with milk.

Green Tea Leaves

Green Tea has Benefits

We’ve been green tea drinkers for well over ten years now. We started because we wanted to reduce our intake of milk and black teas are specially blended to go with milk so they don’t taste nice if you leave the milk out.

The benefits of green tea

Green tea and weight loss

We always took jasmine tea whenever we ate out at a Chinese restaurant. So we converted to green tea quite easily. It’s amazing refreshing hot or cold, although I prefer it when it’s hot. And many years later we found out that it’s actually healthy for you as well.

A cup of steaming green teaHot – Not Boiling

But these green teas should never be made with boiling water because you loose some of the health benefits and the taste is not as refined when the water is too hot. A perfect temperature is around 85 degrees, centigrade. That’s just right and produces the perfect cuppa.

But until now it’s been almost impossible to get the water to that ideal temperature without a lot of hassle and time. Whereas most of the time you just want a quick hot drink.

The Magic of a Temperature Control

That’s when we found out that you can get kettles with a temperature control. Like the ones here temperarture control kettle That’s when we got all excited over a kettle. Because it gets the water ideal temperature for our green teas and the results are really good.A very simple idea I’m only surprised someone didn’t think of it years ago. Well now they have.

teapot poring green teaHow we make Tea

So here’s our tea making procedure:

  • Heat the water to 85 degrees.
  • Pour some water into an empty teapot, to warm it up.
  • Empty that water from the teapot.
  • Put some tea leaves in the teapot.
  • Pour in the hot water.
  • Let the tea brew for three minutes.
  • Drink it.

Three other ways to make green tea

There’s More

They other great feature of these variable temperature kettles is that they’re able to keep the water, at your chosen temperature. Our model will keep the water at 85 degrees for around twenty minutes. So the water in the kettle isn’t cooling down while your warning the tea pot (you do warm the teapot, don’t you?).

We Love It

All in all a very simple but effective device. Everyone should have one. Recommended by us. Take a look at the latest models here

Home Water Softener

Water Softeners for the Home

My Experience

I never realized how different water could be until I had a home water softener installed. These small devices convert all the water entering your home, into soft water. You can see what I mean on this website

Soft Towels washed with soft water

Soft Towels

Benefits of a Water Softener

To cut-to-the-chase everything seems cleaner than it used to be, whether it’s washing in the shower, washing clothes and even washing plates and cups in the dishwasher. Everything feels good, much better than what we used to have. Our dishwasher struggled to get things really clean and it always left a dull look on everything. A milky film on glasses was particularly noticeable as were streaky white stains left on cutlery.

We live in a very hard water area and this was the cause of our problems. Reading that back sounds like it was a major issue, it wasn’t, it was just an annoyance. There are other problems out there which really are troublesome – this wasn’t one of them.

Home Water Softener to the Rescue

But what a relief and a pleasant surprise when the problem went away at last. Anything that makes life easier has got to be something to aim for – right?

The great thing is that once installed, a home water softener is simple to operate and that’s important. The whole system is maintenance free all you have to do is replenish the salt compartment with blocks of salt. These blocks of salt is what keeps the whole thing running and salt, an abundant material, is very cheap to source.

Clean Water Tumbler How Water Softeners Work

How does a water softener work? Well they’re quite simple really the minerals in the water are ions and these ions contain a positive charge. So your water is passed through a chamber filled with, what is almost, almost microscopic beads. These beads are negatively charged. As the water races through the positive ions stick to the beads. The result, out comes soft water.

The salts’ only purpose to allow the water softener to regenerate and this takes place automatically. After a period of time all the negatively charged beads get used up and it’s this regeneration process that allows the home water softener to work month after month, year after year – without any human intervention, except for replacing the salt blocks when they’re all used up.

Here’s a handy map where you can check if you live in a hard water area Hard water areas in the USA

More Information

We like these sites that will give you additional information

How Do Water Softeners Work

A story of fitting a Home Water Softener

wireless charger for iphone

iphone in the handThe Wireless Chargers Explained

There are some issues that you need to be aware of if you use a wireless charger for your cell phone. Newish Android phones tend to have wireless charging built into them. So you just need an induction pad connected to your mains supply place the phone on the pad and like magic it begins charging.

The science behind these devices is based on electro-magnetism.. All these wireless chargers use a process called induction. Basically when an alternating current is passed through a coiled wire it produces a fluctuating magnetic field. If another coil is close by, but not touching, then this fluctuating magnetic field “induces” a current into this second coiled wire. The magic happens because of this continuously changing magnetic field.

Getting started with your iphone

Things to Consider

But there are some things that you need to watch out for. For induction to work the two coils of wire need to be close to each other but not actually touching. They’ll be separated by an insulator. If you put your cell phone in a protective case then this increases the distance between the charging pad and the phone (the thickness of the cover) and this lowers the charging effect of the pad.

