Masonic Rings


Masonic Gifts and Tie Pin Ideas

At our lodge we like to present a gift to those brethren that reach their 2nd Degree, that of fellow craft. We’ve found the perfect site online Ashlar Gifts It includes sections that have reasonably priced items that make great Masonic gifts.

We feel, in our lodge, that attaining the level of fellow craft shows commitment and we felt a simple gift shows the lodges appreciation and commitment back to the brother. We’ve tended to choose the tie pin and matching cufflink combinations, like the Masonic tie pins shown here.

They are reasonably priced and are always well received by the candidate. And we often see a change in shirt as a result. The candidate will switch to plain cuffs so that he can use his new lodge cufflinks.

Encouragement to the LofI

King George and Scotish Freemasons

At this stage in the masons’ journey we also encourage active participation in the LOI for the obvious reasons of progression through the offices of the lodge and also for a deeper understanding of the craft. All this helps him to understand the workings of the lodge, Where to Join Freemasonry history of our order and those help with those odd words that aren’t in everyday usage

As well as the learning of ritual there’s the social side, the festive board, where we mix and toast and dine. Then retire to the bar for more socializing. All this builds comradeship and a sense of belonging to the lodge and the Brotherhood. An organization who’s main virtues are brotherly love, relief and truth.

I’ve always felt that, in this day and age we live in a materialist society that rushes around, never stopping for thought or contemplation. Freemasonry provides a change to all that, allowing us to take time to reflect and enjoy the company of your fellow man.

Where to Join Freemasonry

I would recommend freemasonry to any man to enable him to become a more rounded person and I’ve attached a few links where you can find out more.

Grand Lodges of the United States becoming a freemason

domestic whole house water softener


modern bathtubsoft water system

It’s true to say that sometimes the simplest of pleasures are the best. The smile of a young child, a walk along the coast, a flower. But today I’m going to talk about soft water.

Why is soft water one of the simplest pleasures? After all water is just water right? Well yes and no. You have to experience it to appreciate the difference between normal water and soft water. One way is to wash or bathe in each type to feel the difference.

Most people will have heard of the terms hard water and soft water. But they don’t know exactly what they mean?

home water softener

Soft water is pure water or as near pure as it can be. This means that it contains no other substances dissolved within it. Rainwater is a good example, although some places will experience acid rain because of industrial and urban pollution.

Hard water, on the other hand, is water that picks up minerals on it travels through porous rocks, sediments and along rocky river beds. These minerals, compounds are mainly calcium and magnesium, these are what makes the water hard.

The chemistry of water

water in naturewater softening system

And hard water, although not a health problem, is not as good as soft water. Hard water slowly but surely hits you in the pocket. You see these minerals are only taking a ride. They come out of solution along the way and end up as deposits that we call limescale. This effect gets worse as the water is heated, we get more limescale. Exactly the conditions going on your hot water systems, washing machines, dishwashers, and so on.

The limescale reduces the life of these appliances which you have to replace more frequently and that costs money.

best water softener system

But there is a solution to remove these minerals from your domestic supply. You can install a water softener. Like the ones shown here Whole house water softener Kits
These will fix the problem on entry to your property. The devices they’re small and compact, you won’t notice they are there and they’re silent as well.

But how do you know you have hard water in the first place? Well that’s easy. Just look for white/greenish/blueish chalky substances around taps, shower trays, inside kettles. If you see these white hard deposits, then you’ve got hard water. Dealing with it by installing a domestic water softener will save you money in the long term.

old faucetlimescale, what is it?

Hard water science of

African Shona Sculpture


Shona Sculpture - three headsShona Sculpture from Africa

One of the most pleasant things to come out of Africa, in the last 30 or 40 years, is Shona Sculpture. These sculptures, fashioned by artists from Zimbabwe, have a real African feel about them. Like they could have come nowhere else but from the great savannas of Africa.

