วันเสาร์ที่ 10 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

Fitness programs: 5 steps to getting started

Fitness programs: 5 steps to getting started

Are you thinking about starting a fitness program? Good for you! You're only five steps away from a healthier lifestyle.

Starting a fitness program may be one of the best things you can do for your health. With your doctor's OK to exercise, physical activity can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your balance and coordination, help you lose weight — even improve your sleep habits and self-esteem. And there's more good news. You can do it in just five steps.

Step 1: Assess your fitness level

You probably have some idea of how fit you are. But assessing and recording baseline fitness scores can give you benchmarks against which to measure your progress. To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition, consider recording:

  • Your pulse rate before and after a one-mile walk
  • How long it takes to walk one mile
  • How many push-ups you can do at a time
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you
  • Your waist circumference at the level of your navel
  • Your body mass index

Step 2: Design your fitness program

It's easy to say that you'll exercise every day. But you'll need a plan — and no single plan is perfect for everyone. As you design your fitness program, keep these points in mind:

  • Consider your fitness goals. Are you starting a fitness program to help lose weight? Or do you have another motivation, such as preparing for a 5K race? Having clear goals can help you gauge your progress.
  • Think about your likes and dislikes. Choose activities you'll enjoy. If you have fun doing the exercises you've selected, you're more likely to keep doing them.
  • Plan a logical progression of activity. If you're just beginning to exercise, start cautiously and progress slowly. If you have an injury or a medical condition, consult your doctor or a physical therapist for help designing a fitness program that gradually improves your range of motion, strength and endurance.
  • Build activity into your daily routine. Finding time to exercise can be a challenge. To make it easier, schedule time to exercise as you would any other appointment. Plan to watch your favorite show while walking on the treadmill, or read while riding a stationary bike.
  • Think variety. Varying your activities (cross-training) can keep exercise boredom at bay. Cross-training also reduces the risk of injuring or overusing one specific muscle or joint. Plan to alternate among activities that emphasize different parts of your body, such as walking, swimming and strength training.
  • Allow time for recovery. Many people start exercising with frenzied zeal — working out too long or too intensely — and give up when their muscles and joints become sore or injured. Plan time between sessions for your body to rest and recover.
  • Put it on paper. A written plan may encourage you to stay on track.

Step 3: Assemble your equipment

You'll probably start with athletic shoes. Be sure to pick shoes designed for the activity you have in mind, as well as your foot type.

If you're planning to invest in exercise equipment, choose something that's practical, enjoyable and easy to use. You may want to try out certain types of equipment at a fitness center before investing in your own equipment. To stretch your exercise dollars, consider buying used equipment. Or get creative. Make your own weights by filling old socks with beans or pennies, or by partially filling a half-gallon milk jug with water or sand.

Step 4: Get started

Now you're ready for action.

  • Start slowly and build up gradually. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching. Then speed up to a pace you can continue for five to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. If you can't carry on a conversation while you exercise, you're probably pushing too hard. As your stamina improves, increase the amount of time you exercise by one to five minutes a session. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Break things up if you have to. You don't have to do all your exercise at one time. Shorter but more frequent sessions have aerobic benefits, too. Ten minutes of exercise three times a day may fit into your schedule better than a single 30-minute session.
  • Be creative. Maybe your workout routine includes various activities, such as walking, bicycling or rowing. But don't stop there. Take a weekend hike with your family or spend an evening ballroom dancing.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, take a break. You may be pushing yourself too hard.
  • Be flexible. If you're not feeling good, give yourself permission to take a day or two off.

Step 5: Monitor your progress

Retake your personal fitness assessment six weeks after you start your program and then again every three to six months. You may notice that you need to increase the amount of time you exercise in order to continue improving. Or you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you're exercising just the right amount to meet your fitness goals.

If you lose motivation, set new goals or try a new activity. Exercising with a friend or taking a class at a fitness center may help, too.

Starting an exercise program is an important decision. But it doesn't have to be an overwhelming one. By planning carefully and pacing yourself, you can establish a healthy habit that lasts a lifetime.

Fitness link.

วันศุกร์ที่ 9 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

Why Do People Skydive?

Why Do People sky dive? by: Lori Steffen

Skydivers - Most people say we're crazy. Some say we have a death wish. Psychologists say people with an inclination to take high risks are a necessary part of the continuation of our species.

