Sunday, June 29, 2008
A gift basket, or fruit basket is typically a gift that is delivered to the recipient at their home or workplace. There are different varieties of gift baskets, some which have fruit only, some with dry/canned goods only (such as tea, crackers and jam) although the standard gift basket will have have a selection of both. Gourmet gift baskets are very similar to the standard gift basket, although it will include more unusual/high end fruit, and often will have good quality cheese and wine included.
Sometimes a gift basket will have themes, such as Christmas, graduation, birthday, anniversary, baby shower, housewarming and Valentine’s Day. Often a basket will be made to suit the recipients’ needs, such as diabetic, vegan/vegetarian, gluten intolerance. Gift Baskets do not need to include food and drink, although it is the most standard practice.
Extract from wired.com
Considering splurging on that kick-ass new home theater system? The one that will allow you to watch movies in all their HD glory from the comfort of your couch? It’s just as well if you have young kids, because if that’s the case, going out to the movie-plex isn’t the casual option it used to be. But something you may not have considered is the sort of havoc your toddler is capable of wreaking on your new shrine to hi-fidelity entertainment. This guide will help you make that expensive tower of gear in your home theater furniture resistant to the cruelly destructive impulses of small children. It’s been proven time and again that “kid proof” is an urban myth, but we’re aiming to get as close as possible to that ideal.
The centerpiece of a new home theater system is going to be a flat screen television of some sort. The bigger the better. The first thing most people want to do with that flat screen is to mount it on the wall. In a home populated by adults (and maybe even teenagers) that is a perfectly sensible way to save space and to show off just how thin your new toy is. Unfortunately, wall-mounted screens and toddlers can be a bad combination. Not only might that wall mount offer some very tempting handholds for swinging from, but the big, reflective TV surface just begs to be touched. Pedestal stands look cool and minimalist, too, but they won’t cut it either. One good push…
You could mount the TV high up on a wall and tilt it down so the viewing angle isn’t completely off, but looking up at your TV in such a way is like sitting in the front row of the movie theater. Some people opt for “over the fireplace,” but not everyone has one of those. And not everyone wants their plasma competing with a roaring fire as the room’s centerpiece. A screen protector is a consideration, but they can be homely. Not to mention the fact that they add weight, might affect the viewing from some angles, and won’t stop the kids from using the TV as a very expensive jungle gym.
If you have the option of doing so, flush mount the TV within a recess in a wall, then add protective doors to cover it when it’s not in use. This is tough to do in older homes, so the next best thing is to put something between the TV and the kids — an obstacle that makes reaching the screen more difficult. That brings us to cabinets.
How About Cabinets?
It sounds contrary to the whole flat screen aesthetic thing, but when you’re dealing with kids, a deep, relatively short cabinet is what you want. The idea is that you place the cabinet against a wall, with the
TV either sitting on it (as close to the wall as possible) or mounted to the wall itself. If you put a few feet of cabinet top between a toddler and your screen, you’re going to spend a lot less time with the cloth and cleaning fluid, trying to get those peanut butter and jam smears off of the screen. Unless you’re willing to go whole hog and buy a complete home entertainment enclosure, this is the best option.
A deep cabinet is much less likely to tip over, and it gives you plenty of room to set up and protect other components like your amplifier, DVD player, game system and VCR (you’re so old school). Of course, you’re
going to need to make sure the cabinet has doors — preferably lockable — and you’ll want them to be glass, not wood, so you don’t run into issues with IR remotes.
If the cabinet is offending your sensibilities and you hate the thought of your sleek new flat screen sitting on top of one like a 90’s vintage tube behemoth, remember that this is only a phase. It’s temporary — eventually the threat level will go down and you’ll be able to hang things from the wall to your heart’s content.
A good pair of floor-standing speakers are capable of making the sofa shake. However, as many of us have discovered the hard way, toddlers can climb on speakers, knock them over and pull out the wires. It goes
without saying that speaker stands are a no-no too. Wall-mounted speakers are a nice alternative, but unless mounted very high up, they become yet another thing to swing on, and there are more wires to
conceal; vertical ones this time (which means fishing wire inside the wall or resorting to ugly and vulnerable surface mounted cable channels). Wireless surround systems seem like a good idea until you realize that wireless actually means each speaker has to be placed near a power outlet and plugged in, or that it requires batteries.
