Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Saving water and money

Ideas for saving and reusing water

If you're on a water meter this will also save you money -- a double whammy for you!

Everyone: don't let the tap (fawcett) run when cleaning your teeth
Blokes: ...the same when wet shaving
  • Never leave dripping taps -- if the washer in a dripping tap needs replacing, get it done or do it yourself
  • When waiting for the water to run hot, catch the water in a jug and empty that into a bucket kept there for the purpose. This 'grey' water can then be used for watering plants and flushing the toilet
  • If you're really keen to save, install a waste-water diverter tap that directs water from your sinks / shower / bath into a grey-water tank
And all that water saved means you're reducing your carbon footprint, too!

Happy saving :)

Monday, 11 May 2009

Protect your gums

...and help prevent gum disease

When you're cleaning your teeth with an ordinary toothbrush, always brush with a flicking motion directed away from your gums.

If you brush towards your gums, you'll slowly but surely make them recede and expose more vulnerable areas. This in turn may give rise to gum disease you don't want that, do you!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

How to slash the time to do various chores

Basics: The principle to let you slash your chore time

The basic principle to recognise here is that every chore is made up of preparation and doing. If the preparation is already done, the chore is done in half the time!

Realise that preparation and doing are two separate jobs

So what you have to do is to do all the preparation in little bits here and little bits there -- and here's the key -- as part of your normal wandering from room to room.

Example: Combining doing a washing and cleaning the bathroom

An example will help. I needed to vacuum and clean the bathroom and wash the throw mats.

Preparing for chore

This morning, while cleaning my teeth, I moved all the gels, shaving kit, shampoo etc. and put them in the bath. Surfaces now clear. No cleaning yet! Finished cleaning teeth and gathered up mats - put them in the washing machine (more stuff to go in there later).

Put kettle on, opened curtains downstairs and as I walked back to the kitchen to make the tea, brought the vacuum cleaner with me from under the stairs (bathroom is accessed through the kitchen). Made tea, checked up on email and blogs I follow.

It's good not to spend too long at a time sat down, so went upstairs to check for other laundry that would go in the washing machine with the mats. Took with me some clutter that had crept downstairs. Dumped it and grabbed some jeans for the wash. Back downstairs, dumped the jeans at the bottom of the stairs and did more online stuff.

Doing chore and more preparation

Time for another cuppa -- took jeans with me to the kitchen, while waiting for the kettle to boil, put on the washing and prepared vacuum cleaner for the assault on the bathroom.

Made tea, and worked a little on a blog-posting. Needed to go to the loo (polite, british way of saying went for a leak; btw, loo comes from the French "l'eau", meaning water and short for water-closet or something like that).

Vacuum cleaner was ready for me, so took it in and gave the cleared floor a good going over first.

More chore doing...

Did my business, flushed, cleaned the surfaces (all cleared earlier), put all shaving kit, shampoo etc. back where they belonged, washed my hands (if I'd done the cleaning separately, I'd end up washing them twice). Done. Dismantle vacuum cleaner hoses etc. take some with me and put away. I'll put the rest of it away next visit.

How do I know I'm doing it right?

So, you get the picture? If you're about to go from point A in the house to point B, and you're going empty handed, something's wrong!

Getting an aged parchment look

this is a Common Sense Applies area

This means there is potential risk and danger. It's up to you to assess the risk and be responsible for taking appropriate steps.

What's this good for?

An aged parchment look is ideal for presenting poems, sayings, even b&w or sepia photo prints. You might have printed it or used traditional pen and ink -- I've used this technique on both in my time.

You'll need to practice a few times to get the exact effect you want. What you'll need:
  • Heavy paper, 300gsm down to as little as 160gsm (with your poem etc on it)

  • Brown vinegar
  • A grill or hob
  • A water sprayer to douse any flames should they occur


The brown vinegar is to give authentic-looking stains, the grill / hob is to accelerate time. When exposed to the air, paper slowly oxidises, that is, burns. All we'll do is controlled oxidising in the raised temperature of the hob or grill.

When it works properly, pieces flake off the edge and small cracks appear. Sometimes a bit of over-excitement means an edge catches fire. If this happens to you, blow it out or douse with the water sprayer.

You have to handle it with care and be ready to mount it before its fragility turns to disaster. A spray adhesive such as the repositionable adhesive spray mount from 3M will serve nicely to attach it to some card mount.

