Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Gardening is a very relaxing activity that can be done by people of all ages. The feeling of achievement when you see your plants grow from small beginnings to a full grown plant that may even give you some blooming flowers or bear fruit for you to enjoy.

Edible plants are one of the more popular choices for beginners because of their relative fast growth and also because you get to show off the fruits of your labor to friends and family.

As kids most of us did the little bean or corn kernel sprout in a jar, and for some plants that's as easy as it gets to get your own vegetable garden growing: place seeds in dirt, water regularly and wait for them to grow.

Beans are one of the easiest plants to grow to harvest. They are readily available and you can plant a lot of them to make sure at least one of many gets to the end of the season.

To grow beans, place them in the ground about 6 inches deep, water and cover them; doing it in that order is so that the beans will have moisture around them as soon as they are in the ground, otherwise they could remain semi dry or moist only from the top.

Beans don't need much maintenance but some varieties will grow long vines so you may want to let them climb something for them to get full sun ( and also so they won't take over your garden space ).

For dry beans, let the pod dry before harvesting. For peas and green beans, harvest as soon as the pod is fully formed and before it starts getting fibrous ( you will be able to tell from experience, everyone has a different idea of what fibrous is ).

For most other plants like tomato, cucumber, squash and lettuces, it's pretty much the same procedure. Some people will tell you to use this and that fertilizer, do this and that before and after planting and stuff like that; unless you planting area has some special circumstances, chances are your plants will make it through, and if not, you need to "dig" a little deeper for specialized information.

Keep in mind that some plants do better in warmer or colder weathers, so make sure to check your seed package for the correct time of the year to plant them.

Tomatoes and cucumbers do better in warmer climates, so late spring/early summer is a good time to sow them, potatoes can be started all year round ( if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged ).

For a good choice of starter plants, try beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and garlic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Working out is a great way to boost your energy, lose weight and get a more toned and firm body.

A beginner's workout should include exercises to help you feel like you're getting a workout done, while not requiring any of the  heavy equipment or long hours because, to be completely honest, that's what makes a lot of people drop out from their exercises.

First a disclaimer: I am not a health or exercise/fitness professional, I only share my personal experience from working out as a beginner. This should not be considered medical/professional advice; see your doctor and/or fitness expert before starting any exercise routine.

Always remember to warm up before exercising to prevent cramps, pulls or other related injury. A simple warmup is a light jog and/or a few jumping jacks. You should feel your breathing starting to get a little heavier and your body literally warming up, feeling which can be specially noticed around the joints (elbow, knee, wrists).

Also, a gentle stretch and loosening of the joints (moving without weight/resistance is a good way) will also make it easier for you to get the exercises done and not feel any discomfort.

The basics most people already know: pushups, bicep curls, pull ups, lunges and bicycle crunches will get you started in the right direction and can be done without any equipment whatsoever.

The pushup:

Very basic exercise. Lie face down on the floor and place your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart on the ground, feet should be close together and the weight should be on the ball of the foot (the area where the toes articulate with the rest of the foot), not on the tips of the toes.

To perform, push with your arms to get you away from the floor: this should be a controlled and slow movement, not jerking or fast as it could lead to injury. When your arms are completely extended go back down slowly towards the floor but don't go all the way down, once the weight is on your arms it should stay there for the rest of time, not on the floor. Repeat.

Always keep your body straight (that means no curving up or down the spine or moving the head in any way) and don't lock your elbows (that means don't extend your arms all the way, keep them slightly bent).

If the regular floor pushups seem to tough for you, one way to make them easier is to do them so that your hands will be higher up that your feet, for example using steps of stairs or a piece of furniture (make sure it is firmly position so that it won't move or you may end up hurting yourself).

The bicep curl:

For this one you do need some weight, not necessarily a dumbbell, but any weighty object you can grip with your hands and lift.

To perform, place the weight in your hand with your palm facing your front; moving only the arm and elbow slowly lift the weight until your hand is near your chest. Getting the weight down is as important (if not more) than lifting it, so slowly bring the weight down to the initial position (don't lock the elbow). Repeat.

Do not swing the weight and, again, keep your body straight; you should always feel the effort in your bicep area, anything else and you won't get the full benefit, as well as getting the possibility of injury.

Pull ups:

Easiest but also the most difficult to properly perform. For the pull up you will need an overhead bar that can stand your whole weight.