We are people from all walks of life. Students, blue-collar workers, engineers, doctors, nurses, you name it. What we have in common is an infinity for a high-risk sport, skydiving. Some also participate in other sports like scuba diving, kayaking, rock climbing, skiing. There is a sense of camaraderie among us. A sense that we understand a greater truth that is missed by most people.

Mentally it is an incredibly refreshing break from "society". Skydiving is a super stress reliever. When you are skydiving, you focus on that skydive and nothing else. This keeps away all the distractions of life. No room for stray thoughts or worries here. The intense focus and the pump of adrenaline leave you feeling mentally and physically cleansed.

And yes, the adrenaline is no doubt a part of it. Your body responds to the rush of adrenaline into it, bringing with it a sense of excitement and a surge of energy. Our human bodies are made to produce adrenaline as a survival mechanism and it is being regarded more and more as a necessary part of the human experience and overall health. Something any skydiver could have already told you a long time ago.

Stepping out the door of a flying airplane has other benefits too. It makes you mentally tough. It takes a lot of mind control to go against what you have been taught about danger since a child, get a hold of your thoughts, and realize that yes, it is okay to step out that door. You acquire an increased awareness of all that is around you. You develop a confidence in yourself and a quick response as events happen around you. The sense of accomplishment is incredible. Knowing you met your fear, took control, and pushed yourself to take that step flows over into other parts of your life.

When I did my first skydive a group of us from work went. I organized the outing. Everyone had a blast but I was the only person who did more than one jump. Later, in talking with one of the guys in the group he said to me - I know that whatever I face in life, I can remember that I went up in that plane and did a skydive. If I can summon the courage to do that, I can do anything. It was great.

Okay, so enough of the psychobabble mumbo jumbo. What is the sensation? When you step out the door of a flying airplane you are in freefall until the parachute is deployed. Most skydives are done from around 10,000 ft. to 14,000 ft. providing the skydiver anywhere from 30 seconds to 70 seconds of freefall time. Stick your arm out the window of a car doing 60 mph then imagine your whole body out there going twice as fast - then you start to get a little of the idea of what skydiving feels like.

No one I've ever talked to has been able to put into words the sensation of skydiving. Even asking first time jumpers - is there any way to describe what you just did - only elicits a wide-eyed, grinning, no way.

Freefall is such a stupendous sense of freedom. You are flying through the air, able to move your body in 3D. You can fly forward, back-up, move sideways, speed up how fast you are falling and slow down how fast you are falling. Yes, you are continually falling. But during that time you are definitely flying your body. You can do flips and twists. You can stand on your feet or stand on your head. There are absolutely no limits as to which direction you can move your body.

And let there be no doubt - there is not a plane around that can give you the same view. What an awesome sight to view 360 degrees around you - the sky, the horizon, the incredible beauty of the world, right there for you to see with no obstructions. To feel you are a part of that sky.

The parachute flies like a glider; responding to the pilot's input and slicing you through the sky. It can be flown slowly and smoothly or fast and wild. But either way, with correct pilot input, it would bring you safely and softly to landing on the earth.

Why do we skydive? Who will ever understand the beauty, the freedom, the rush but someone who has been there? Truly, the sky is our playground.

วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 8 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

Whip Yourself into Shape with Boxing Fitness

Whip Yourself into Shape with Boxing Fitness
by: Morgan Hamilton

Everyone seems to be concerned with their health these days. And with good reason, since the advent of processed foods and the degree of pollution in our cities, people’s health can really be in danger. To help combat these problems, health improvement facilities like gyms and spas have popped up on every street. But since traditional exercises are not really enjoyable many people prefer activities that allow them to have fun while keeping fit.

Hiking, ballroom dancing, rock climbing, and biking are just a few examples of recreational activities that can also be enjoyable. Sports, weight training, and martial arts have also become popular ways of trimming down. One type of martial art type of exercise program which you might want to try is boxing fitness.

You might think of boxing as a violent sport. Professional boxing as seen in television is a dangerous sport reserved for athletes who train extensively to get in shape for their bouts. But unknown to most it can also be a satisfying and effective form of workout.

Boxing fitness involves hours of diligent training, cardio workout out and can even teach you additional self-defense. Boxing fitness improves your, flexibility, agility, stamina and coordination. You don’t necessarily have to go as far as fighting in the ring but a little sparring mixed in your routine can make for a fantastic workout.

Besides being a lot of fun boxing fitness also improves your self-defense skills. One look at professional boxers shows you that training allows you withstand punishment and give back as much as well. Today’s world can be quite dangerous and learning a practical martial art like boxing can really be useful. While you might not turn into the next Mike Tyson you can be good enough to keep your self safe on the street.

