De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar

De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar

Yep, it’s true. You really can De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar.

In 2015 I posted a video showing people how to descale a Nescafe Dulce Gusto machine and it’s been very successful, with lots of people confirming that it works for them.

Using Vinegar is also considerably cheaper than paying for the expensive kits which Nescafe sell.

How to De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar

It’s really important that you’re careful when you heat vinegar. Putting it through your machine will make it boil quicker than water. Therefore, I recommend you place a mix of water and vinegar in the machine’s water bottle which is a 50/50 mix. Half water, half vinegar.

  • Place the mix or water and vinegar into the water bottle
  • Switch on the machine and wait for the green light to confirm the machine is hot
  • Place a cup or bowl in the cup holder area
  • Run the machine on hot as if you were making a coffee for 30 seconds
  • Switch of the machine and wait 20 minutes
  • Repeat as necessary until the machine is flowing correctly
  • Once complete, run a cup of clean tap water through the machine

This should clear the machine.

How it works

So we go back to school for this bit and it’s really quite simply. No harsh commeecial chemicals involved here, just good old nature doing it’s thing.

Limescale is caused by a build up of calcium, which occurs naturally in the water. In some areas, there is a lot more calcium that others (know as hard water). Boiling the water makes the calcium deposits build up more quickly.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is a natural chemical. The acetic acid breaks down the calcium (which is an alkaline) and makes it soluble in water. No nasty chemicals are produced and you just tip the waste down the sink.

Using vinegar is much healthier than commercial chemical alternatives

Vinegar is a natural liquid which is made as a result of a brewing process. If you De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar, it’s going to be much safer than using some of the nasty chemicals available on the market. It’s also considerably cheaper!

How to prevent scale in your Dolce Gusto machine

Scale is a natural product of boiling water and is almost unavoidable in most cases. However, if you can afford it, you might like to consider using bottled water in the machine, or having a water softener fitted to your home.

Working from Home: how to do it successfully whilst keeping your sanity

Working from home

Working from homeI worked from home for 8 years for an insurance company full time, so I know all about what it entails. I understand how difficult it can be to get motivated. But how easy is it and is working from home all that it’s cracked up to be?

 

Keeping motivated when working from home

Motivation is one of the most difficult issues for people when working from home so it’s important that you have set timescales and targets to obtain. The problem here is that there can be distractions. Learn how to be disciplined is the key to working from home successfully. You’re going to need to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of work done and that you’re not distracted to the point that you lose focus. It can be all to easy to pop in the kitchen and start preparing dinner, or cleaning the bathroom, but you need to make sure you dedicate these jobs to time outside of your working hours.

Some ways to make sure you stick to your work regime might include:

  • start a daily task list
  • keep a diary
  • move yourself away from distractions such as family and television
  • make sure you stick to a dedicated work routine i.e. 9am until 5pm everyday, but also make sure you take regular breaks (we’ll cover this area later)
  • dedicate a room or outbuilding exclusively to your work
  • set yourself regular breaks for screen rest and rehydration

 

Get a dedicated telephone number for your work calls

There’s nothing worse than getting work calls in your own time and vicaversa. Having a dedicated telephone nymber for your work calls can also mean you can answer the phone in a more professional manner.

There are a myriad of ways to do this and very cheaply. Some don’t even require an additional telephone line. Such examples of services you can use include:

  • Skype – as well as video calling, Skype also offer a “Skype number”, which you can buy with a local code and which will divert all calls to that number to the Skype application. Your callers will never know that they’re calling Skype and there are also voicemail options available
  • Get a second number from you cell/mobile phone provider – may will offer a second line with a second number for little extra a month and you can usually set the second like to show it’s a work call, not personal
  • Consider buying a landline phone number and having it diverted to your mobile phone, if required

Whatever way you want to go, there are plenty of companies offering bespoke, professional telephone services for not a lot of money. There’s never been a better time to move to a professional service – there’s a great deal of suppliers.

 

Try to get as much natural light as possible

It’s well know that natural light is much better for people than artificial. Try to place your desk or working area by windows or areas of as much natural light as possible.

 

Make sure you’ve got all the equipment you need

There’s nothing worse than suddenly realising that your printer has run out of ink just when you really need to print and important document.

 

Avoid distractions

It sounds obvious, but radio and TV is likely to be a distraction. Whilst having the radio on can be welcome company for some, for others it can become a distraction. Putting the TV on may make you think you’re concentrating, but the reality is that you won’t be.

 

Take regular exercise to prevent cabin fever!

