Shona Sculpture

Zimbabwe by Road

Rainbow over Victoria Falls
Rainbow over Victoria Falls

The Mighty Victoria Falls

On our recent trip to Zimbabwe, we got a chance to venture off to the great Victoria Falls. One of the most spectacular of all the natural wonders of the world. An awe-inspiring place as the mighty Zambezi river cascades over a 300 foot drop in the valley below. It’s wide too, over a mile and around 10,000 tons of water crash over the edge every second. Which generates a spray of water that rises 1500 feet in the air.

The power and majesty of the falls with millions of gallons of water cascading over, every minute. And the noise out that crashing water reminds you of nature’s might. The area around the falls is lush and green from the water spray that’s always in the air there. Which results in beautiful rainbows, all day long along the falls.

Corn and Stone Sculpture

Our brief visit to the falls was far too short and we soon found our way back to Bulawayo and then onto Harare. What struck us as we travelled by road, was the number of stalls we saw, by the roadside selling sculpture, Shona Sculpture.

Along the road, you’ll also find stalls barbecuing roasted millet ( a type of corn). A cheap and very satisfying snack as we travelled and healthy too.. These guys start roasting the corn by the road side in big steel drums and sell it to passing cars, which stop to buy.

Shona Sculpture
Black Abstract Shona Sculpture
White Bird - Shona Sculpture
White Bird – Shona Sculpture

Shona Sculpture

But I wanted to come back to that Shona Sculpture. There are the normal tourist pieces small and cute but there are always larger more impressive works. Lots of different styles but most are quite exquisite and are truly beautiful objects. There are just so many different pieces and so many different styles. It’s hard not to buy them all.

But the problem is that we’re from overseas, from the USA and transiting them back home is not so easy. Although the bigger more expensive galleries in Harare do offer shipping for you.

The Shona Sculpture we Chose

But we found this web site Shona Sculpture That allows you to order sculptures from home and get them delivered. So that’s what we did.

We wanted something big and beautiful inside our entrance way. And it had to be a black abstract form. We found just the very piece.

The African Shona Sculpture is just perfect. It’s heavy black shiny stone, carved with meticulous refinement just looks so regal. A perfect embellishment to our home. But we couldn’t stop at just one. There was a white bird (I think it’s a Secretary Bird, but I’m note sure) . But it looks magnificent and the way the stone has been finished, just makes the bird come to life.

My Variable Temperature Kettle Story

Old vitreous kettle

The story of my kettles

See my latest kettle here electric kettle with temperature control

When I invite people, friends or family over to my apartment I have to make them a cup of tea or coffee if they prefer. Tea is made with hot water and that means a kettle. My family tend to like tea the most and so do I.

And of all the teas, I now prefer Chinese green teas. However that’s not to everybody’s taste so I have to keep traditional tea, the ones served with milk.

So far, since leaving home I’ve had four kettles. One has been rubbish, one has been okay and two have been really good. It’s that I destroyed one of the really good ones and had to get a replacement.

kettle whistlingKettle number 1

Kettles from another era
A nice little kettle, I received it as a birthday present from my grandmother. She bought it for me as I grew up and moved away from home into my very own apartment. It was a very nice apartment with the panoramic view of the city.

The kettle was small but I really liked it. It did just what a kettle should do – boil water. And it did it really quick. It also had a whistle on it so I knew the water had boiled

When my sister came to visit me, she told me that she too was moving out of our parent’s house and into her own flat. I had to give her a present of some kind and I choose my kettle. Which she liked and very much.

Now I was a kettle poorer and wouldn’t do. It had to be replaced.

Kettle starting to boilKettle number 2

Because I like tea, I quickly got a new kettle. This one I remember was quite expensive I had decided that I needed a designer kettle and went for looks over substance.

It was totally hopeless! It took to long time to boil, it got dangerously hot and it only held half as much water as my first kettle. It looked really good but that was all.

I gave it away but this time I replaced it first.

Electric kettle

Kettle number 3

My best bargain ever. It was reasonably priced, it didn’t cost a fortune and the main thing was that it worked without a hitch.

It was a super electric kettle and I was happy and satisfied. It held a lot of water and it was fast at boiling water and did not get hot on the outside. What more could I wish for?

I had invited my mother and father over and decided to cook something special for them. My mother loves home cooked food and taught me and my sister well.

Things were going well, I thought, until things started to get hectic here in my kitchen. I stupidly put my electric kettle on the stove, which was now on and very hot.

