15 Jul

Free Owl Energy Meters

Free Owl Energy Monitor

Free Owl Energy Monitor

The UK Government announced “Free Energy Meters For Every Home” back in 2007, and it’s finally come to fruition in 2009. While you can’t keep the Energy monitor for ever, you can now get a an Owl Energy Monitor on a Free one week loan from your local library, just as you would a book… Nifty!

I’d been thinking about getting one for a while but the cost of the meter vs what I’d save was questionable in my mind, after all, applying a little common sense to your energy usage and you can reduce your energy bill substantially without a meter. But getting one for free, even just for a week was worth a shot.

Easy to Set Up

The first thing you need is Batteries, 6 of the little beggers… I thought it might have come with them, but then unsavoury types that borrow the meter would probably keep them, so hey, no probs. Once the batteries are in, you just sync up the transmitter and receiver and fit the transmitter sensor round the live feed to your consumer unit (full instructions as given). It’s as simple as that. The receiver/display unit should then start to show how much electricity is currently being used.

You can then set the various tariffs up on the receiver display module using the info from your latest electricity bill. Don’t forget to press reset on the Display to start afresh, or you may end up adding the last users consumption to your readings.

Start Logging

Those useful people at our local library had included some templates to use for logging purposes, which was very kind of them. Listed on there were the most common household appliances such as Kettle, Toaster, Dishwasher etc so you could work out the consumption of each device as you used it, and keep a tally over the week.

It Soon Adds Up

It’s amazing how Energy Conscious you become when you’ve got one of these things on your Electricity supply. Even with hardly any gadgets or appliances we found we were paying 2p per hour, which then doubled and trebled as the Fridge & Freezer kicked in. Turn the kettle on and Wham… up to 25p per hour. Dishwasher 30p per hour while it’s heating the water.

Most notable was leaving my Computers switched on over night. Even during Economy 7 hours, leaving 2 computers, a Laptop, 2 external hard drives, router and couple of other gizmos running was costing around 3p per hour. Which even at Economy 7 rates is £25 a year. Doesn’t sound a lot, but me and the Mrs can get a meal out for that. I’d rather do that than leave the stuff switched on!

Get Your Name On The Waiting List Now!

Give your local library a ring now and put yourself on the waiting list to get one of these gadgets right now. It’s a real eye opener. Just by having one on a weeks loan, I reckon some of the changes we’ll make as a family to our energy consumption will save us well over £50 a year…

Find your local library here, it’s free to join and costs nothing to borrow an Owl Energy Monitor for a week.
Alternatively, you can Buy your own Owl Energy Monitor online here.

14 Jul

New Furniture Restoration Project

Old Chair For Restoration

Old Chair For Restoration

On a recent trip to our local recycling centre in Shepshed I spotted this fine, but unloved specimen and thought I could maybe give it a new lease of life. I didn’t steal it btw, I explained to the staff there what I was planning to do with it and they let me take it Free of Charge 🙂

I’ve not a clue how old it is, maybe 1960’s or 1970’s, it could even be newer than that, but something about it’s simple clean shape caught my eye. I’ve always fancied having a go at restoring a piece of furniture, up to now we’ve nearly always bought new items, but this should be a nice project to get me started.

A quick session with the paint stripper and a new coat of sprayed gloss, plus a new seat of course and this beauty should look quite nice indeed. I’ve no idea where I’m going to put it, but we’ll face that when it’s finished. Our local Ikea stock a good range of hard wearing material that will more than likely be suitable for the seat cover. I’ll have to go hunting through their bargain bins for an offcut that will do the job.

14 Jul

Easy Black Currant Jam Recipe

Black Currants

Photo By Vibrant Spirit'

I’ve never been the best cook in the world, but sometimes you just have to have a go. My Fiance is way better than me at all things culinary, but due to other commitments it was up to me to make the most of some of the superb Black Currants we picked last week at Cattows Farm before the started to go off / mouldy. So I kinda flew by the seat of my pants with a few yelled instructions from Tina in the other room… To keep things simple I went for the simplest Jam recipe possible and hoped for the best!

Easy Homemade Black Currant Jam Recipe – Makes 4 to 5 Jars

Ingredients:
1kg of Black Currants (As freshly picked as possible)
1kg of Granulated Sugar

Equipment:

1 x Large Saucepan
1 x Wooden Spoon
1 x Tea Spoon
1 x Plate, Chilled

First put the Black Currants in a colander and wash the fruit with cold water to remove any bits of leaves, lose stems, spiders etc! I didn’t bother topping and tailing the currants. My Mother would have done, but I’m blowed if I’m sitting there for hours chopping the little brown bits off a million and one Black Currants!

Empty Currants into the saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Stir regularly to stop the fruit burning. The fruit will start to reduce down quite quickly and eventually begin to boil. Keep stiring them as they can burn easily.

Get The Right Equipment!

A good quality Jam or Maslin Pan will make Jam making much easier!

When the “Stewed” Black Currants have the right mix of juice and whole fruit, pour in the Kilo of sugar and continue stiring. The sugar should melt down quickly. Keep boiling the mixture for about 10 mins or so. Some say it takes longer but that’s all mine took.