We’re all told how beneficial it is to get regular exercise but it’s easy to forget to do it when you’re sleeping, working and living in the same place.

Taking regular exercise when working from home gets you away from your screen and the telephone and gives you a change of scenery. Try and plan it into your lunch time, even if you only walk for 10 minutes.

 

Plan days in the real office (if possible)

You’re human and humans need interaction with other humans. Working from home can be a very solitary lifestyle, especially if you don’t have many friends or family around. Planning days in the office are a good way to keep up with the gossip in the office and can help you to keep on top of what’s happening in the company.

World’s Cheapest DIY Standing Desk

World's Cheapest DIY Standing Desk

DIY Standing Desk for £16Building the World’s Cheapest DIY Standing Desk was a piece of cake once I knew how to put it together. Using a mix of second hand and new parts sourced form Ebay, I was able to build my standing desk for less than £16 and it ended up looking fantastic. I can now benefit from all the good things about standing at work – increased circulation, burning more calories and generally being fitter. No more sitting around at work for 8 hours a time. In fact, evidence shows that you burn an extra 50 calories and hour by standing and over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 8lb of fat.

 

Gather the items you need for the World’s Cheapest DIY Standing Desk

The Stand Desk before I started
This is the basic Ikea desk I used for this project, but you can use any similar size table

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A second hand Ikea table (or similar size table – about 55cm tall and 55cm wide)
  2. Some shelf brackets
  3. A piece of timber or an old shelf for the keyboard and mouse shelf
  4. (Optional) paint

Painting your sub £16 standing desk is totally optional, but it does make it look smarter.

 

Building the DIY Standing Desk

Building the desk was easier than you might think and requires very few parts. You can buy your the man section of the desk in the form of an Ikea table, or just use a second hand table from somewhere else. In fact, if you have one of the tables lying around at home, you can build your standing desk for even less than £16.

standing desk for £16
The completed standing desk for £16

First of all, I glued the screw-in legs of the main table to make sure they stand the test of time. Next, I screwed in the shelf brackets which will support the keyboard and mouse table of my standing desk. Then I screwed in the shelf and brackets.

Finally, I lightly sanded the entire construction of the standing desk and primed in in grey primer before painting it matt black.

 

What the video of how to build a standing desk:

 

 

Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement

Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement

It’s very easy to carry out a Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement, and definitely one of the easiest to do. In fact, it’s so simple that even a novice tech can accomplish it.

You only need two tools – a sharp knife and a mini Philips screwdriver. You can buy a replacement screen cheaply here.

Once you’ve gathered together your tools and replacement screen, follow these instructions. There also a Toshiba CM30 Chromebook Screen replacement video at the end of the blog to guide you through the Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement step-by-step:

  1. Power of the CB30 by holding down the power button for 10 seconds
  2. Carefully remove the grey sticky screw covers on the bottom bezel
  3. Undo the two Phillips screws
  4. Carefully undo the bezel by prizing it off using a sharp knife – it should ‘click’ off
  5. Once the bezel is removed, undo the 4 Phillips screws holding the screen in place
  6. Fold the screen down on the keyboard by pulling the top away from you
  7. Carefully remove the sticky take from the ribbon connection on the base of the screen and unplug it
  8. Reassemble in reverse order.

Here’s the video guide:

 

End Virgin Media contract early without penalty

If, like me, you found yourself in the middle of a Virgin Media contract and wishing you’d stuck with Sky or BT, you’re probably wondering how to end Virgin Media contract early without penalty.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get out of any such contract early without penalties unless something within that contract changes. However, there is an easy option which not many people are aware of and it’s all down to Virgin Media hiking up their prices.

Price increases mean an early get-out clause for you.

Virgin Media will occasionally increase their prices. They’ve done it to me twice since I joined them. However, increasing the price means they have to give you an opportunity to get out of your contract with absolutely no penalty charges whatsoever; it’s the law.

Of course they don’t like it and if you call them they’ll usually try and keep you by offering to keep your package at it’s current price but if you want to leave there’s absolutely nothing they can do to stop you. Simply call them on 150 from a Virgin Media phone (or 0800 052 2160 from any other phone) and ask to disconnect.

What about my Virgin Media equipment?

The Virgin Media equipment (TV box, router, hub, etc) belongs to Virgin Media. Do not dispose of it or you may be asked to pay for the replacement. Instead, Virgin will send you some pre-pay jiffy bags for you to pop the equipment into so that you can return it to them. If you want to end a Virgin Media contract early without penalty make sure you return the gear or they will charge you!

What next?