If you want to try it you can try local gyms to see if they have a boxing fitness program. If none are available you can hop online and do a search for “boxing fitness” to find a program and gym that are convenient for you. Put on those boxing gloves now and punch your way into an exciting way to be healthy.

วันพุธที่ 7 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

Collecting Model Trains as a Hobby

Collecting Model Trains as a Hobby
by: Fred Denkins

A hobby is like a mini vacation. It is an escape, an outlet for a short period of time but which is savvied more often than a vacation. From time to time you, a rock hunter, are engrossed in the chosen activity, you truly have fun since you enjoy what you are doing. You temporarily forget the irritant and concerns that have been vexation you throughout the day, and like a venture vacation you spend money to relish your hobby. So, have a hobby. Don’t wait for the real vacation to get away and have fun.

Long ago choosing a hobby, work over the subsequent: money, time, and positive contagion effect on hobbyist’s longevity. If what you think over a hobby is starting to add to the daily concerns, then it is no longer a hobby.

Collecting Model Trains is one hobby that can be in process even recommend a small Mickey Mouse of money. It does not entail regular attention like gardening, for instance. For nimble train hobbyists, it was like love at first sight when, as tiny boys, they opened their gifts and saw their first trains. That first train could have been made of plastic or wood, with a string to pull it around or a set of battery-operated trains offer a el. Whatever it was, that first train made a strong jar on the would-be-hobbyist that they preferred to have amassed trains defeated other potties. In this case, a hobby was started for free.

Train hobbyist could be classified as collectors, caps, or both. A collector wants to have more self-sacrificings in his display cabinet or lodging house. A collector goes for the most expensive, the oldest, unique goods train models. The operator on the inverse hand, collects and maintains sign, of service sets for they want to see their toys running.

What are the best places to henpeck antique trains? Following are suggested aims:

1. Order Internet publishing
There are a lot of sites premium not only items to collect but services to assert the collection as well

2. Auctions
This is where one can get real bargains.

3. Rainy day* and garage sales
Good ends of unique, hard to find models. Sometimes an entire collection is for in demand.

4. Mate hobbyists
Exchange distributes is possible here and now, where you can barter extra offal with models that you lack in your collection
5. Hobby secures

A serious hobbyist validates more, become an expert by:

1.0 joining hobby groups or organization 2.0 information, keeping watch lectures 3.0 card real railroads to see how real trains operate 4.0 preachy studying 5.0 membership in the anomalous online panels dedicated to hobbies

A serious rock hunter would not just discover at his or her arrange charmed circle every now and therefore. There are a lot of interesting activities that go invent a hobby. You even get to concourse celebrities that you would persistent have had a chance to cross paths with were it not for the straight stuff* that you have the same hobby.

วันอังคารที่ 6 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

Learn How to Play Piano

Learn How to Play Piano
by: Nick Krueger

Some people are more musically inclined than others, but that doesn’t mean you cannot learn how to play the piano. Many tricks of the trade exist that can have you playing the piano within a couple of months of practice, and some online courses even claim to help you learn much faster. No matter what is claimed or what is available, the most important aspect of learning how to play any new instrument, hobby, or art form is dedication and practice.

Listening to Beethoven, Mozart, or any other genius composers might make you want to sign up with the best instructor you can find. Your aim might be to enthrall others with the beauty of classical, modern, or even jazz piano playing. Many adults who learn how to play the piano choose to do so through rigorous methodologies of learning the fundamentals of music first. This requires dedication and lots of practice, not to mention the cost of an instructor.

For other learners who want to give the piano a try, quicker methods won’t mean you will enjoy playing the piano any less. It simply means you will not have the fundamental base that someone else has learned over a longer period. One of these quicker methods, both on and offline, involve the learning of chords. In an evening, someone who knows nothing about the piano might have the ability to play a melody just on chords alone. Playing by chords is usually encouraged more than playing by tablature. And, there are no problems with those who first learn chords then learn to read music later on.

Any piano melody is made up of its smallest parts – its notes. Those who learn chords do not actually learn these ‘smallest’ pieces, but instead learn how to break the music into chunks. By dealing with songs one chunk at a time and matching what is heard, many piano players enjoy greater freedom of creativity as they progress.

One who learns how to play the piano using chords does it more so through trial and error. This person may not actually be able to read musical notations or scores, but he or she will at least be able to judge what chord is played and for how long. As the tune or melody is practiced, usually by breaking a song up into its basic elements and listening to it as it is being played, the person matches what he or she is hearing.