There are also home theater cabinets that include a bridge piece over the TV itself for housing speakers; these can be serious pieces of furniture that require a big budget and a lot of space.For a simpler option, if you want decent sound (including such niceties as Dolby 5.1 Surround) and you have young kids, the sound projector is your new best friend. A number of companies offer these things, which put a collection of speakers inside a single, compact enclosure. They’re about as kid-friendly as you’re going to get.
Sound projectors may be a little expensive, but most include an amplifier, so you don’t have to worry about extra gear. When your children are a little older, or when you become a bit more confident, you can add a subwoofer to your sound projector or upgrade to a real surround system.
Save The Media (And Your Sanity)
Parents quickly realize that kids have an almost endless capacity to return to their favorite toys, books and videos again and again and again. To save your own sanity and to preserve your DVDs and DVD player, consider a media server of some sort; an Xbox, PS3 or anything that will allow your kids to easily access their favorites without having to physically sling discs around.
Most television sets and home theatre furniture pieces include a safety strap or safety anchor that fixes the item to a solid object (such as a wall stud), helping to prevent tipping-related accidents. Use the safety strap! If your TV or piece of furniture did not include one of these, go out and buy one. Most hardware stores carry them and they are inexpensive insurance. If a five dollar piece of nylon, two screws and five minutes of your time can prevent junior from pulling over your two thousand dollar flat screen, shattering it into a gazillion pieces and quite possibly injuring himself in the process, wouldn’t you go for it?
It goes without saying that electricity and toddlers do not mix. Unfortunately, you will likely have at least a half dozen devices that require plugging in. If possible, buy a power bar that will fit behind or beneath your component cabinet and route all power cables through the back of the unit so that they are not easily accessible by small hands. If you can, use a power bar with a plug that flush mounts against the electrical outlet, allowing you to push the cabinet right against the wall- it may be a pain to pull the cabinet out if you need to unplug something, but if it helps keep little fingers away from the AC it’s worth the inconvenience.
Tip: The old college trick of stacking shelves on concrete cinder blocks to make a TV stand was a bad idea back then, and it’s a bad idea today — just for different reasons now. If you can’t figure that one out, maybe you should re-think the whole kid thing for a few more years.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Dubai, UAE - GROHE, one of the world’s leading providers of premium sanitary fittings for bathrooms and kitchens, today announced its uncompromising commitment to quality that you can feel, with the publication of test results on a range of GROHE single-lever mixers.
The single-lever mixers, or faucets, which are utilised in bathroom and kitchen fixtures in hotels, commercial offices and homes throughout the region, underwent a large-scale endurance test by Germany’s renowned TÜV SÜD - an internationally acknowledged testing and inspection company with over 140 years of experience.
As a major international service group operating in the industry, mobility and people business segments, TÜV SÜD have teams of specialists that are engaged in optimizing technology, systems and know-how, and acting as process partners; enhancing the competitive strength of customers throughout the world, by remaining committed to the minimization of technical risks to service providers
TÜV SÜD examined the mechanical wear of products of nine renowned international manufacturers and among the aspects tested were the operating forces in the movement of the lever, the breakaway torque after an extended rest period and the operating precision and the tightness of the lever. The results in every test category showed that GROHE was the clear test winner.
“Grohe faucets were proven to be the clear winner because each faucet utilises a very specific technology - the GROHE SilkMove® technology,” commented Alex Halabi, GROHE Regional Manager for the Gulf region.
“The efficiency and smooth running of single-lever mixers are indispensable for ease of use and for saving water. Given that faucets are among the most frequently used everyday commodities, it is essential that the water temperature and water flow can be adjusted as easily after many years of use as on the first day,” added Halabi.
The test looked at the actuation forces which define the ease of motion and therefore allow for more comfortable use of the faucet. GROHE’s silky smooth, jerk-free sliding demonstrated high quality standards. Additionally, lever play was analysed, as levers that wobble, with time, lead to a loss of quality and trust as the lever operation becomes imprecise and annoying; in these tests GROHE conveyed particular solidity.