You services should be disconnected within 30 days. Expect a call from Virgin Media within a few days of your cancellation offering you a fantastically low deal to stay with them. Of course if you want to go ahead with the low price go for it. Otherwise, politely tell then to “do one” and enjoy the harmony of a new TV provider.

Keep Cats off your Garden without hurting them

Keep cats off your garden

If you’re looking to keep cats off your garden and you don’t want to hurt them, there are a number of methods that you can adopt using natural remedies or technology. No one really wants to hurt animals, so this blog describes tried and tested methods.

 

Sonic scarers/water sprayers

Some people have reported good results using sonic scarers.

The idea is that the scarer puts out a very loud noise at a frequency that cats can hear but is too high for most humans to hear. The sound is activated when the motion detector senses something nearby. Cat’s don’t like the noise and move away. People have reported different levels of success in keep cats away. Check out the Amazon reviews in the above link for more information.

There are also similar versions which spray a jet of water to scare the cats away, which can be purchased here.

 

Essential oils

Cat’s are very sensitive to smells. Some reports suggest they have a 70% stronger sense of smell than humans.

Essential oils are very strong smelling and cats don’t like the smell of Lemongrass or Lavender. You only need a few drops of these oils to deter cats and this is a very natural way to keep cats off your garden.

oranges
Cat’s really don’t like the smell of oranges

Citrus (orange in particular)

Cat’s can’t stand the smell of citrus fruits, especially the skin. Try sprinkling orange or lemon peal over your flowerbeds or use a citrus essential oil.
Commercial repellent

‘Get off my lawn’ or ‘Get off my garden’ is a green gel which you deposit over lawns and flowerbeds. It’s non-toxic and produces a strong smell which keeps cats and foxes away.

Feedback for the product is mixed, but I have used it and found it very effective at deterring cats.

 

garlic
Garlic is another natural way to keep cats off your garden

Garlic is a great way to keep cats off your garden

Like other smells, cats don’t like the smell of garlic. They find it too strong and will tend to keep away. You can make a solution of garlic in water and spray it around flowerbeds and borders every other day or so. You’ll find commercial products will contain garlic so it clearly works.

 

Coffee grounds

Another smell that cats don’t like are coffee grounds. If you drink fresh coffee from ground beans you can try sprinkling them around your flower beds. The coffee is natural and will eventually compost into your soil.
Garden Hose

Cats hat water. If you’re sneaky and can get to it before the cat see your, grab your garden hose and give the cat a spray of cold water. You’ll only have to do that a few times before the cat will stop coming back.

 

Plants

curry-plant
Curry and lavender plants also help keep cats away

There are certain types of plants which cats hate; either because of the smell or because they’re uncomfortable.

In terms of smell, cat’s dislike the smell of rue, curry plant, rosemary, lavender & pennyroyal, Coleus Canina and lemon thyme.

You might also like to consider prickly plants such as blackberry, blackthorn or holly. Prickly for humans and even more of a deterrent for felines. Cactus has also been suggested by a reader; and you don’t get much more prickly than a cactus!

 

Chicken wire/netting

Using chicken wire or netting will keep cats off, but it’s not a very nice addition to a flowerbed.

Calendula for dry Skin: how this natural oil cured my psoriasis

Calendula for dry skin

I had suffered from flaky, scaly skin on my for many years until someone told to try Calendula for dry skin, a natural plant extract.

The problem started in my late teens and I suffered unto my mid 30’s. My skin would become flaky (almost like large flakes of dandruff) and covered my scalp and areas of facial hair. At certain times of the year such as during the winter, my skin would become itchy and at times very painful. I would end up with red blotches all over my face and if nothing else the issue was embarrassing. I felt conscious in front of my wife and meeting new clients at work could be very difficult.

Over the years I had tried all sorts of different creams and shampoos from my doctor, almost all of which barely made a difference and which had their own side effects. The Betacap scalp application (betamethasone) prescribed is a steroid cream which thins the skin and some of the creams turned oily and white and made the blotches almost more obvious.

In 2015, my sister-in-law suggested I tried calendula for dry skin. She is very much into organic alternatives and natural remedies and although I was skeptical, I purchased some Calendula bodywash and shampoo. This advice would change my psoriasis for the better.

 

Weleda Calendula for dry skin

I was recommended to try Weleda Calendula for dry skin, which was a wash that she used for her baby after researching the negative effects of some of the better known baby washes such as Johnson and Johnson which may contain carcinogens. Within a couple of days of using calundula my skin began to vastly improve. The itchiness almost completely subsided. The flaking virtually stopped and the red blotching reduced massively. People began to comment on how much better my skin looked.

