Thursday, 23 October 2014

Love, Faith, Hope

& Compassion. (Can't forget compassion)

They should be the fours corner stones we build on lives upon.  If these were all of the world's reference points, our Moral compass would no doubt point north. What a wonderful world it would be indeed!

As most of the kitchen work is gearing towards completion and we have started back on our Master bedroom, I was keen on  using a printable I created a few Valentines ago.  You guys may remember this post:

Nothing quite captures the definition of Love to me  more than 1 Corinthians 13:4 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

While this is poignant in itself. I felt that it needed to have more: 

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love"

So to make Mr. Love not feel so lonely,  I have now created two more friends to join him: 


"Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things - with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope" - Corazon Aquino 


"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all" - Emily Dickinson.

To download, right click and select Save Image. I have also created different versions in Green, Pink and Blue. 




If there is a particular colour which you would like used outwith the ones shown here, please contact me with the Colour Hex Code

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

One Note- A Project's BFF

Everyone needs a BFF:
  • Bert has Ernie,
  • Ms. Aniston has Ms. Cox
  • Oreos have milk. 
I am lucky to have two: My Steve-o and my lovely Terri. But what about Projects?

Amigos, Projects need BFF(s).  Who will document  and track their progress, create the much required TO DO list, offer inspiration and encouragement?

A Projects Best Friend Forever

Since the launch of Microsoft One Note, I am glad to advise that that  BFF position has filled:

Let's just say if a Project was a man, then One note would be his long suffering wife:  keeping that bad boy on track, relevant and organised.

I love Microsoft One Note. I use it professionally and personally. All my projects can be found on this software. It is easy to use, integrates with all my mobile devices (iOS and windows OS, thanks to it's cloud service)  and I really dig its core functionality.

I tend to use One Note, daily. I  use it as my Project journals,  and  on some devices it offers the functionality to put pen to paper aka screen, i.e actually write notes on your device and just like magic it writes on the One Note app. Gotta love technology, especially digital note taking ones!

Using One Note on the PC 

If you are familiar with Office post 2007, the layout and interface of the software will be recognizable. Office 2012 does offer additional features, but overall the format is not dissimilar.

For this post I will be showing One Note 2010. 

One Note has the Office Ribbon interface, making navigating and identifying available functionality quickly and easily. One thing to "note" (pun intended)  if One Note's available functionality will be significantly less than let's say MS Excel (another software which I love) and even MS Word. 

For the sake of this post, I will not categorically speak on every available capability, rather just highlight  general usage of the software, if you are anything like me (a nosy user) you will discover more and more  the more you use it.

General Layout

1.) Notebooks

Located on the left is a listing of your notebooks. For as fair as I know, you can create as many Notebooks as you like. I try to keep my notebooks very General. It is very easy to add a new Note book, right click on this banner.  

Online Cloud Service 

 I  like to keep my notebooks available online, this is especially important when you use a mirage of devices on a daily basis. This ensures that any amendments made to your notebooks are always in sync. 

Using One Note, will require you to have a Microsoft Live Account (think: Hotmail, Outlook etc) These accounts are free and will also provide a free 15 gb cloud  service known as One Drive. (This is a great system and I would recommend anyone to sign up for this free and reliable service!)

A green Icon with a tick denotes that the notebooks has successfully been uploaded to your cloud service. 

There are many ways to sync your notebook online, however going via the File tab is always fool proof, select your notebook, click on settings and you will be given the option to Share your notebook. Note will bring your through a mini wizard to get that online. 

2.) Chapters

Now that you have synced Notebooks, let's fill them up with yummy Content goodness. While in my Notebook creation, I stayed as general as I could, while adding Chapters I tend to do the opposite: the more specific the better. By the way, am I the only person who can't pronounce Specific?  I tend to say Pacific... anyway....

Chapters: When planning for projects, especially House Projects, I like to add very detailed labels for my Chapters.  As shown below, I have a tab for each room and even a tab for my blog.

Adding Tabs aka Chapters is easy, you can create them two ways:

  • You can either right click this banner and select new section
  • or click on the last tab that has an asterick symbol

The tabbed Chapters or (Sections as MS One Note calls it ) color can be changed. Just right click the tab and select section color. Helps if you want to group your chapters together via color.

3.) Pages

Ok so you have your Notebooks, you have your chapters, now lets get some content rich pages and fill this notebook out!