They have that power of form, that pureness of spirit, wrapped in the traditions of African folklore. All subjects are covered from the purely abstract forms to the family unit, through to wild animals of the Zimbabwain veld. Family groups often depict a mother and her children together as one carved piece. A very strong bond respented in stone.

Unique Sculptures

Because these sculptures are made from stone and no two stones are ever the same, each sculpture becomes unique. Hand made and distinctive. So although a sculptor may make lot of small hippos for the tourist market, each one will be different, slightly smaller or slightly bigger. One may have a different facial expression than another, some might have a slightly different finish from another and so on.

It’s a lot like the terracotta army found in China, where each soldier is different. But not quite on such a grand scale as the China’s terracotta army.

Shona Sculpture - Naked LadiesThe Sculptors Raw Materials

The stone used comes in all forms and the many different colors. The colors in the stone come from the type of mineral present in the rock and they can be very beautiful in there own right. Different rocks can have different steaks or bandings of color within them a kind of marbling effect. Yet others will reveal different colors depending on whether the stone is polished our left in its nature rough state, which is also a way for the sculptors to add textures to the stone carvings.

Lots of It

Zimbabwe is blessed with huge quantities of these rocks and stone, found in Zimbabwe and lying along it’s Rift Valley. Which runs from north to south, from Zambia in the north to South Africa on its southern border.

Shona Sculpture - familyFind Out More

If you’re interested in finding out now or would like to purchase a sculpture our two, then take a look here

History of Shona Sculpture

Detailed look at Zimbabwean Art through Time

Stone used in the Sculptures

Tripods for my Camera


camera tripodBenefits of a Camera Tripod

Low light photography, wildlife photography, formal photography greatly benefits from a good sturdy tripod for cameras.

Tripods hold the camera steady, which is important as at lower shutter speeds or using large telephoto lenses, the images will suffer from camera shake. A good camera tripod, like you’ll see here Camera tripod Will remove the camera shake problem. The result is a pin sharp image.

Best Tripods

A good tripod tends to be expensive but it’s a worthwhile investment. It’ll be rock solid steady and will protect your expensive camera gear. Don’t be tempered by those ultra light models, they just don’t cut it and when you put a heavy camera on one, with an even heavier telephoto lens – they’re liable to blow over in the wind or given the slightest knock, fall crashing to the ground.

The bigger tripods are more sturdy and it takes a hurricane to blow them over our you’ve got to run right into one to make it fall over. So you get what you play for. The more hobbyist types are okay for small cameras and smallish lenses but leave a lot to be desired when your equipment gets bigger. I tried one and although not bad couldn’thold the lens securely, the camera on the end just tipped the lens sky woulds no matter how much I tried to tighten it.

how to use a tripod   tripod know how   buying guide


But just having a sturdy tripod is only one factor in choosing a good camera tripod. As with most things in photography compromises have to be made. The trade off here is weight. Camera gear tends to get heavy the better the quality and as the amount of gear increases, so does the weight and if you’re carrying it then that’s a big factor. So sturdy “yes” and light “yes”. This is a problem for manufacturers but ultimately the decision is ours.

Great Three Piece Luggage Sets


old suitcase detail - handle Pick up from the Airport

I had to fetch my sister and her husband from the airport, they were staying with us for a few days. I hadn’t seen her for many months so we had a lot of chatting to do and catch up on each others families and what’s been going on generally. My sister lives near to my mother and aunt. The time really flies when we’re together.

I must get over to my mother soon, it’s been almost a year now, since last Christmas, time flies. But it’s hard with children at school and them being so far away. I would love to have been closer to my family but Jeff, my husband had work out of town and we’ve been here almost three years now and it looks like we could be here for another three.

suitcase packing A Long Way from Home

It’s not all bad and we’ve made many good friends down here but home is home. And I long to go there someday even though the winters are colder and it seems to rain a lot. But that’s where I grew up and I long to go back.

Airport baggage handling and how to prepare your baggage

Well the wait at the airport was a long wait, the flight was delayed by two hours and we live one hour from the airport. So there was no point going home and coming back again. We just had to be patient and wait. But it was worth the wait, Jane and Tom both looked great and we whisked them off home.