Grip the bar with a wide grip (put your arms to the sides at a 90 degree angle) and your palms facing you. Pull with your back; this sounds counter-intuitive, but this exercise is about the back not the arms. Think lifting your body as opposed to pulling the bar down. Lift until the bar reaches your chin, then slowly go back to the initial position. Repeat.

This one most people struggle with because their own weight is too much to lift, not because they're overweight, but because the muscles are not trained to produce that much force. To make it easier on yourself use a bar that allows you to keep your feet on the ground at all times, this literally takes some weight off your back and the exercise is easier to perform all the way.


This exercise is for the lower body: legs, calves and some abs.

Start in a standing position with feet close together. Take a long step, long enough so you can get down on one knee, just don't put your weight on the knee. Both legs should end at a 90 degree angle from the ground (back leg down, front leg up). Slowly go back to the initial position. Repeat with other leg.

As with most exercises, keep the joint slightly bent (in this case, the knees) at all times, keep your body straight and perform the exercise in a slowly and controlled manner.

Bicycle crunches:

Most people know about these but very few do them; they're scientifically proven to be the best ab exercise as it stimulates all the muscles and gets them working harder than any other ab exercise.

Lie flat on the floor with hands at the back of the head, legs straight and  slightly elevated from the floor. Without using your arms, lift your upper body towards the legs, moving your left leg towards your right elbow until they touch. Repeat with alternate right leg to left elbow.

Same as with all other exercises, weight always on the abs, don't pull your head with your hands and perform the whole of the exercise as a single slow continuous motion.

These are the most basic exercises that beginners can start a workout with. A simple all week routine is alternating one day upper body (pushup, bicep curls and pullups) with another day for lower body (lunges, bicycle crunches). You can mix in a jogging session with any of the exercises, just make sure to also alternate (don't always jog on lower/upper body days) and rest at least one day of the week (that means don't workout, not staying on the couch all day).

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Piano or musical keyboard is one of those instruments everyone seems to have played at least once, and is also the first musical instrument that many people learn to play.

Playing the piano is very easy; little kids as young as 4 or 5 yr old play it, it's just a matter of practice and playing the songs you like.

First in learning piano is the layout of the keys.

The keys are eight white and five black keys per octave, the latter which are placed between two white keys and further away from the player than the white ones. Each pair of white keys has its corresponding black key, except between E - F, and B - C.

The keys start with C, the first white key that is followed by a black one. You can quickly identify it because there are only two black keys in the "group" where the C key is.

The names of the keys follow the alphabet ( A B C D E F G, repeats ), the black being either sharp if to the right of a key, or flat if to the left. Each group from C to C including flats and sharps ( black keys ), is called an octave.

After the getting to know the layout, you need some music to play and practice. Reading sheet music is a good way to get some music playing.

A piano music sheet is composed of two sections, one for the bass section or accompaniment which is played with the left hand, and the melody or treble section, played with the right hand. The treble section is placed above the bass section, separated by a blank space.

Each section contains five lines and four spaces in between the lines, each representing a pitch or note; the next line is always the next letter in a note. For example, if a space is the note C, the next line above it will be D, and the next space will be E.

An easy way to remember them is by using mnemonics: a name or sound easier to remember than just the raw info. For the treble section, the positions at the spaces between the lines spell  F A C E ( self explanatory ) from the bottom up; the bass section for the same spaces spell  A C E G ( an easy way is ACE of Gold, like the playing card name, or alternatively, [A]ll [C]ows [E]at [G]rass ).

The position determines the note to be played, and the shape of the note symbol written defines how long it should be played. The base time or whole note ( pictured as a white fill circle) is the longest time a note is played, and all others are in comparison to that note.

Next is the half note ( pictured as a smaller white circle with a line pointing either up or down ), as the name suggests, it is played with a duration of half the whole. Others are the quarter ( pictured similar to the half, except with a black fill ), the eighth ( like a quarter, but with a small wave line at the end of the line ).

For simple melodies and pieces the position is more than enough to play, the duration of each note and the overall tempo can be estimated.

Now, some songs to play and practice with!

You can find some beginner music sheets at capotastomusic including twinkle twinkle little star, amazing grace and others. For the more popular songs like Just the way you are from bruno mars, some from britney spears, taylor swift, eminem and others, littletranscriber has a few available ( a bit more difficult than capotasto's, but has more show-off value when playing to friends =] ).