Well the kettle melted giving off a rather foul smell that filled the whole place. And when I’d realized what I’d done, it was too late It was now a reasonably priced kettle that had become stuck to the stove. The kettle was all distorted and rather sad. Luckily my father was able to clear the mess from the stove and rid it of all the molten plastic. But the kettle was now dead. So now it’s onto forth kettle

modern glass kettleKettle number 4

This time a took a little more time and had a little think before just going out and getting a replacement. And something I hadn’t considered before was a variable temperature kettle. There’s a good site here and it’s where I did most of my research before buying electric kettle with temperature control

I didn’t realize that tea, coffee and most hot drinks should be made with hot water, not boiling water. And that’s what these kettles are designed to do, to heat the water to the perfect temperature and your hot drink, which in my case is green tea.

A little more expensive than a normal kettle but well worth it, in my view ad works perfectly

To conclude

What have I learned now? Well, don’t rush when buying a kettle, read plenty of reviews and don’t be tempted by looks. Great looking kettles don’t always function as good as they look.

The history of the kettle

And if you make hot drinks then do consider a temperature control kettle which adds an additional function to the humble kettle not just boiling water, which they do as well.

88 key keyboard

grand pianoTips for those of you who want to buy a piano or keyboard

For many who want to to buy real genuine piano for their home, it’s a bit sacrilegious to buy a digital piano instead. That’s a wrong position to take as many modern digital pianos, with a full 88 key keyboard makes you think you play on an acoustic piano. Why 88 keys? They offer a range of features that make playing fun. At the same time you have control over the volume which makes it possible to have one in an apartment.

So here we go through the things to look out for when looking for a new digital piano. and the things it’s best to avoid or that you don’t really need. Here’s a website that has the latest recommended 88 key keyboards that you can choose right now.

The Keyboard Set Up

Those who played the piano at an earlier time but given up for various reasons, there’s always a longing to brush their old skills and begin playing once again. Whether it’s Beethoven or Billy Joel who they inspire from. Getting about any instrument creates as good mood in the player, whether you play for yourself or for others.

Some argue that it’s hard to accommodate a piano in a modern setting and those who grew up playing an acoustic piano may think that that with digital piano is not really up to to the mark. But that’s no longer true, keyboard pianos have come a long way and the sound they produce is quite exquisite.

The jargon buster

You can install an 88 key keyboard in an apartment where an acoustic piano just won’t fit

The benefits of a digital piano are, among other things, that you never have to tune it, it’s always in tune. It’s smaller and lighter than a piano nicer, takes up less space and therefore becomes easier to place in the home and to just move it around. Another thing is that you can use it in apartments where an acoustic piano couldn’t, because of the awkward size, weight and the shear volume of sound. With a digital piano you can adjust the volume as well as listen to headphones, and not least, you can set it up in in home theater.

You have to be an accomplished pianist to notice the difference between the electronic and acoustic versions of a piano, especially if you go for the more professional versions of a digital piano. But don’t get to hung up here, reasonably inexpensive digital pianos are just as good for the majority of pianists.

So look for a digital 88 key board that’s within your price band and you’ll be more than happy with your purchase. Reasonably priced electronic keyboards can be found here http://keyboardpiano88keys.com

electronic keyboard
electronic keyboard

Even the cheapest pianos give you a lot of enjoyment

So, what’s the difference between a cheaper and more expensive digital piano?

  • The main difference is sound quality, keyboard quality and appearance. But because of developments in technology even the cheapest pianos give you a great experience that was not possible even a few years ago.
  • Expensive digital pianos still win when it comes to shear quality though both in build and the way they’re constructed.
  • Expensive digital pianos also offer the ability to record. You can record yourself via the keyboard and play chords with yourself from the chords you saved.
  • The most up to keyboards can be used to arrange music and live and stage performance.
  • Do note that a digital piano is not the same as a digital keyboard, they have very different purposes. If you want the piano experience avoid digital keyboards.
  • A digital piano will have weighted keys a digital keyboard will not.
  • A digital piano will have the full set of octaves and digital keyboard will not.

A Keyboard is like a one-man orchestra

A keyboard is like a one-man orchestra with hundreds of sounds and rhythms. The keyboard is often not weighted, but just like on a digital piano it is sensitive to impact.
Some may think it’s a good idea to first buy a cheap keyboard for the kids to learn how to play the piano. But it is not necessarily the smartest thing to do. If you buy a keyboard as a toy it will be treated as such and never taken seriously.

A keyboard is actually a completely different instrument, and because of the subset of keys it’s restricted to the pieces it can play compared to a digital piano. And when we talk about keys a keyboard usually has 61 of them. Should you learn to play the piano, the number is 88.