Just like adding notebooks and chapters, adding pages is pretty straight foward:
  • You can either right click this banner and select New Page
  • or click on the icon which says New Page
In fact, clicking on the icon which says New Page will give you additionally functionality, such as creating a sub page or even use a template Page

These are good if you are strapped for time and want to add a cohesive theme.. Frankly I don't use them. However, I could save my current page as a template and reuse it time and time again. 

4.) Page Attributes

What is really great about MS One Notes is the page Attributes:

  • I can copy and paste directly to my page
  • I can click anywhere on the page and add text
  • I can lift and shift emails/documents/images/audio files from the desktop directly to page. It will store all documents and display all images. 
  • I can tag items on my page (more on that feature as it is really cool)
  • I can assign follow up actions and link it to my Outlook email. 
  • I can email the contents of my page to anyone. 
MS One note is pretty comprehensive software, it is really just plugs into most parts of your "digital life management tools"

Additional and Useful Functionality 

Tag Items and Outlook Tasks are king! I use these functionalities all the time

MS One Note comes with pre designated tagging which allows you to prioritize and categorize your content for follow ups, reminders, etc. In fact you can create your own tags if you wanted. Just click on Tags found on your header bar. 

Adding tags will allow you to search for them, which makes it really easy to find your items.

Outlooks task is pretty priceless for me. This allows me to assign a follow up via Outlook which will include reminders. 

Using One Note on iOs/mobile devices

One Note is available to many platforms: Mac, PC, Android, Windows phone and iOS. But the beauty of this software is it's remote access. The key to making it's transition from a feature rich PC program to a light device app lies in it's simple but effective interface.

You can't always bring your PC/Mac with you everywhere, that is why mobile devices are really useful. I use both iOs and Windows mobile as my preferred mobile devices (one is personal, and the other is my work phone), so can't really vouch for Android functionality but I am sure it is pretty similar.

While the functionality is more limited than it's PC counterparts, you can still create new Notebooks, chapters and pages and most importantly you can access your already created notebooks. 

You can create notes, lists, bullet points etc. 

Even Add images :) 

And the best part, it all stays synced, so next time I use my desktop I can see all additions.

MS One Note, is possibly one of my favorite project management  tools. there are more functionality available then noted here but I hope this helps.

 So how much is this delightful tool?


Yup, this little wonder tool is FREE! For all devices: Mac/PC, mobile devices (android, iOs, windows mobile). Who said the best things in life are not free? Get your free copy here

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Metod to their Madness

For readers who have been reading my blog, you may have guessed I am a Ikea fan. Our kitchen, wardrobes, dining table and living room media units are all Ikea and we really love them.
I think they are really good value for money, especially as more expensive brands offer close to like for like furniture quality and material. Those brands I speak of are possibly Next, Marks and Spencer sometimes even John Lewis. Hate to say it most of their items are flat packed but with a nice inflated price to accommodate their labelling. Thanks but no thanks. 

I think the problem that Ikea possible faces is the inescapable: "familiarity breeds contempt" effect. Mostly everyone knows someone who owns at least one of the incredibly popular expedit bookcases. And why not? They are inexpensive, fantastically functional and perfect for a quick hack job. However, I guess if you see something everywhere the last thing most people want to do is "follow the masses".

Well being pig headed as I am, I like to follow my wallet and not worry about the masses.  My point of view is that  I am working to  sustain a balanced life, not working to pay for items which on a whole do not truly enrich my life. Hence my love of the 4 letter wonder: Ikea. Rant over. But hey to each their own, right? 

As mentioned in our last post, we had a bit of a mishap in the Kitchen. It is a bit of a long story, so I will save it for another day, but that mishap means we will need to look to expanding on our kitchen. Which ultimately means, purchasing new kitchen units. Enter the 4 letter wonder. 

But here in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom Ikea has retired it's long line of Kitchen System Faktum. And replaced it with a new more modular system called Metod. Boy oh Boy is it cool!

Think smaller more customisable cabinets and doors and new draw solutions for any kitchen. Everything looks to be in increments of 20 centimetres. So units that are 20 cm, 40 cm, 60 cm, and finally 80 cm. Doesn't sound that radical, but it really makes for fun "legoish" design

According to Ikea: 
Our new kitchen system METOD, is Swedish for method, because it's a great system, designed to give you total freedom to personalise your kitchen layout, style and functionality, whatever the size of your home, or your budget

I am loving the black kitchen by the way, if we have a bigger space I would reconsider totally. 

Thankfully, they still make our doors as there have been some changes to their door line. Big problem here is this system is not compatiable with our existing Faktum system so we may need to do a bit of hacking to make it work. 