A player who learns how to play the piano by ear will not necessarily be able to judge if a key is sharp or flat, and that’s where having some basic knowledge of the notes comes in handy. If you need to stay in key F-major, for example, then you will know how to keep that note flat during the entire scale. While flat keys and sharp keys follow similar patterns, learning how to play the piano is not based on this alone. For teenagers or adults who are inspired and self-motivated enough to pursue their goals, learning how to play the piano can be done within a short amount of time.

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Planning A Fishing Vacation For The Whole Family

Planning A Fishing Vacation For
The Whole Family

The ideal vacation for many is hopping on a plane or driving cross-country. The person does not have to go far to have fun since family bonding can be accomplished by planning a fishing trip.

The individual can look in the Internet to check out some fishing cabins or contact those that are in the phone directory. It is not enough to just ask how much it costs. It is important to ask some other details to make the trip a memorable experience.

Here are some of the questions worth asking lodge owner about.

1. When is it best to go fishing? Some people will say this can be done at any time perhaps to make money. It is best to call those who live near the lake itself because these people will be able to tell when is the best time to go to the lake.

2. This might be the first time that the family is going to the lake. It will be a good idea to ask if there is a guide that will be able to direct the people to the best fishing site. Those that don't should be able to tell where to go on the map.

3. Most fish are in the deeper portion of the lake. The only way to get there will be by riding on a boat so its best to check the conditions of the rental fleet. If this is well equipped, then the person doesn't need to buy additional accessories.

4. The family might forget some things that are needed for the trip. The individual should ask if there is a store nearby to purchase these items and also to replenish those that were used up. This will save time in going back to town allowing everyone to spend more time in the lake.

5. It will also be good to ask the proximity of the nearest medical facility. This will be important if a member of the family gets injured in an accident.

6. Some fishing lodges advertise a certain amount for a few days by the lake. It is advisable to ask if there are any hidden charges. An honest owner will be able to give an answer since this information is helpful in determining whether to do it here or have this done in another venue.

If the individual has found a suitable place for the fishing vacation, it is time to pack. There may not be enough beds so it is best to bring a few sleeping bags. The person should also bring some food, soap, towels and other items just in case the place where the family is staying in doesn't have these things.

It is also advisable to bring a flashlight just in case someone needs to go back to the car.

If the individual does not have a fishing license, it will be a good idea to apply for one. This will save the trouble of paying for penalties in case there were some regulations that were violated.

Some people think that the lodge owner can help in getting these documents when in fact it is not. The applicant must apply for this in person and present the proper documents before someone from the fishing and gaming commission will issue the license.

During this time, the individual must already know all the rules and regulations of the state and comply with it. This will avoid getting into any trouble especially for those who have never gone on a fishing vacation.

The fishing vacation for the whole family must be planned months in advance. This will give enough time to canvass around and do some homework before driving off to the desired destination.

If the family was able to enjoy this trip, this can be done again in the future. Everyone can decide to stay in the same place or try another venue since there are more than 10,000 fishing lodges all over the United States.

There are those who may see a fishing trip as an ideal vacation. Those who have never done it should keep an open mind because this could a family tradition when the people get to enjoy it.

MP3 is Music to Ears!

MP3 is Music to Ears!
by: Andrew Stratton

Making it that much easier for people to enjoy their favorite tunes MP3 players have revolutionized the music systems. All earlier musical formats, including records, cassette, and CDs could never give the sheer convenience of MP3 players. It enables a listener to create personalized music lists and carry thousands of songs along without having to be burdened by a number of discs in a pack.

The MP3 player, along with the hundreds of songs it can store, is a device tinier than a pack of cards. Compared to a CD player and a case to store the discs, this is more manageable and far more compact.

It is features and advantages such as these that have made MP3 players the toast of music lovers the world over. You could buy MP3 players from a variety of models in different shapes and sizes through which manufacturers try to build a wide and varied customer base. To make the deal even more attractive, players are integrated with some add-ons.

MP3 players makes a disc jockey out of you, letting you pick songs of your choice and arranging them in your preferred sequence the way you would like to hear them. It is the power of having thousands of songs at your fingertips. You can arrange songs in a play list in the order of genre, the singers, or simply mingled randomly. You could start creating a play list by first identifying the songs you want from a sea of sources available on the Net or around.