There are also several types of digital piano. The most common is furniture piano, which looks like a traditional piano. There is also a stage piano that has got a piano keyboard and speakers. These piano often has simple features and a few sounds to choose from. It looks a bit more like a keyboard but has the correct number of weighed keys.

digital PianoShould you learn to play the piano the magic number is 88

One type of keyboard piano that differs slightly from the others is the hybrid piano. This type of piano is designed as a regular extra-piano with hammer. When you press a key, it is a physical hammer that moves, but it does not hit any physical string. All sounds are produced electronically, but the look and feel is that much better.

I’ll Just Let My Piano Play

Before you get your piano at home, it’s good to decide some things in advance, like budget and where you’re going to put it. As we’ve already said you should think about the quality you want, how much it should sound just like a regular piano.

 

All digital keyboards/pianos have USB/MIDI posts so you can use it in your home studio

As you select your digital piano there are a few extra things you should invest in. First of all, a piano and headphone , and most preferably of the closed type. These make a wise investment and allow the piano to be played without upsetting others. In addition, I recommend a novice piano book or songbook, at your skill level so you’ll have something to inspire to learn new songs.

How long do you have to practice to become good

It is clearly down to your level of interest and enthusiasm. If you play regularly you’re normally after around six months you’ll have a few melodies you can play of by heart and you’ll be able to impress family and friends or able to serenade the one you’re in love with. The main thing is to enjoy making music and all the relaxing endorphins that releases in you. Parctice makes perfect.

musical scales

Hertfordshire Interior Design

Hertfordshire

We live in Hertfordshire and are both busy adults. We both have our own businesses, that takes up the bulk our time. And our two young children, who take up the rest of our time. We moved into a new house, in Hertfordshire, which needed a lot of work done to it. We had this romantic notion of doing it ourselves. But that would have taken time. Time we don’t have.

Do It YourselfThe Do It Yourself Approach

It’s very easy to get carried away and initially you’re full of enthusiasm. Then it soon starts to become a drag and progress slows as you loose that initial drive. Milestones never get reached and the slow progress starts to become an anti-climax as you move onto the next phase of the project. We realised we’d be working on it for many years and so we had to get help.

Local Interior Designer

We wanted someone local and we found this Hertfordshire interior design company. Being local was important to us as we could visit their offices and they could come to us. We know from running our businesses that things just go so much smoother when your close by.

Getting a Designer

Let’s Go Shopping

What Makes a Good Design

The PlanThe Plan

We had to decide we wanted, what or brief should be, how much or how little would be provided by Kenza design, the interior design company we had chosen. Then they got to work and did the rest. Joining the dots and crossing the T’s.

Our brief was quite extensive, we wanted the whole house refurbished. This included new electrical wiring, new boiler and central heating. We decided to leave the kitchen for another time but we wanted it painted and new blinds fitted.

Let’s Get Started

Each room was to be transformed, including furniture and soft furnishings and those little touches that make everything homely. Kenza were great, once everything was agreed, they took over. They project managed the whole project and the tradesman they used were very good. They worked around our busy schedule and always left the place, child friendly. The whole project was completed thirteen weeks, a little over three months, just in time for Christmas. So a thoroughly good experience. Bravo Kenza.

Getting Down to Work

Best Camera Tripod

tripod for landscape

My Intro to Photography many years ago

I was introduced to the world of photography by my uncle. I’m going back to the days of film cameras, when you had to wait several days for the film to be developed and prints to be made. Or you did it yourself. Which is what my uncle did.

I would wait for him to come to our house with his really old nikon and I remember it didn’t have a built in light meter. You had to either have a light meter, which he did, which was almost as big as a smart phone only heavier. Or you set it by trial and error – there were settings that you could count on, if it was sunny, if it was overcast, if you were indoors. But the light meter would nail it. And remember all this was done blind, as it were because you couldn’t what you had done until you got back home and developed everything. Which could be hours or days later.

Eagle photo shoot with tripodIf that old photography were alive today?

If he was alive today, he’d be amazed. As I still am. Everything’s so instant and enjoyable now days. No need to lock yourself away in a darkroom and mess around with solutions to develop, wash and finally fix the prints. I know I’ve done it myself and I had a machine, like a pizza machine where you fed the wet photographic paper in at one end and after a short journey it came out nice and dry at the other.

using a tripodbest tripod

The only other thing I had in those days was a good sturdy tripod. I see that similar, good quality ones are still made like the ones here Tripods for Cameras There’s a tendency to use hand held for everything nowadays. And the ISO settings are so good that you can take good pictures at night just with street lighting.

how to find a good tripod

But if you’re a bit of a perfectionist, like me, really good is not good when the images can be better. And that’s what I strive for pictures where the subject is razor sharp. That’s where a good tripod comes in. And for me it’s been a lifetime investment as I’ve still got mine and it’s still in active use.

tips on using a tripod

Best Whole House Water Softener

modern tapsoft water system

Our central heating system was getting cooler and cooler, year by year. It was only a very gradual process you understand. So it’s hard to spot at the time. But we did notice it when the weather turned decidedly icy and the whole house felt cold and even with the boiler on full and running flat out, it still wasn’t very warm.