I still used the Oilatum skin cream that my doctor had prescribed, and washed once a week with alphosyl shampoo (also prescribed by my GP) but the Calendula has made my skin so much more improved that one year on I just had to let others know.

 

Completely avoid sodium laureth sulphate!

The problem with the vast majority of shampoos and bodywashes is that they contain sodium laureth sulphate, a detergent. Sodium laureth sulphate is nasty stuff. It’s not natural and it irritates skin. Anyone with a skin allergy needs to avoid it completely.

 

Where to buy Weleda Calendula for dry skin

Weleda Calendula is available at most decent outlets but I find it cheaper to buy a few a time from Amazon using Amazon Prime. If this is the first time you’re trying it, just buy the one and give it a go. What do you have to lose?

Fix “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt”

If you’re searching for your website in Google and get an error saying:

A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt

you’ll need to make a quick change to your website to allow Google to index the website correctly.

A description for this result is not available because of this site's robots.txt

What is robot.txt?

robot.txt is a small file which sits on your website hosting area and tells spiders what to crawl (add to it’s index) and what to ignore. It’s important because without the robot.txt file spiders don’t know what it is they should be indexing.

 

How to fix the problem

The simple way to fix the problem is to upload a standard robot.txt file to your website. I’ve attached a standard version to this blog.

Simply upload it to the root area of your website (i.e. where your index or home page is) and then wait for Google to re-index your website.

How to turn a Garden Shed into an Office

turn a Garden Shed into an Office

When my wife became a teacher we quickly realised that our three bedroom house wasn’t big enough for us, our kids and the many boxes of marking that a teacher has to bring home on a daily basis. We also realised that my wife needed somewhere quiet, warm and comfortable to work, where she could lock herself away from the bustle of the family and store all of her equipment. We can’t afford to build an extension at the moment and moving home isn’t an option, so we looked for alternatives and decided to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office.

After watching a program called ‘Shed of the Year’ on television, converting a shed into an office quickly appealed as a cost effective idea for a DIY enthusiast like me, and as as you’ll soon discover, it was a great success.

 

Things to consider before you turn a garden shed into an office

Before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, there are a number of issues you need to consider. These are:

  • The size of the shed (if you’re buying new)
  • Damp proofing: your shed need to be 100% watertight from both rain and rising damp
  • Electricity: are you going to have mains power in the shed?
  • Insulation: important during cold winter days
  • Location: sheds can get very warm in the summer
  • Ventilation: you’ll need fresh air
  • Light: natural and artificial
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in
A 6ft x 8ft shed offer just the right size for a reasonable work area and to get a nice chair in

Choosing the right size of shed

This is going to depend on your personal requirements, but in my case a 6ft x 8ft shed provided plenty of space to two large sections of worktop (to use as a desk), a bookshelf and enough room to comfortably move an office chair around. If you have the space to go bigger that may be helpful particularly if you are an artist.

I don’t recommend that you buy anything smaller than 6ft x 8ft.

 

Make it watertight

Your shed will need to be 100% watertight so it’s important your deal with this step before anything else. In my case, I did the following:

  • before I fitted the roof panels, I added a sheet of damp proof sheeting (DMF) which was give to me by a friend from a home building project. In the event of a leak, the sheet will add extra protection and it also provides another level of protection from frost
  • I also added a sheet of the DMF to the entire floor before fitting the carpet to prevent rising damp and help to keep the cold out
    once the roof was fitted, I added a silicone sealant to each of the screw holes
  • I also added some strips of very strong and extra-sticky bitumen tape to the edges of the panels to prevent water ingress over time; probably not required but I had some left over so used it to add extra protection over time
  • you might want to consider using a silicone sealant on any gaps where the wood frame meets – this will prevent water ingress and the silicone will allow slight movement as the timber moves slighting during seasons

    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.
    Bitumen strips over the joints of the roofing will help the roof remain watertight for many years to come. You can even do this with a felt roof.

Will you need electricity in the office shed?

Are you planning on having lighting, heating and perhaps a laptop in your shed? In that case you’ll need to consider electricity.

This is a difficult topic as regulations vary considerably from area to area (and country to country). In my case I had to employ the services of an electrician to install an armoured cable from my house, underground and too the shed.

We did consider solar, but it was very expensive so we had to go for mains electricity. It’s something we may revisit in the future. I’ve since built a solar charger which you might want to check out.

 

What about heating in the shed?

This is going to vary depending on where you live. In my case our summers get up to around 33’c maximum, and down to about -5’c in the winter.