Precision of the levers demonstrated high adjustment comfort thanks to GROHE’s precise, sensitive operation - the direct corollary is that the exact adjustment helps to save water and energy costs; this was also true of water tightness where leaky faucets must often be replaced. GROHE’s faucets demonstrated an excellent propensity to hold water, thereby avoiding subsequent costs as found with low-value products.
Large-scale comparative test methodology
The wear behaviour of wash basin faucets was examined in a large-scale endurance test simulating roughly 20 years of use and maximum stress. GROHE was represented by the “Eurodisc”, which is based on the same proprietary technology standards as all other GROHE faucets. Over a period of seven weeks, the “Eurodisc” competed with products of other important international manufacturers. Great importance was attached to the objectivity of the test. Two faucets of the same model were tested in the GROHE Lifetest Lab in Lahr, Germany under identical conditions in a test stand sealed by TÜV SÜD. The reference samples were standard products from Europe and the USA, which were officially purchased from wholesalers.
A testing machine subjected the faucet levers to a defined number of movements simulating 20 years of use in a multi-person household. The faucets were connected to the water supply. In accordance with standards DIN EN 817 and NF 077, they underwent 70,000 cycles consisting of 210,000 open/close operations and 140,000 hot/cold operations.
The test winner: Eurodisc
TÜV SÜD closely examined all faucets in an initial test, two interim tests and a final test. GROHE showed an excellent performance and made first place in nearly all of the 40 individual tests. At the bottom line, GROHE was the test winner and left all competitors behind.
The secret of success
The GROHE faucets owe their impressive performance to their cartridges, which are produced in a high-tech process at the company’s own production facilities in Germany and feature discs made from a space-proven ceramic alloy. A special Teflon®-containing lubricant on the even, mirror-like surfaces ensures long-term silky-smooth operation. Even after many years of use, the cartridges will work flawlessly, as they feature many micro chambers filled with lubricant that guarantee life-long maintenance-free operation. In addition, the GROHE SilkMove® technology enables a generous operating angle for especially soft and precise temperature adjustment. The result: silky-smooth operation throughout the faucet’s lifetime.
“The tangible GROHE quality has proven to be measurable and we hope that these test results will prove to both existing and potential clients that GROHE not only means reliability, but that the name is synonymous with money saving and water preservation,” concluded Halabi.
For details of the complete TÜV SÜD test report, please visit www.grohe.com.
Holding roughly eight percent of the world market, Grohe AG is the biggest European and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sanitary fittings. As a global brand for sanitary products and systems, GROHE is committed to designing and producing faucets and fittings which perfectly meet local and individual needs throughout an extremely long useful life.
Headquartered in Hemer and with its corporate center in Dusseldorf, the company currently employs some 5,100 people worldwide, including 2,600 in Germany. GROHE has six production plants, of which three are located abroad, namely in Portugal, Thailand and Canada. The company generates 84 percent of its sales outside Germany.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Where were you when the lights went out? Hopefully, you were on your way to get the generator started. For dependable power when utilities fail, a power source for your recreational outing, or portable power at the job site, a generator is the tool you need. For peace of mind and maximum efficiency, make sure you choose the right one.
Choosing a Generator: Which Size Is Right?
Portable generators are available for power outages as well as campsite or jobsite use.
Permanently mounted stand-by generators provide automatic power when the regular power supply is interrupted. Powered by natural gas, they can power selected circuits within a few seconds of a power failure. These are wise investments for areas that may experience frequent power outages.
Depending on their wattage output, generators will run anything from a small lamp to a number of large appliances. To determine the size generator you will need, total the wattage of the maximum number of items you will be running simultaneously. For items with start up ratings higher than their run ratings, use the higher rating to determine your power requirements.
Inductive load appliances and tools such as refrigerators, washers, and power tools require additional wattage for starting the equipment. The initial load only lasts for a few seconds on startup but is very important when calculating your total wattage.
For example: running a 100 watt light bulb, a 200 watt slow cooker, a 1,200 watt refrigerator with a start up wattage of 2,900 watts and a 750 watt TV would require 3,950 watts.
Portable generators come with two kinds of engines
* Side valve (SV) lawn mower type engines are designed for short duty jobs.