4 piece Luggage setThe Three Piece Luggage Set

That’s when I noticed their matching 3 piece luggage set Set. “We want something like that” I said and she told me about this web site which specializes in 3-piece luggage sets.

However we had a lot more things to do than talk about suitcases all weekend. We went for long walks in the park and coffees (many coffees) and and a lovely meal that Saturday night at a place Jeff recommended.

Time Passes too QuickOld suitcase

Alas the end of the weekend came to quick. No sooner than they had arrived, that Friday and they were off again, Sunday evening. But so nice to spend a bit of time with my sister and we’ll have to do it again real soon.

Fees you pay for excess baggage

8 Person Tent


The wild land

The Camping Expedition

Back in the summer we all went on a camping expedition. It worked out really well, better than I thought. We have four children aged 14,12, 9 and 7 and one dog.

So there’s six of us, seven if you include our dog. That’s why I like camping, which I used to do a lot as a child, because to can take your pets. And our dog deserves a holiday just as much as we do. And I think she enjoyed the vacation the most.

Tent lit up at night

Getting a Tent

We needed a big tent and I wanted something with plenty of room. So I decided on an 8-person tent like the ones I found here

The eight man tent Gives us extra room to put our belongings into. Instead of using the car as an extra wardrobe. And it worked out perfectly for us.

Another great thing that I like about camping is that you pack everything you need in the car and get to your final destination, then unpack.

Avoiding Airport Madness

How to avoid stress if you have to fly

There’s none of the nonsense of weight limits and having to meander between hordes of people at an airport and keeping an eye on everything. And then there’s the queues and the small seats on the planes. All that stress is removed when you go camping – perfect.

Where we went was without internet access. I know you’ll find campsites with Wi-Fi. But I purposely choose not to have this option because I wanted the children to be gadget free for two weeks. Cell phones worked but I left the children’s behind, on purpose.

Tranquil bridge

Family Bonding Time

It was a better vacation without any gadgets. It takes a day or two of cold turkey before they’re not in the “this is so boring” state of mind. But once they got past that, they were fine. Playing outside, climbing trees, looking for treasure, tracking wild beasts. Their imagination was allowed to explore.

A really great holiday and we’ll do the same vacation next year and for many more years to come.

How to put up a tent

Taking a tent down




My first passion is photography and all the great things that a decent dSLR will provide. It doesn’t need to be expensive just fit for purpose and by that I mean giving you control of the image that you want to take.

After that it’s all about trial and error and learning a new skill. The theory, although important, should be used to enhance and point you in the right direction – In my opinion.


There are some fantastic websites, that will teach you everything you could possibly want to know about photography an here we intend to supplement that knowledge and provide additional resources, that we’ve found or that we think would be really useful.

We find that the really useful sites tend to be those where the blogger is a professional or active photography. They’re able to see a scene and compose the image in their mind and setting up the equipment to capture the image they envisage. This is a skill that only comes by doing, by trial and error and using self-critique to analyse and compare, what works, what works better.

Little tweaks, small adjustments, repeat and analyse. This moves you along the path to become a photographer as opposed to a “snapper”


There’s nothing wrong in taking snaps. At that level, you’re just recording a memento, a keepsake. Something to remember, a gathering a special event, a place you visited. The lighting, composition are secondary to actually capturing the moment and the mood.

But when you can supplement snaps with photography. You get the best of both worlds. Your photos will look better and capture more of the mood.


It’s quite possible to take great pictures with the latest crop of smart phones. They are very capable and offer a range of controls. But they have their limitations and will prevent you reaching your full potential.

But no matter what the technology, the basics of photography don’t change. So a photography with a smart phone would be expected to take better images than a snapper with a dSLR. The equipment isn’t the key factor here, it’s the skill that the person taking the image posses.

Getting Started

Here’s a list of sites that we think are really useful if you’re just starting out

Beginners Guide
composition for Beginners

Lighting for Beginners