Getting the patina look

The brown vinegar darkens in the heat more quickly than the paper so, for patina, splash it around the edges. Also, drop some from a height of a handful of inches so that you get splash patterns. Don't be frightened, but don't overdo it - and try to make it a bit random. Splash a bit of water around as well for varying stain effects.

So, the photo above shows what I started with -- you should be able to make out the vinegar patches (I've enhanced the edges of the photo a little to make it more obvious)

Speeding up time

...or "on with the scorching"...
Before you start, make sure you do this somewhere where the smoke that's going to be given off can't get to your smoke detector. And no, don't go taking the detector's battery out! If you even thought that, this sort of stuff is too dangerous for you!

Now, for a hob, which is what I used, it's pretty much like cooking a poppadom. Start at one corner, holding it over the glowing hob until the paper starts to brown and scorch. You'll see the vinegar stains going first.

Work your way along the edge to the next corner and so on. I probably went round two or three times, it being better to build up slowly.

Once it was pretty much done, I broke off the edges to leave a rough-edged margin all the way round. You'll see where one burn actually started to eat into the photo - no matter, it's all part of the patina.

Photo Rag paper - attempt 1

So here's my first attempt, mounted on card. It's not great - I would have preferred less browning in the centre.

Next time, I'll dampen the areas I want to keep white, before applying the heat to the edges. Flaming on the edges was a bit more of an issue because of the rag base than I remember with paper (once it was smouldering I either had to pinch it or spray it to put it out. Btw - Ray Mears says that super-dry, charred rag (charcloth) makes amazing tinder -- so I shouldn't have been surprised!).


As the scorching progressed and I could see how it was turning out, I splashed on more drops of vinegar where I thought it helped the look.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Play to your strengths

In anything that you do, where you absolutely must achieve your objective, play to your strengths. If something you are weak at is needed for success, get someone who does have the skill to do it.

Weakness to Strength

If this weakness is something that features in most of your goals, then do something to get better at it. But again, until it isn't a weakness any more, don't rely on it.

If you haven't got the time to get trained and practice, or you simply don't want to add it to your skills, then recognise that you must always get someone else who has that as a strength to do it.

A typical example - marketing your own art

So you are a craftsperson or an artist, and your work is inspiring, evocative, magnificent, wonderful, the best ever! I know many people like that and most of them are scrabbling to make ends meet (and were even before the credit crunch).

What do they all have in common? They'd rather be doing their art than pushing it. They make half-hearted attempts and give up, they try again and give up. Just like habitual dieters, they never learn the lessons and get good at it... and they don't invest in getting someone in who is.

The other thing I notice is that many of them are good at one or another aspect of marketing but don't address the gaps where they're not.

The only successful artist I've seen locally happens to do a great job at pushing his work. He's got a lady who does part time marketing for him, covering those areas he hasn't got the time for or is no good at.

As for the rest, I've seen him get better and better at in the last two years, initially helping his marketing lady, but now doing more and more of what she used to do.

His reward has been not just survival but a growing base of first-time and repeat customers.

An example from a failed small business

Many years ago I was involved with a small business where I was the silent partner. We employed a lovely lady to do the marketing. She was fantastic at customer care and we were always getting great feedback about both the product and the way customers felt about their experience with us.

However, she hated all aspects of direct marketing; sales letters, cold calling, follow-ups - they weren't skills she had and with her world view, it went against her nature. This meant that she shied away from it and therefore had to be coerced into doing it. As soon as she was left to her own devices, it was back to customer care and the areas where she felt more comfortable.

The upshot was that we were always struggling to get new customers, never quite getting enough, and this eventually led to the downfall of the company.

The mistake that the managing director made was to brow-beat her into taking more training, rather than recognising there was a fundamental disconnect that meant the skills gap could not be addressed by her; we should instead have got a part-timer in who already had the skill.

So in conclusion, don't play to your weaknesses -- play to your strengths, and get someone else, someone proven who can cover off your weak areas.

Brush your teeth with both hands

Whether you use an electric or a manual toothbrush, clean your teeth as normal and then change hands and go over them again.

Why? Because the angle that the tooth brush filaments make when brushing with your other hand is different, it gives a cleaner finish.

It feels kinda funny at first but it reduces the chances of tooth decay and makes your mouth feel even cleaner, no bad thing!

So, brushing your teeth with both hands is the best way to clean your teeth and reduce your treatment visits to the dentist.