It is possible also to convert your collection of songs stored in audio CDs into MP3 files using the ripper and encoder software. Quite a few MP3 players available in the market are already equipped with the software required. Aided by a ripper, you could copy a song from the CD onto the hard disk of a computer. With the help of an encoder, the song could be compressed into the MP3 format. Encoded songs can be downloaded on the MP3 player and there you have a treasure of music to enjoy.

วันอาทิตย์ที่ 4 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2550

What you need to know before you begin playing chess.

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Begin Playing Chess. by: James Wilson

As a chess player, you lose games from time to time—like all chess players.

Naturally you want to improve your play. Is there something special or unique about your problem? I don't think so. Only a few of us can become masters; yet the rest of us can achieve respectable playing strength with a reasonable amount of application.
The first big step—an enormous step—in improving our play is to become aware of the things we do wrong, the bad moves we make. Many of us could never reach that point without personal lessons because we could not previously find in books the kind of material that would enable us to spot our own weaknesses.

That is a pity, for while chess is a lot of fun, win or lose, it's more fun when you win! In my contacts with thousands of chess players for over twenty years, I have often watched them grope and drift and become discouraged in their efforts to improve their game.

It was from these observations that the notion of concentrating on the Eight Bad Moves took shape. Again and again I have seen, in the course of teaching and playing and discussing, that most players commit certain typical errors.

1 started to think about these errors and how to describe them in such a way that the reader would exclaim, "At last! That's just why my games go wrong! If only I'd realized this sooner!"

This book has been "on my mind" for several years. What held me back somewhat in writing it, was the influence of the teachers and psychologists who have been insisting that a "negative" approach is all wrong. I finally concluded that my emphasis on the Eight Bad Moves was not really negative at all. Before a player can begin to improve, he must clear away the faults that have been spoiling his games and depriving him of well-earned victories.

In your study of these games and ideas you will not only discover the Eight Bad Moves and how to overcome the faults that produce them, you will also encounter a wealth of new ideas and techniques which you will enjoy using in your own games.

To derive the maximum value from this book, there are two features which you will very likely want to review quickly. One is to check up on the relative values of the chessmen. Expressed in points, their values are as follows:

Queen: 9 points
Rook: 5 points
Bishop: 3 points
Knight: 3 points

Pawn: 1 point

It is important to be absolutely certain of these values, for most games are decided by superiority in force.

Bishops (3 points) and Knights (3 points) are equal in value, but experienced players try to capture a Bishop in return for a Knight.

A Bishop or Knight (3 points) is worth about three Pawns (3 points). If you give up a Knight and get three Pawns in return, you may consider it as more or less an even exchange. If you lose a Knight (3 points) for only a Pawn (1 point), you have lost material and should lose the game, if you are playing against an expert.

If you capture a Rook (5 points) for a Bishop or Knight (3 points), you are said to have "won the Exchange." If you lose a Rook (5 points) for a Bishop or Knight (3 points), you have "lost the Exchange." The other important feature in reading a chess book is to be familiar with chess notation. If you can count up to 8, this presents no problem. You may have heard scare stories to the effect that chess notation is inordinately difficult. This difficulty of chess notation is a myth, circulated by people too lazy to discover how simple and logical it really is.

Although the compact treatment of games and examples makes only slight demands on your knowledge of chess notation, I should like to advise you to master the notation thoroughly; it will open the gates to a lifetime of reading pleasure.

The following are the chief abbreviations used in the chess notation:

King — K Queen — Q Rook — R Bishop — B Knight — N Pawn — P to — — check — ch captures — x discovered check — dis ch double check — dbl ch en passant — e.p. castles, king-side — 0—0 castles, queen-side — 0—0—0 good move — ! very good move — ! ! outstanding move — ! ! ! bad move — ?

Here are some examples of abbreviation: N—KB3 mean's "Knight moves to King Bishop three." Q x B means "Queen takes Bishop." R—K8 ch means "Rook moves to King eight giving check."

Want tons of proven chess tips, techniques & tactics that you can start using today?...

Drying Flowers for Crafts

Drying Flowers for Crafts
by: Emma Snow

Although there are somethings we wish could last forever or a moment we wish would never end, ultimately they do. The memory of the special event, however, can be preserved for us to recall and enjoy for a long time to come. Drying flowers is a simple and inexpensive way to preserve these cherished moments. There are multiple ways to use your flowers and preserve them for crafts and decorations. Whether they were a gift, or from a special day they can be made into something to enjoy long after that time has passed.