* For long term or industrial applications, the overhead valve engine is the longest running engine available.
Generator Safety Tips
* Never exceed the rated capacity of a generator.
* Always start the largest electric appliance first, then plug in other items, one at a time.
* Grounding the generator is recommended to help prevent accidental electrical shock.
* Choose the appropriate extension cord for the tool or appliance. Larger gauge, three-wire/three prong cords should be used when using an appliance or tool at a considerable distance from the generator.
To avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning:
* Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages.
* Only operate the generator outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain and snow, preferably under a canopy, open shed, or carport.
To avoid electrocution:
* Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy duty, outdoor rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.
* Observe the generator manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.
* Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet.
* If connecting the generator into the house wiring is necessary, have a qualified electrician hook up the standby electrical system, or have the local utility install a linking device if available. For more on installing such devices, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site.
Never store gasoline in the home. Gasoline, kerosene and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should also not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or arcs caused by activating electric switches.
“Condotel,” also known as “condo hotel”, are typically condominiums in resort or downtown communities. A condotel looks and feels to visitors like a hotel or resort, but in these resorts, individuals have the opportunity to purchase individual units. Unlike a timeshare, where buyers pay for limited use of a resort, buyers of a condotel own their residence outright and can stay in it, rent it out, or sell it according to their own wishes. In these communities, in-house management companies rent out the units on behalf of their owners in exchange for a percentage of the rental income. Condotel owners and their renters often have use of the resort’s amenities, such as concierge, fitness and spa services. Whether an owner can use the amenities while a renting guest is staying in the unit depends on the rules of the particular condotel development. These condos make up a relatively new investment category and account for less than 10% of all vacation homes and investment properties in the U.S., according to the National Association of Realtors.
Owning a condotel differs from buying and managing a condo in several respects, says Joel Greene, president of Condo Hotel Center in Miami, a real-estate agency that specializes in the sale of condo hotels throughout the country.
Unlike typical condos built by multifamily housing developers, condotels are often developed by hotel and resort companies — such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Hilton Hotels Corp., The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The price you pay for a unit may be substantially higher than that for a “regular” condo.
For the extra cost, you have access to the services of an in-house management company, which will market and rent your unit out for long or short periods of time (even nightly). The management company’s rental program will charge you a portion of your rental income (typically 50%), and will handle the maintenance of your unit, groundskeeping and the clean-up after your renters leave. It will also oversee guest amenities such as pools, tennis courts and golf courses. If you bought a “regular” condo and hired an outside management firm to market and lease your unit to renters, there may be less flexibility when it comes to placing your unit in and out of the rental program, and the firm may not market your unit nationally in the way that a large hotel company might, Mr. Greene says.
When looking to invest in a condotel, research the local real-estate market (e.g., are prices on the rise, or has the real-estate market peaked?). Study regional tourist activity and hotel occupancy, since a condotel unit, especially if it is run by a hotel operator, may be marketed like a hotel room. The location of your unit has the potential of figuring prominently into how profitable an investment it is. Jerry Yeiter, past president of The National Real Estate Investors Association and president of Yeiter & Co., an accounting firm in Houston, says some investors have had success with condotels in Florida and Arizona because these destinations offer desirable tourist activities and because these buyers purchased at a time when area real-estate prices were appreciating. Ask yourself whether Branson can attract tourists. I checked with the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, and was told by Jennifer McCullough, public relations director, that Branson, which is in the Ozark Mountains, draws more than seven million tourists a year. Factoring in visitors who stay in rented vacation condos, the combined hotel and condo occupancy rate in Branson is 62% to 63%, according to the town’s chamber of commerce and convention and visitors bureau.
If you buy before a condotel project is fully built, you may be able to purchase your unit at a lower cost, as developers tend to offer the lowest prices pre-construction. You may have to wait until the project is completed, though, before you can rent out your unit. Estimate how much you can fetch per night and how often you need to rent the unit out to bring in enough to cover your mortgage and other expenses. “It’s all about the numbers,” Mr. Yeiter says. “You’d have to look at the rules and make sure the property would be suitable for an investor.” Some management companies, for example, stipulate how often you must make your place available and even how it should be decorated.