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Cooking For Beginners – 9 Pasta Tips and Tricks

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Cooking pasta, for some, is a daunting challenge. For instance… a cousin of mine cooked pasta for so long… it came out of the pot in one big clump every time.

If you’re pasta isn’t turning out… the following tips should help you to get fantastic results every time.

1. How much pasta per person? This always seems to be an issue for everyone. Only you know your family’s appetite… but… here is the rule of thumb. A one pound box of pasta will serve 4 big eaters. If you are preparing other dishes to go along with your pasta, a one pound box would easily serve up to 6 people. Note: One cup of uncooked pasta equals two cups of cooked pasta.

2. How to salt pasta? I add a lot of salt to my pasta water. I am told, that it should taste like the sea. Taste the water after you’ve added the salt… the salt taste should be noticeable.

3. Should the water be boiling first? Yes! Bring the water to a vigorous boil before adding the pasta… a boil that you cannot stop by stirring.

4. How much water to cook the pasta in? Make sure the pasta has lots of breathing room. You want the pasta to have enough water to move around freely so it can absorb the water. If there is not enough water, the pasta will stick together and become gooey. Also, you will find uncooked pieces that have stuck together.

5. How to add pasta to boiling water? Slowly add the pasta to the boiling water. Ideally, the water should not stop boiling. If the water stops boiling just stir the pasta until water begins to boil again. This prevents the pasta from sticking together.

6. How to tell when pasta is done? The best way is to taste. Read the directions on the package and, I would suggest, check for perfect ‘al dente’ texture during the cooking time. Pasta is cooked enough when it is “al dente”… meaning… it has a little bite to it. You have cooked it to long if it is sticky.

7. Should I rinse pasta? Some people like to rinse the pasta if it is being used in a pasta salad ( I don’t bother ). The choice is yours. Why not try it both ways. Don’t rinse pasta if you are adding a sauce… you will want to keeps its starchy texture so the sauce will cling.

8. Draining pasta? Most people drain all the water… this could be a mistake. Keeping a little bit of water will prevent sticking. Also, the sauce will blend in better. I always keep a small amount of the pasta water just in case the pasta becomes too dry.

9. Heat your serving bowl! It is a good idea to serve your creation in a warm serving bowl. It’s a nice added touch.

Notes: Never cook two types of noodles together because each type has a different cooking time. One more thing… if noodles are used in a casserole, under-cook them slightly because they will finish cooking in the oven.

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Ogio Locker Bag Review – So Good It’s Stollen

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It happens more often than people think. That a gym bag is so important its worth stealing. The Ogio “Locker Bag” is very popular bag among the serious gym members of almost any gym. So what makes this locker bag so important it’s worth stealing? Well, its not so much a bag as it’s gym travel storage system. It’s specially designed to fit into those old, stinking, long vertical lockers that’s abundant in the locker room. It also includes a shelf system to separate clothes and shoes (up to size 13 in mens!) and has internal organizers for your hair products, magazines and other such essentials. So if you have a locker bag by Ogio be sure to lock it up. If you don’t have one, and you even remotely serious about the gym, you need take a look at one.

Below are the technical specs for the OGio Locker Bag:

  • Top vented main compartment withand other important items
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • extended shoe compartment below>
  • Fits in standard locker
  • Side pocket for magazines or racquet>
  • Internal organization with included brush
  • Front zippered pocket for keys, walletcomb and empty toiletry containers
  • Adjustable shoulder strap

Ogio Marketing Text:

The Locker Bag was OGIO’s first innovation and remains one of the most highly engineered gym bags in the market. Its sturdy structure is designed both to fit into and work like a locker, while other intelligent features include a shelf separating clothes from shoes (up to a men’s size 13), plus internal organization pouches, and an external magazine/racquet pouch.

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Steel Post Retaining Wall Construction Tips

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Perhaps the cheapest effective retaining wall solution is using steel universal column posts with treated timber sleepers placed between the steel posts. Such a wall is strong and if the sleepers to warp or rot, they can be easily replaced.

That said, such a wall, if constructed poorly, can be a horrible eye-sore. To avoid this, below are some tips on making sure your retaining wall is both effective and attractive.

Base and Height of Wall

First thing to consider is determining your base height and top of wall height. If your wall is near to your house, then you’ll want the base of the wall to be at least 1 inch below the eventual path level beside your house, such that your path or paved area can slope away from your house. Once this point is determined, the wall height can be estimated. It’s most convenient to determine wall heights in 200mm (approx 8 inch) levels, as this is the typical sleeper height.

Distance Between Posts (Centers)

Next determine the end points of the wall. Let’s say it’s 13.6 meters from one corner to the other. Use some math to work our how many bays would be required to get a post separation between 1.1 and 1.5 meters. In this case, 10 bays at 1.36m each would be a good solution. The wider the bay, the more warping of sleepers will be apparent in the future. Anything beyond 1.8m is risky as it can require replacing warped sleepers within a few months.