One way to preserve flowers and use in crafts is by hanging them to dry. If you decide to preserve your flowers whole, and intact, you will need to decide this before they have fully bloomed. If a flower has opened up too much, when it is dried the petals will fall off. The brighter and more vivid the fresh flower is, the better color it will have as it dries. If you want more intense colors, be sure to start with that trait in the fresh flower. If the dried flower will be used with it's stem, it would be best to wire the stem while the flower is still fresh. Then attach the flower, upside down, to a wire hanger and leave in a dark place for two to three weeks. If the dried flowers will be stored a while before use, cover them with a light material, such as tissue paper to keep the dust off.

Flowers preserved in this way can be used for a variety of purposes. For a special event, such as a wedding, some people want to preserve their bouquets. After following drying instructions bouquets can be placed as a wall hanging next to the wedding photo, in a shadow box, or simply placed on a table or in a hutch. After flowers are dried they can also be put back in a vase and set on a table. If a single flower is preserved, perhaps to save on space, it can be laid over the wedding frame on in front of the wedding photo. Individually dried flowers can also be used when making a wreath. Flowers do not have to have special meaning, any flower that dries well can be used to make an arrangement. In addition to adding a variety of leaves, berries, ribbon or other embellishments, dried flowers look beautiful in a wreath. Sometimes less is more, if your wreath is not looking right, try lessening the amount of items in it.

Flowers can also be preserved by being pressed. This method is simple and can be used for things you want to keep forever, or for special cards or invitations. Although you can buy kits to press, they can also be made by having several layers of cardboard stacked with flowers laid out on each sheet and then bound with adjustable straps that you can tighten to ensure a successful drying process. Pressed flowers are very versatile in their uses. When making wedding announcements a pressed flower of the wedding colors is a beautiful addition to the invitations. They can also be used to make cards or baby announcements. Another option for pressed flowers is to place them as a garden scene in an old window or frame. Glue them on a separate piece of glass, not part of the original frame, cut to the same size and then placed and secured to the frame. Any size can be attractive and used any where in a home, from a bathroom to bedroom. The flowers do not have to be the center of the picture, but can also be placed around a photo or poem on the mat. This is a wonderful way to incorporate the flowers to the event, but do it in a small, elegant way.

If you can find a way to preserve special memories they will bring joy for years. Although fresh flowers are beautiful, dried ones can be just as enjoyable. By finding various ways to use your flowers, you will be surrounded by your memories and remember those happy times when life might be more difficult.

Growing Crystals

Growing Crystals
by: Kevin Clement

Tip, Tricks, and Techniques

Do you want to grow great crystals? These are general instructions for growing crystals that you can use for most crystal recipes. You can find the recipes and information on crystal structures in the Growing Crystals section. Here are the basics, to get you started and help you troubleshoot problems:

What Are Crystals?

Crystals are structures that are formed from a regular repeated pattern of connected atoms or molecules. Crystals grow by a process termed nucleation. During nucleation, the atoms or molecules that will crystallize (solute) are dissolved into their individual units in a solvent. The solute particles contact each other and connect with each other. This subunit is larger than an individual particle, so more particles will contact and connect with it.

Eventually, this crystal nucleus becomes large enough that it falls out of solution (crystallizes). Other solute molecules will continue to attach to the surface of the crystal, causing it to grow until a balance or equilibrium is reached between the solute molecules in the crystal and those that remain in the solution.

The Basic Technique
1. Make a saturated solution.
2. Start a garden or grow a seed crystal.
3. Continue growth.

In order to grow a crystal, you need to make a solution which maximizes the chances for the solute particles to come together and form a nucleus, which will grow into your crystal. This means you will want a concentrated solution with as much solute as you can dissolve (saturated solution). Sometimes nucleation can occur simply through the interactions between the solute particles in the solution (called unassisted nucleation), but sometimes it's better to provided a sort of meeting place for solute particles to aggregate (assisted nucleation). A rough surface tends to be more attractive for nucleation than a smooth surface. As an example, a crystal is more likely to start forming on a rough piece of string than on the smooth side of a glass.

Make a Saturated Solution

It's best to start your crystals with a saturated solution. A more dilute solution will become saturated as the air evaporates some liquid, but evaporation takes time (days, weeks). You will get your crystals more quickly if the solution is saturated to begin with. Also, there may come a time when you need to add more liquid to your crystal solution. If your solution is anything but saturated, then it will undo your work and actually dissolve your crystals! Make a saturated solution by adding your crystal solute (e.g., alum, sugar, salt) to the solvent (usually water, although some recipes may call for other solvents). Stirring the mix will help to dissolve the solute. Sometimes you may want to apply heat to help the solute dissolve. You can use boiling water or sometimes even heat the solution on the stove, over a burner, or in a microwave.