But so far I do think it is a better system. I have visited Ikea to check out this new line and it looked and felt almost a bit of better quality then Faktum. Not sure what the plans are to bring this to outher countries however you can check out their new line here.

On  completely separate note, besides the Kitchen I am so in love with a recently added bed  model for 2015:

I am seriously in LOVE:

In fact, guys I spent the last pennies of our bedroom budget on purchasing it! Yup, the bedroom budget has been blown. We just purchased it today and will be getting it shipped in a few weeks times. Hopefully that will give me the time to finish up on the bedroom? 

Maybe.. just maybe.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Going from three to four!

Our home has now grown by two feet  four lovely paws!!

So very happy to say we have welcomed our 1st  furry child: Miss Harley Harkins.

Harley is a Border Terrier, who has a particular love of all things squeaky and furry and tickles to her tummy. She was a surprise to Aedan, who although been pining for a wee dog of his own for years, did not realize that summer of 2014 was going to be the year of the Dog ;)

I had planned on added a furry pal to our family for a while, but was just waiting for the right time. Summer looked to be best time for us especially with School out and me able to take a good chunk of July off for vacation. House training in the colder months does not appeal to me and my sub tropic blood.

Aedan's response to finding a four legged pal in his home, was absolutely adorable, I dare to mentioned there was a few happy tears shed by our little guy and maybe even his parents.

We are all equally smitten. She is so very sweet, full of character and wonderfully adorable. I claim that Harley must be the cutest and smartest puppy in the known worlds but I am, above all, bias.

While she is just completely irresistible, it has been a bit of work on our end.. those periodic night time trips to the yard does eventually take it's toll. It is like having a baby again!

But with a face like this,  who needs sleep er?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Bucket

Spring has finally hopped here at Casa Harkins! Granted, it is a very bad pun however you must allow me at least one badly delivered Easter pun, the bunny demands it! 

Spring is big business around these parts, it consists of 4 family birthdays, 1 Mothers day (Brits celebrate mother's day in March),  gardening season commences and finally a fun day full of egg hunts and bunny visits. 

I love Easter baskets, especially when I can try my hand at making them or rather filling them up! 

Funnily enough, Easter baskets are not as popular here in the UK then it is in America and as such I always enjoyed making them for the kids every year. 

This year however, as the children are getting older I traded in the wicker basket of old for a new shiny pail.  In creating the Easter baskets bucket, I opted to go for a more naturalist theme of gardening. What better way to cultivate some life long gardeners then to add a bit of chocolate bribery, right?

Step 1: Gather your materials 

Items for our Easter buckets:
  1. Pail - £1.00 (Poundland)
  2. Large Mini Egg - £1.00 (Asda)
  3. Kid size gloves -  £1.00 (Asda)
  4. Kid size trowel and fork -  £1.00 (Asda)
  5. Wind Chime -  £1.00 (Asda)
  6. Bunny lolly pop-  £1.00 (Asda)
  7. Easter grass -  50p (Asda)
  8. Easter cracker - 25p ( pack of 4 for £1.00- Asda)
Total: £4.75 per bucket 

Of course, I then had an after thought that adding Seeds to this fun easter bucket would have been   very in keeping with our gardening theme. Ah well, there is always next year. But the good thing here is you can put any theme related item in your bucket. I would say keep your bucket small to medium. I like to keep larger gifts for birthdays and christmas, so I try to manage gift expectations whenever possible. 

Step 2: Filler Up

Filling the buckets was easy peasy. I added a bit of a filler on the bottom of the pails with a crunched up shopping bag. This helps the easter grass from disappearing in the bucket.  

Then it is a case of adding your easter grass and fluffing it up in the process.  I like a bit of it to spill a bit over the sides. The grass really act as a staging area of your items. 

Once you have it fluffed to your liking, start adding your items. I add my fork and trowel to the back as they are one of the larger  stiffer items and added the gloves directly to the front to drape over the bucket. 

Now that the structure of the bucket is laid out, I add the remaining items. Allowing the larger items to sink a bit deeper into the bucket, while allowing the grass to cater to it's shape. 

Step 3: It's a wrap

After playing with the arrangement,  It is then a case of wrapping the bucket in clear cellophane and adding some simple raffia ribbon.  And voila it is completed.  

Again in retrospect, adding a  name label would really make this work even better. I will need to remember that for Easter 2015. So that is me guys: 1 bucket down.. 5 more to go :) 


Happy Easter! 

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