Hole Depth & Diameter

Next is hole depth and diameter. The hole should be at least as deep as the height of the steel that is above ground level. Hence, a 600mm high wall needs holes at least 600mm deep. The steel column should go down into the concrete about 90% of the depth of the hole. When the height is only 200mm, it’s best to make the hole at least 350mm. In weak sandy soils, you’ll need to go beyond these recommendations, while in hard stable ground, such as drilled rock, you can get away with lower depths. With diameter, 350mm holes should suffice for most walls under 1 meter if the ground is quite firm. Increase the diameter to 450mm and beyond in soft soils.

Getting a Straight Wall

The trick to this is using string-lines between star posts that are hammered into the ground at each end of the wall. One string line will mark the top front of the wall. This should be level in most cases. If you don’t have professional leveling tools, a good trick is to place an eye behind the string line, and look through it to the brickwork of a house or a level roof gutter line and adjust the string line until it is parallel to that line. If this isn’t available, get a small string hanging level and hand it in the middle of the line. You can measure from the house outside wall to each end of the string line to make sure your wall is parallel to the house too.

The top string line needs to be very tight to avoid sagging. Another string line runs about 6 inches above the base of the post. A common practice is to make the lower string line about 10 mm out from the top string line for each meter of height. This means the wall will lean back slightly into the soil it will retain. Nothing looks worse than a wall than leans forward, so this helps to prevent that happening should there be a little movement, or should you get one of your steel posts in at a slightly different angle to the others.

Dropping the Steel Posts into the Concrete

This is the real art of making a nice retaining wall and I’m about to share a trade secret with you that can save a lot of hard effort, bashing and stress which results when a larger steel post is sitting in the wrong position while the concrete is hardening.

The first tip is to place the steel post in the hole before the concrete is poured (for 800mm and above heights), make sure it is sitting in a position which lines up to the two string lines. As the concrete is put into the hole, have someone push down on the steel post, to make sure the base doesn’t shift position too much.

Once the concrete fills the hole, lift the post up to a height about 6 inches above the top string line. If the concrete is viscous enough, a post should usually sit without sinking under its own weight when 6 inches above its finishing height. While the post is in this position, observe its angle relative to the 2 string lines. If the base is in too far, then push the top of the steel post away from the string line at an angle and then wiggle it to make it lower into the concrete at an angle. This moves the base inward compared to where it was. After lowering it on an angle, pull the post back toward the string line to see if the base and top are now in line with the post. If the base is now too close to the lower string line compared to the top string line, you need to do the opposite. Life the post above the string line, then pull it toward the string line a few inches and wiggle it down at this angle. If the concrete is quite firm, you may need to use a hammer and a wood block to protect the steel.

With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of moving the base in and out so that the post angle is within a mm of the bottom string line while exactly on the top string line. All this can be done without clamps or support rods. With smaller posts, just drop them into the concrete and use the same method of angling the post to move the base to the right position relative to the string lines.

You can see some of the walls I’ve built using this technique at my website. I hope these tips will help some of you to build a professional looking retaining wall, without the stress of trying to shift the base of your posts with crow bars or continual trial and error of replacing the entire post in the concrete for each try.

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The Pros and Cons of Owning a Pet Lovebird

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Why You Should or Shouldn’t Own a Pet Lovebird

Ever wondered why Lovebirds are so named – it’s because they are monogamous by nature and spend hours perched next to their partner; true love at its best. Lovebirds are birds with a ‘personality’ and if you are considering buying one, your comparable option would most probably be a Parrot. This is because Parrots and Lovebirds are similar looking. However, there are some stark differences that you should keep in mind before making the final choice.

The brightly colored Lovebirds look like mini parrots and are easier to keep than most other birds. Their smaller size is more than compensated by their curiosity and energy levels. They relish toys and would peck enthusiastically at any bells or blocks kept in their cage (hanging or on the floor); they have hard beaks so metal or wood toys would last longest.

Lovebirds don’t talk. They are not silent birds but if you are looking for a bird to mimic your sounds, you are probably better off with a Parrot (though I must warn against getting a Parrot solely on hopes that it would mimic sounds). Pet Lovebirds chirp to their partner and also to their owners. On rare occasions this communication has been found to be a melodious tune, but mostly it’s a high-pitched chatter.

While they are lovey-dovey with their partner, they are not social with other birds. If you have a cage with birds of other species, you must be careful not to place your pet Lovebird in it. They will fight aggressively with the other birds and in some cases this can be fatal. Having said that, Lovebirds are a great pet to have – they work as effective stress busters and can add bundles of happiness to your life in many ways. Just watching them sitting next to each other and chirping to each other brings a smile to the most worried of faces.

But sitting is not all they do. A pet Lovebird will love to play around their cage and even though they don’t need a big cage, they will probably be happier with the extra space to play in, as they are extremely playful and will hang on swings and peck on toys if given the chance.

True to their name Lovebirds are not only loyal to their mate but also establish a strong bond with their owners and can be taught a few tricks. Although a pet Lovebird may take some time to form a bond with the owner, once they do, they will playfully sit on your finger and if trained, they can fly around the room without flying off. I know of an owner who has taught his bird to push a pea into a net every single time!

In summary, if you are thinking of getting a pet Lovebird you should know that while they are small, bright and colorful they need commitment from the owner. While some birds only need to be fed, these pets need attention. But once they form the special bond with you, they can be an entertaining pet for a long time – their lifespan is about 20 years!

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