The Qi Standard

The current standard for wireless charging is known as “Qi”. With this technology the charger is able to detect if a Qi compatible device is within range. And if it is it will start the charging process. Take the device off the charger or the device becomes fully charged then the charging cycle stops. The result is that the charging pad isn’t just on all the time, using power and charging thin air, it’s actually quite intelligent.

mobile- phone cityGet a wireless charger for iphone

Chargers like these ones provide a useful charging kit for your iphone. You connect it to your iphone’s charging port and a credit card sized panel folds over the back of your iphone and sticks to it there. This plate is the set of coils that pick up the charge through the induction effect, mentioned above.

You should also know that different charging pads can output different amounts of power measured in watts. The standard chargers can send around 5 watts of power to a device but some models will generate 15 watts and that means faster charging. 15 watts is the maximum for the Qi standard and so these devices are not so common.

Everything you wanted to know about the iphone

88 key keyboard

electric keyboard pianoMy Keyboard Playing Days

Back in the nineties, I played keyboards in a college band. Later as college became a thing of the past and work became the norm, I’d jam with like minded guys and occasionally we’d play a
venue, a club or a hall. Nothing to adventurous a we all had other commitments.

My Life Changed

Musicians, singers, hangers on, came and went over the years. Then there were just three of us. Finally it was my time to go, a young child meant that all my spare time was taken up.

I got my Spare Time back

As time has gone by the demands on my spare time became less and I find that I have pockets of free time on my hands. Not enough to start playing in a band but enough to do something I enjoy. Which is playing a keyboard.

Time for a new 88 key digital piano

I have a cheap but reliable Casio keyboard which is quite good and I used it for gigs from time to time. But it’s not full 88 key keyboard. As I’m really classically trained, I wanted to replace it with something a bit more up market and with the full set of octaves.

Grand PianoA Grand Piano maybe?

Ideally I’d get a grand piano but even a small baby grand won’t fit in our small house. I’d have to take a wall of to get the thing inside . Plus there’s there’s the expense of buying it in the first place and besides I’d want to play when everyone’s gone to bed but I can’t play it as it would wake everyone up. I’d have to wait until the weekend.

Piano Keyboard 88 Keys

Then there’s tuning, which is expensive and has to be carried out several times a year to get the best out of the instrument.

So I had to set my sights a little lower and go for a upmarket keyboard. Like the ones I saw here 88 key keyboard piano

The real pianos are quite impressive. I’ve tried a few of the ones here. For me the important thing is that the keyboard must sound and behave just like a real piano and that’s what they really good ones do.

88 key keyboardbest 88 key keyboard

I know all these electronic keyboards are all reliant on the software inside but the best ones are incredibly good and very realistic.

They sound they make is extraordinary as well, very close to the real thing. Amazingly you can give the piano a different voice, a Steinway one minute a Bosendorfer the next.

Headphones on a Grand Piano?

But what I really liked was the simple headphone jack. A decent pair of headphones means that I can play whenever I want but not make a sound. It’s just me and my 88 key digital piano.

I pretty close to ordering one but it’s getting close to Christmas. So I’ll get it as a Christmas present from me, to me.

88 key Keyboards – the basics

88 key keyboards – Mastering One

Wonderful African Shona Sculpture

Shona Sculpture - Mother and ChildSculpture for Christmas

Buying presents for folks at Christmas is always hard for me. I don’t just want the usual fair. I went to buy something s bit more special, something that shows a bit more thought. And this year I think I’ve found the perfect gift idea.

It’s something that most people wouldn’t have come across, so I know it’s going to be something special. So what I’ve decided to do is to buy everyone some art. Small sculptures, African sculptures, from Zimbabwe. Also called Shona Sculpture. There’s some good examples here African Shona Sculpture

straight from the barbecueShona Sculpture – A taste of Africa

I came across this by accident, a colleague of mine comes from Zimbabwe, a very nice lady and we have coffee together. As time went by, we got to meet up outside the office and would go shopping together. I’d invite her to my house for one of our many barbecues and she, in return, invited me to her house for a braai (this is how Zimbabweans refer to a barbecues).

Shona Sculpture - WomenMany Styles

The first time I went there, I was immediately impressed by her many stone statues, sculptures. There were animals, human figures, abstract forms. All hand carved and all individual. There’s no mass production here.

They looked wonderful. So natural, so beautiful. Years ago they would have been hard to find in this country because they’re stone, they’re heavy. But now they’re easy to obtain. The only difficult part is choosing which one. They’re all so good. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste.

For my family I’ve decided to get more abstract designs. As I said no two are alike and that’s going to make for perfect a presents. And not too big, maximum 12 inches high will be fine.

I just have to wrap them up and take to my family individually and hopefully they’ll love them. Just as I do.