We’ve been living in that house for over twenty three years now and had it not been for my partner I would have said that I’m feeling the cold more as I’m getting older. But the truth is that the central heating system was getting older and at a faster pace than I wa

water on a lakewhole house water softener

We had to wait until the spring and I still hadn’t thought that the central heating system was at fault. I thought that maybe there were drafts that I could fix. Maybe double glazing would help. The house was already double glazed when we moved in but I know the seals had gone and should be replaced. Maybe it was time to replace all the windows.

Then we called in a plumber and he pointed out that the boiler had worn out and that the hot water tank need replacing. And that the main culprit was the limescale that’s been deposited over the years inside the hot water system.

home water softener

Expensive but all those items had to be replaced. It is possible to prevent this limescale by fitting a water softener and he pointed us to this site water softener system The water softener was purchased and he (the plumber) fitted it for us.

I’m amazed how small they are and they’re out of sight, just as the water supply enters the house. They turn hard water into soft water.

After the upgrade to the central system everything is now warm to hot again. And taking a bath is really nice the water just feels, well softer, I suppose.

The story of water

Who will run out of water first

luggage set

suitcase graphicNew Luggage Set

I just bought a luggage set, from 3-piece luggage set, for my me, my wife and our young daughter. So three cases, the perfect number for our family of three.

Our old suitcases were starting to get a bit tatty, actually they were very tatty. With mine being the worst. My daughter’s suitcase wasn’t a suitcase at all, just a pretend case to make her feel all grown up.

The appeal of the Three Piece Luggage Set Was for a number of reasons. Firstly it’s cheaper to buy cases as a set rather than individually and for the same quality. Second, for storing away. When not in use each case fits inside the other the result being that you’ll only storing the one big case. The other two are neatly inside.

Another benefit, which was a bonus really was the different designs you can find these days. Not long ago every suitcase just came in an assortment of colors. Black, blue and gray being the most dominant.

Well now that’s all changed. As you can imagine I had very little input on the design pattern selected. That was decided between my wife and daughter. I just had to go with the flow and pretend I liked it.

case satchelEasy to Identify

What makes the pattern important is that the cases themselves become fairly unique. This has its advantages at the airport carousel. You can spot your cases a long way off and not keep turning them over as they pass,to see if they’re yours.

And so far we’ve not bumped into anyone with the same design as our 3 piece luggage set (yet). We do need to be weary that that might happen one day. We don’t want the embarrassment of taking someone else’s luggage by mistake. But I think that’s very unlikely.

Being new they work really well but I have to make sure we don’t over pack our cases as we’ve done before. This only decreases the life of a case and the zip in particular. I just need to persuade my wife to pack less.

Useful tips for packing

How to pack your suitcase

Weigh you bags before you fly

My world of Photography

My Photography Story

Anyone, like me, that’s ever had a passion for photography knows that just pointing a camera and pressing the shutter does not make you a photographer. Although many cell phone owners might beg to disagree.
There’s nothing snobbish here, I’m not saying that you have to have a dSLR to join that high table of photography, because you can take good shots with an iPhone. I know, I’ve done it. So it’s not the equipment, although this certainly helps, it’s more than that. It’s about composition, framing and having a basic understanding of light.
(Old 35mm Cameras)

The Good Old Days of film

(35mm film story)
When I started out it was all film and film was expensive, especially color film. So we, as in I, tended to stick with black and white film. Plus color was just so complicated and developing was complicated and temperatures for the developing chemicals was critical and had to be just right. Then most film was made for daylight use so white balance was always wrong.

Remember Flash Cubes

I used flash cubes back then(flash Cube), which worked once and once only. Designed to blow but in that instant give a brilliant flash. More of a novelty than a serious bit of kit but it meant you could get results at weddings, parties and indoor gatherings. But they were no better than the limited flash from a cell phones of today.

Fast Forward to Digital

Fast forward to today and I bought a Canon 7d mkII, two years ago. If I compare it to my old Minolta camera, which is now 28 years old – it’s incredible.
No more white balance issues and when there are I can fix these easily with software or inside the camera.
Instant feedback, I can see what I’ve taken immediately, no waiting for days.

Good By Flash Cubes

A flash unit that negotiates with the camera on how much flash is needed.
And ISO (used to be called ASA many years ago) which was set for a film and max’d out at 400. Now it goes to quarter of a million and I can change it for each frame.

Stay Tuned

I’ll be sharing my thoughts here on this site, so come back and visit and join me on this incredible photographic journey.