My First Homemade Black Currant Jam

My First Homemade Black Currant Jam

After about 10 mins, take a Teaspoon of the hot Jam from the saucepan and drip it on to the chilled plate. Turn the heat down on the boiling jam to minimum and put the plate in the fridge for about 5 mins.

After 5 mins, remove the plate from the fridge and push the jam with your finger. if it wrinkles up and looks to be a jam like consistency, it’s ready to pour into jars. If not, wack the heat back up on the saucepan and boil it for another 5/10 mins. Again don’t forget to stir it… Burnt Jam tastes awful!

Once you’re happy with your jam and think it’s ready, pour it into steralized jars and pop the lids on asap. That way as the hot jam and air above the jam inside the jar cools, it’ll create a vacuum, pulling seal on the lid nice and tight. If you’re using recycled jars you’ll probably hear the little safety buttons pop down after about an hour as the jam cools. Having a vacuum inside the jars keeps them 100% airtight and the jam keeps much much longer.

Once the jam has cooled completely, store in a cool place. Properly stored jam can keep for over a year i.m.o.

If you liked this recipe, please feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook & Twitter, or leave a comment below!

Thanks.

13 Jul

New Web Project – The Scalextric Shop

Scalextric Slot Car Shop

Scalextric Slot Car Shop

This is my latest project, The Scalextric Shop. The shop is a dedicated store focusing on the vast range of products from Scalextric, which includes many Standard and Digital Sets, Slot Cars, Slot Car Track and accessories for slot racing enthusiasts, young and old.

I’ve teamed up with Amazon.co.uk for this shop which allows me to give customers the best possible shopping & customer service experience possible. Read More

11 Jul

Basic Time Management

Photo By: BigBlue

Photo By: BigBlue

Managing my time effectively has always been one of my biggest downfalls. When I’m working I have a habit of not taking regular breaks away from my desk, which in turn causes me to get distracted after a while because something inside me wants a change of scenery for a few minutes… Checking email, checking the weather & news headlines etc, seeing what bargains are on my favourite shopping sites, all that kind of nonsense! Well, I’ve decided to put an end to that by practicing a few simple time management techniques. These techniques I’ve garnered from around the web from the likes of Tim Ferriss, Leo Babauta and Penelope Trunk to name but a few.

There are many methods of managing time but few I’ve found are that effective. For me it boils down to 3 or 4 key activities that help me maintain focus an keep as productive as possible throughout my working day.

  1. The To Do List
    Historically my “To Do” lists have been massive. In the past I’d sit down and write huge list of as many jobs and tasks as I could think of, then pick one of the most important tasks and get stuck in. The problem with this method is that a huge list, although it may not appear so at the time, is very daunting and quite demoralizing. By creating a seemingly endless To Do list creates a feeling of being overloaded without you even realizing.

    Instead, create a simple To Do List for each day of your work life & home life, and include on the list the Three most important things that you need to do that day.  The list must contain only ever contain 3 entries. Only when items on the list are completed can you move on to the next list.Why do a three item list? A three item to do list is ultimately a managable list.  Once you’ve completed the tasks for today, create a new list and get stuck in on tomorrows task. That way you’ll feel like you’re getting ahead on tomorrows work list too!

  2. Take Regular Breaks
    Taking a break from what you’re doing is essential to retain focus on the job in hand. If I sit chained to my desk for hours on end, I ultimately get distracted after about and 1.5 hours and go off to check my email, check website stats etc. Instead, get yourself a kitchen timer, and set it to 1 hour or so. Work as intensely as you can during that time period. At the end of the period, take a 5 minute break and grab a coffee, lift weights, do some weeding in the garden, read the newspaper, anything to give yourself a break for a few minutes. The essential thing is to get away from the computer.
  3. Create a Timetable
    This is a new one that I’m currently trying out. Remember when you were at school you used to be given a timetable by your tutors telling you what subjects you were doing when? Well, why not apply this to your working day? As I’ve always got so many tasks to do I’ve recently drawn up a timetable for my working day, just like I had at school, and split my days up into chunks where I work on specific projects for set time periods, that way I keep several of my many projects evolving rather than languishing!

In conclusion, time management is essential to get the most from your day and by using some or all of these simple tips and sensibly planning what to do with your time, you can accomplish more during your working day, feel less stress and stay ahead of your work schedule for the majority of the time.

I’ve got a few more tips up my sleeve to which I’ll share with you over the coming weeks too!

11 Jul

New Web Project – Musicians Gear

Musicians Gear Musical Instrument Shop

Musicians Gear Musical Instrument Shop

Another in the line of small Amazon powered shops in my portfolio. This makes use of a domain I’ve had kicking around for sometime and not used (one of the 300 or so!). Musicians Gear has turned out to be quite a large Musical Instrument shop, stocking virtually every instrument and accessory available, from Grand Pianos to Bass Guitars, Bassoons to Picolos, Mixing Desks to Guitar strings. The inventory is simply huge! I’ve teamed up with Amazon again for this project, allowing me to give customers the best service possible when shopping for Musical Instruments. They also get fantastic discounts too…

Behind the scenes it uses The easiest way to build a complete Amazon Affiliate Store which is Associate O Matic and enables you to build  customizable, Amazon powered web stores very quickly. If you’re interested in having your own Amazon Affiliate Store on your site, I can offer full installation and customization services now, so please drop me a line here with your requirements and I’ll be in touch.