Growing a Crystal Garden or 'Geode'

If you just want to grow a mass of crystals or a crystal garden, you can pour your saturated solution over a substrate (rocks, brick, sponge), cover the setup with a paper towel or coffee filter to keep out dust, and allow the liquid to slowly evaporate.

Growing a Seed Crystal

On the other hand, if you are trying to grow a larger single crystal, you will need to obtain a seed crystal. One method of getting a seed crystal is to pour a small amount of your saturated solution onto a plate, let the drop evaporate, and scrape the crystals formed on the bottom to use as seeds. Another method is to pour saturated solution into a very smooth container (like a glass jar) and dangle a rough object (like a piece of string) into the liquid. Small crystals will start to grow on the string, which can be used as seed crystals.

Crystal Growth and Housekeeping

If your seed crystal is on a string, pour the liquid into a clean container (otherwise crystals will eventually grow on the glass and compete with your crystal), suspend the string in the liquid, cover the container with a paper towel or coffee filter (don't seal it with a lid!), and continue to grow your crystal. Pour the liquid into a clean container whenever you see crystals growing on the container.

If you selected a seed from a plate, tie it onto a nylon fishing line (too smooth to be attractive to crystals, so your seed can grow without competition), suspend the crystal in a clean container with saturated solution, and grow your crystal the same way as with seeds that were originally on a string.

Keeping Your Treasures

Crystals that were made from a water (aqueous) solution will dissolve somewhat in humid air. Keep your crystal beautiful by storing it in a dry, closed container. You may wish to wrap it in paper to keep it dry and prevent dust from accumulating on it. Certain crystals can be protected by being sealed with an acrylic coating (like Future floor polish), although applying the acrylic will dissolve the outermost layer of the crystal.

Photography and the Great Outdoors by: Suzanne VanDegrift Photography and the Great Outdoors

Photography and the Great Outdoors by: Suzanne VanDegrift

Combining photography with the passion of hiking, biking and mountain climbing can result in the most incredible photographs imaginable. Whether it's ice climbing in the Rockies, with your camera bag packed safely away, until you reach the summit where you have a breathtaking panoramic view of the frozen earth spread out as far as the eye can see. Or a leisurely springtime hike up a flower carpeted Pocono hillside with your camera close at hand to catch that pheasant or covey of quail. The outdoors and photography are a perfect match.

If you're a week-end photographer who can't wait to get out of the city and become one with nature, there are countless opportunities that will allow you to fulfill your desire to "get away" and get that "shot of a lifetime".

Consider those who are lucky enough to live in Seattle, Washington where you can leave work on a Friday afternoon and be standing on the majestic and rugged coastline, removing your camera and tripod from their bag in time to be setting up to focus on one of the most beautiful sunsets on earth. The next morning, while enjoying your first cup of coffee, you could be snapping pictures of the Grey whales which migrate north along the Washington coast between February and April every year.

Or maybe mountain scenery is your first love and you are fortunate enough to live in the Yellowstone area of Montana were the wildlife is phenomenal. Grizzly, coyote, elk.... big horned sheep playing on the mountainside. Buffalo grazing peacefully, as they must have a 100 years ago. This is truly Big Sky Country where you can catch a glimpse of a graceful eagle gliding silently through the trees. These are pictures most people can only see in a magazine, not through their camera lens on a brisk autumn morning.

Remember it's important to research not only where you're going to be photographing and what camera equipment you'll be using, but also the bags, backpacks and pouches to which you entrust your valuable cameras, lenses, tripods and accessories The touring bicyclist needs to invest in a dry sack in the event he encounters inclement weather, but the young photographer hiking through the Sierra Nevada, in search of the various species of blooming cactus, probably would be in need of the backpack with room for her water bottles. Look for quality, durability and functionality.

Whatever your passion, wherever you call home. There are beautiful pictures waiting to be taken. That horse pasture you are fortunate enough to pass on your way to work every day. Stop; take a good look. I bet you'll see a terrific photograph. One you'd probably be in awe of if you saw it in a magazine. So pack up those camera bags and keep your equipment handy. You never know when that one perfect picture will appear.

How to Build A Bird House

How To Build A Bird House

If you enjoy spending time around birds then you may want to build a birdhouse. Building a birdhouse is a great way to become a companion of birds. Birdhouses add attractiveness to any landscape. Crafting, designing and building birdhouses is a in-expensive hobby.