I did a lot of research on different ways to insulate the shed. I couldn’t use standard insulation like Celotex or wool as the cavity wasn’t wide enough on the frame. I could have added battens to the walls but this would only added to the cost and reduced the space inside.

I eventually made my own insulation after seeing some advice online. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Reflective: I purchased an catering sized roll of aluminium foil (yes, the stuff you use for cooking). Using a staple gun I stapled a layer over every surface. It reflects heat.
  2. Thermal: I purchased a large roll of bubble wrap with large bubbles and stapled it over every surface – it traps warm air.
  3. Sound: I added a layer of 5mm carpet underlay (new free from Freecycle) over every surface. It added thermal insulation and also helps for sound insulation.
  4. Strength: I boarded the shed with 4mm ply all over the interior to increase the tensile strength of the building

In the winter it works very well – put the heater on to take off the chill and the heat stays in for quite some time. After all, it’s not a huge space to heat.

I also picked up some carpet – for free – which was just the right size. It was brand new and added even more comfort to the existing damp sheet and underlay I’d previously installed.

As an alternative, you might also like to add some of the following to the ‘cavity’ created between the outside of the shed and your ply lining:

  • sheets of polystyrene
  • expanding foam
  • polystyrene balls (if you can get hold of them)

What ever you do, when you turn a Garden Shed into an Office you’re going to need to insulate it if you leave in an area where it can get cold. Ignore this step at your peril!

Wifi and internet

Given the shed is at the end of the garden, wifi signal was pretty much non-existent and when you could pick it up it was weak and patchy. I came accross the TP Link wireless booster. It basically turns your household wiring into a kind of local network for internet traffic and because the electricity for the shed came from my home I was able to extend the broadband internet to a really decent level in the shed. Highly recommended.

 

Lighting the office-shed

I felt it was important to get as much natural light into the shed as possible. Natural light is much better than artificial for people, and it also helps to reduced electricity bills by reducing the need for powered lighting.

The window that came with the shed was completely rubbish. It wasn’t a window as much as two 2mm think flimsy bits of plastic with cracked and marked. They weren’t waterproof and they offered no insulation. So I decided to make my own and it was very easy.

I purchased a sheet of polycarbonate sheeting around 1m by 70cm. This stuff is great because it’s lightweight, UV resistant and thermally insulating. I affixed a simple timber frame, a couple of hinges and a couple of window stays and the job was done.

I also purchased some LED lighting strips from Amazon and added them behind the polycarbonate I was given by a friend after they pulled down their extension. When they’re turned on at night they make the entire roof glow and look very warming.

A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation
A large polycarbonate window provides increased light, privacy and thermal insulation

 

Some other tips:

Shed doors have a tendency to bow and warp over time, especially in the winter. I recommend you add some cleat hooks to the top and the bottom of the door, as shown in the picture. Make sure you use them when you lock up; you’ll prevent the bow and you’ll thank me later.

If you’re constructing the shed from scratch (as I did) I recommend that you put plenty of extra screws into the frame to pull it all together. Don’t forget to screw the walls into the floor as well.

I managed to do almost the entire shed on my own, but if you can get the help of a friend then do. It’ll get the work done quicker and make it easier to move things around.

On a really tight budget? Check out local free adverts and websites as people will advertise sheds for free as long as you dismantle it for them. As long as the shed is solid it’ll be a great basis for your project.

Kitchen worktop makes and ideal desk with just a couple of supporting legs and a mount to the walls (set it at 30 inches from the ground which is generally the accepted height of a desk)

So our shed still isn’t quite finished. I’ve still got some cosmetic areas to tidy up, such as a window frame, but the shed is in use daily and I’m assured it’s very comfortable!

Checklist

I’ve put together a list of items you’ll need to arrange in advance before you turn a Garden Shed into an Office, which should give you a fair idea of what you’ll need:

  • A shed (obviously!), no smaller than 8x6ft
  • Damp proof sheeting (DMF)
  • Polycarbonate for the window
  • Some timber, a few lengths of 3/4″ x 1″ for the window frame
  • A couple of hinges
  • A couple of window stays
  • Aluminium foil
  • Bubble wrap
  • Carpet underlay
  • Carpet/lino for the floor
  • Old (or new) worktops for the desk
  • A box of 40mm wood screws
  • Ply to line the walls and make it look more aesthetically pleasing

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog on how to Turn a Garden Shed into an Office and I hope you get some ideas to make your shed a success. If you have anything to add, please comment below and I’ll be sure to reply.