Happy with my Robot Vac

My latest gift from Jack, my husband, is a “robot vacuum cleaner”. Flowers, chocolates, jewelery take a back seat in the gifts department, from him to me. He’s a gadget man. But to be fair, I never by him gadgets, I’m always getting him clothes, underwear, socks. Which he never seems to buy.

I suppose we’ve just gotten used to each other and fill in the short comings in the other. Which is nice and shows we’re in a good place, relationship wise.

Back to my gift, the “robot vacuum cleaner”. This has proved more useful than I’d imagined. I’m not a big fan of gadgets, especially the one’s Jack gets for me. But the robot vac is one of those exceptions. It’s really quite good.

This a good place to go if your interested in buying one yourself top vacuum cleaner robots And if you get the same model as me, you won’t be disappointed the Dyson 360 eye.

And although not cheap, it works really well. Obviously it can’t do the impossible. So you have to help out to help you. But if you keep the room decluttered and remove obstacles, then everyday it will vacuum for you.

The only thing you have to do is check if the first collection container needs emptying or not. And this is made easy as a little red light comes on when it’s time to empty.

The other advantage we have is we live in a single floor apartment. So if we leave the doors open to all the rooms, the whole apartment gets vacuumed. It goes with hard floors as well as carpets. So it’s near perfect.

My only gripe is that it won’t go right into corners. So I’ve still got a handheld vac which I used once a week and just do the edges and corners. Other than that, it’s perfect.

Best 3 Piece Luggage Set

Plane arrivingPacking for the Trip

When traveling we always have to plan what to pack – what to take and what not to take. Then we have to revise our list as we realize that we don’t have enough room to pack everything, because the suitcase is not big enough.

The answer to this is to have more than one suitcase. That way you can pack more things but that also presents other problems. The solution for me was to buy a three piece luggage set.

The Three Piece Suitcase

A 3 piece luggage set does a number of things. The first, which was quite important to me, was that when not in use I can pack each smaller case inside the next big one. So storage wise I have just the big case with the smaller cases tucked inside. I have a small apartment so this feature was very useful indeed.

You can find some very good three piece suitcases here 3 piece luggage set And this is what should be your important criteria when shopping for a knew set of suitcases.

three suitcasesBuy a Suitcase that’s going to last

Suitcases are a bit of a Cinderella when we think about trips and vacations it’s easy to just think of the suitcase as just an accessory and go for the cheapest. But this would be wrong and ill conceived.

By spending more and by buying something a little more expensive, a little more robust. You could potentially have a case or a set of cases that will last you years. And, if it lasts you years then it will save you money in the long term.

Ideal Feature for a New Suitcase

There are only three things to consider when buying a new case our set of cases. The case carcass construction, the locking mechanism and the handle, or handles.

If the suitcase has wheels, as most do these days, then this is the fourth thing to get right.

These three/four factors rather than style designer labels, are what you need to get right. Because by getting these right you’ll have a set of suitcases that will last you years and years.

Photographers Light Tent

light box - jeweryControlling Light with a Light Box

When photographing objects the most important aspect is to control the light and this includes reflections. You see for an object, whatever it is, to appear at its best you have to light it in such a way that it’s form reveals itself to the viewer.

When the lighting is awry or a high gloss object is placed in a busy room, the viewer’s cognitive skills ( subconsciously ) have to be brought into play and this detracts from the final presentation. You want to avoid this whenever you can.

For bigger objects we use screens and defusers to control the light. But for smaller objects we can use a light tent or photo box. Real Light Box Examples

light box - glassesIntroducing the Light Box

Photo boxes come in various sizes and consist of translucent sides and a backdrop. The backdrop is normally white but can be other colors too. The backdrop curves at the far edge so that there’s a blur between the base and far wall of the tent. This makes the background a seamless transition from top to bottom with no hard edges. A very desirable feature when shooting still images.

The translucent sides allow spots or flash flash units to be placed either side of the object. The allows a defused light to be used in lighting your objects, rmemoving any hard shadows in the process.

With the three sides surrounding your object you’ll also remove the vast majority of reflections as well. So your “starting point” photo becomes a clean, crisp image that could be used immediately.

For very shiny objects, it’s not possible to remove all reflections, there will be you and your equipment picks up on the photo. You’ll need a Photoshop type piece of software to correct this. And Photoshop combined with a range of add-ons that can automate a lot of the effort.

But the important point is too have a really to quality image as your starting point. Try this site if your interested in buying one best selling light tent on the market

Hello Fellow Travellers

Cycling in the hillsWe live in a great age today. An age where the airplane has made corners of the globe accessible to us. And in this blog I intent to document all my travels, where I go, what I do when I get there and the people I get to meet.

Being an avid sportsman, I like get into the outside world and explore, that means cycling for me but I also do canoing when I can surfing (that I want to improve). All these activities take me far and wide and it’s all going in here.

So come and visit again, when I’ll have more stuff and pictures and videos to share.