You need to construct a birdhouse that is easy to clean. It should be sturdy, cool, and rainproof as well. Remember, this is your birdhouse, so use your imagination; you will have something unique and all your own when your project is completed..

It is important not to use metal to build your birdhouse, not even nails; use non-toxic outdoor wood glue. Metal can become very hot when the sun is beating down on it, plus it can have very sharp edges. Wood is the best material to build a birdhouse. To keep water out of the entrance of the birdhouse you need the roof to pitch enough to shed water.

Add a couple small holes near the top of the birdhouse for ventilation on hot days. The bottom of the birdhouse should be constructed with screws, so it will be easy to take apart when you clean it.

When your bird house is built it is time to mount it. When mounting your birdhouse it is important to keep in mind predators, such as squirrels, cats and snakes. Place your bird house mount out of the range of jumping and climbing animals. The best mount for a birdhouse is PVC pipe which can be purchased inexpensively at your local home hardware supply store. Get an 8' long piece of PVC that is 3 or 4" in diameter. Also be sure and buy a "flange" that will fit into the PVC. When looking at a 'flange' from the side it has the shape of a man's dress hat, as one would also look at the dress hat from from it's side view. The round part of the 'hat' - or 'flange' slips down, about 2" into one end of the PVC pipe. The flat part of the 'hat' - or 'flange' should have a small hole pre-drilled in each corner. A large, approx. 12" x 12" piece of plywood is attached, to the flat part of the 'hat' or 'flange' with screws via the pre-drilled holes. Be sure this is placed in the middle of the 12" x 12 plywood. This will serve as your birdhouse base. Now turn this over and simply slide the round part of the 'hat' - or 'flange' into the end of your PVC pipe. On top of this securely mount your bird house. When you have moved your PVC to an upright mounting position, you would be looking upward, and see the screws that attached flange to your 12" x 12" base.

Now it's time to mount your bird house. Dig about an 18" hole and drop it in! Be sure and pack the dirt solidly back around the base to secure it. For added security you could pick up an inexpensive bag of ready mix cement. Just mix it with water, set the PVC in the middle of the hole and pour the cement evenly around it. It is a good idea if you could put your hands on a level to make sure your PVC stays vertically straight while working. That's all there is to it!

When you are ready to clean your bird house simple unscrew the 12" x 12" base mounting screws, slide off the base with it's attached birdhouse and clean it! When cleaned, replace the 12" x 12" base and reinsert your screws. Now wasn't that easy!

Cooking Parties for Preschoolers

Cooking Parties for Preschoolers by: Mom Index

Are you planning a birthday party for your preschool age child? Consider hosting a cooking party. These parties are unique, interactive and entertaining for young children.

Party stores and Internet based retailers offer wonderful invitations for a cooking party. Invitations display pictures of baking tools, recipe cards or aprons. Custom invitations however, can be expensive and may require a significant amount of wait time for printing and shipping. If you have time or budget constraints, visit your local arts and crafts store for paper stock and then design and print your own party invitations. Let your guests know that you are cooking up fun and that you want them to join you for an exciting event.

Hosting a cooking party for preschoolers should be easy and engaging. Setup tables so guests have plenty of room to prepare food and to interact. For this age group, it is better to engage guests in food preparation and decorating rather than actual baking and cooking. However, take time to walk guests through the kitchen to teach them about cooking tools and cooking safety. Allow them to handle basic cooking tools such as rolling pins, measuring cups, spatulas, spoons and whisks. Then introduce equipment that requires adult supervision such as blenders, electric mixers, waffle makers and sandwich machines. This cooking introduction will empower them to interact with their parents in their own kitchen.

Cooking can be overwhelming for young children. Select simple and rewarding activities so guests leave with a sense of accomplishment regarding their creations. For example, allow guests to decorate and to assemble food items. Party ideas include cupcake or cookie decorating, fruit kabob or yogurt and granola parfait assembly or jewelry making with cereal.

Design your own chef hats or order paper chef hats on-line. Then provide crayons and art supplies so guests can decorate their hats. If your budget allows, order child size aprons and use them as a party favor. Alternatively, you can attach a plastic cookie cutter to a mini rolling pin with a note thanking the guest for celebrating with you. On the back of the thank you tag, include a simple and age appropriate cookie recipe so guests can create something special in their own kitchen. An additional benefit of this party favor is that guests will also be able to use the rolling pin at home for play dough and other arts and crafts projects.