Saturday, July 23, 2011

Decorating home for less

What our home makes us feel? Does it make us feel happy, energized, and at the same time bring us peace? If not so, then why?  Something is behind that. A well decorated room always makes us feel happy. After a hard work through the whole day when we come back to a nicely decorated cozy home we definitely feel relaxed and happy. There are so many ways to do that. The easiest way is to consult with a designer. As we cannot always afford to do the same, or sometimes we want to do the same thing by ourselves. When we live in a rented apartment we definitely don’t want to spend much money to decorate the home. Yet we wish to live in a nicely decorated place. This is not always required to revamp home with a big-ticket, floor-to-ceiling remodel. Making just a few apparently small changes and rooms will suddenly seem richly revived which can be called smart decoration. Whether you're looking to renovate a new home or simply spruce up an old one, decorating your abode has never been easier!  We can consult with books from library which are full of ideas, makeover shows on TV and different websites. Sometimes, we just have to see what others have done and try to get ideas. Setting a focal point is a must when decorating any room. For example  the focal point of the bedroom is always the bed. Select one that best reflects your personality. Do not overdo.
Here are some of my personal ideas.
1.       Color of the room:
The paint is the cheapest decorating tool, which can be done by one self. Nothing brightens a room like a fresh coat of paint. Bright and light color room always looks spacious. As the sun light reflects more in light color wall than in dark color wall. Bright sunlight in the room helps to energize us. If you feel the light color is very dull then instead of coloring the whole room with dark color you can paint some specific areas of one or two walls with any bright color that matches with base color of the room. For example the wall behind the TV you can paint with bright color in your living room. Coloring in small areas are much easier and can be done without any help.
2.       Less number of furniture (Less is more):
In recent time living in a big house with large rooms cannot be imagined. So heavy furniture in a small room makes the room look clumsy. Slick and less furniture are always good and make the room more specious.
3.       Less number of collectibles:
Many people have hobby of collecting home decors, so do I. So fostering this hobby one shelf can be kept in one side of the room.  However many home decors make room looks cramp than charming. The color of the furniture should have some similarity between themselves as well as with the color of the walls. Sometimes if any furniture cannot be found in a desired color then the same piece can be colored by you with available furniture-paint in market. If you like to decorate your home with flowers you can put little ikebana instead of putting regular flower vases.
4.       Give old furniture a new look:
Instead of throwing old furniture you can be give them a new look. The piece can be colored and covered with some nice piece of fabric. If you have a functioning sofa but hate the upholstery, cover it up. Slipcovers are cheap alternatives to reupholstering. If you can sew, do it yourself; otherwise, take help from skilled tailor or seamstress to make classy covers for déclassé furniture. Sometimes old and unused furniture can be used in a new and innovative way. Once I saw in a TV show that one lady converted an old wooden rocker into a coffee table.
5.       Light colored curtains:
Dark colored heavy curtains make the room looks always dark whether it is a sunny day or a cloudy day. Light colored contemporary designed fabric can be used for window dressing.
6.       Try to reuse things before throwing them away:
Before throwing away anything, be it a piece of paper or a broken plate just try to imagine how those pieces can be reused in a different way. Once my mother made small shelves from the shelves of the broken refrigerator door. I saw an artist converted a broken plate into a clock by putting quartz between the two broken pieces of the plate.
7.       Try to use articles from the thrift store:
A regular visit to flea markets, antique shops, thrifts store can be very helpful. Sometimes nice decorating pieces are found there. Those pieces can be given a different look. Some thrift shops have kitchen sections. A shelf of bright dinner-set will make the kitchen sparkle, which is cheap. Once I bought a pot from a thrift store. However, still I don’t know what actually that is. That may be a tea pot or a jug. I use that piece as a flower vase. Everybody who comes to my house asks me from where I bought the nice vase.
8.       Do some DIY project:
There is no need to be an artist to paint on a canvas. For example you can color a canvas with the matching color of the room. Then put some shape cut out from somewhere, be it a bird or a flower and paste on the canvas. Internet is the best option to get ideas for doing this kind of small project. Some stores specialize in old art prints; you can also find old prints in antique stores or even junk stores. Once they're framed, they look mighty pricey.
9.       Try to do some handmade articles:
I believe that there is some artistic sense in everybody. The only thing is to find it out. So making some tablecloths or paper mash décor or simple painting is not a rocket science.  
10.   Give some personal touch:
Decorate a wall in any of the room with old photos and your child’s paintings. When you remember those days from the photos and the paintings, you’ll automatically feel happy.
11.   Keep room clean:
To Decorate a room is not a one- time job. The room should be kept neat and clean. A neat room with simple decorations is more desirable than dirty room with costly articles.
12.   Do not clutter:
Minimum and useful things should be kept in the room. So many articles make the room looks untidy and to be withdrawn. Once you decide what to keep or not to keep, then organize a yard sale. Use that money to buy any big-ticket item.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Napa valley and Fairfield

When we moved to Northern California my husband and I decided to visit all the nearby travel destinations. Our first destination was Napa Valley and Fairfield.“Do you like to taste wine?” my husband asked me.“No” I answered.“OK… but I like to do that. So we will go to Napa” my husband said.I had never tasted wine before. My husband offered me many times to taste but every time I turned them down. Though I denied to his proposal but I really wanted to taste wine of Napa.  So when he asked me the second time I agreed to him.
We went to Napa in December 2008 when my son was only two months old. That time my husband made some mistakes and we landed up in the Down town of Napa. We had not enough time in our hand to explore as we were in hurry to reach SFO before evening. So we couldn’t taste wine that time.This time my husband declared that the tour was going to be total relaxation so no hustle and bustle.  That was a good idea. There was not much places to visit near Napa valley. After the discussion my husband focused on booking hotel in Napa. He was really stunned by the price of the hotels. We couldn’t find any good reason for the sky-high price of hotels in Napa. He found reasonable priced hotel in Fairfield which was only 20 miles away from Napa. So we decided to stay in Fairfield. After searching many hotels we found that Hotel Extended Stay America was fulfilling all our criteria. We planned our vacation from 4 to 6 September, 2010.
  Picturesque Napa Valley

For the very first time with a glass of wine
On 4th of September we were not in hurry to start in the morning.  We started our journey from our home late in the morning in a very relaxing mode. In two hours we reached our hotel. The first impression entering the hotel was not very encouraging. The lights in the bathroom was not working in the room that we were allotted. After much of complain we were promised to be allotted another room. Anyway we started from there for Napa in a hurry. My husband was recollecting all the roads while we were going. But I couldn’t recollect a bit. My husband decided to go to Domaine Carneros winery. We were going through the barren hill where cows were grazing. Once I showed cows to my little son. That was the blunder I made. Whenever he couldn’t see any cow he started shouting.
The beauty- Contribution of both man and nature

After sometime we entered the Napa valley. Breathtaking views at every turn, picturesque hills planted with vineyards year-round and wineries of every stature dotted the landscape. The 18th and 19th century artistic wineries among the vineyards in the bright sunny afternoon escalate my desire visiting those places. But we had not much time in our hand to visit all those exotic architecture. Anyway when we reached Domaine Carneros winery it was already 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I was over thrilled in my mind to taste wine for the first time in my life. That time my husband was still thinking whether to sit there or to go to another winery. I pushed him to sit there as the wineries were going to close to public at 5 in the evening. We were given three kind of wine to taste, from light to spicy. As totally new my husband asked me to taste the lightest one. Yeeeaaaaakkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was too much bitter. I could take only 2-3 sips.
Wine tasting session

 My husband finished rest of the wine. That time I was pondering over to get the answer that in what taste people love to have wine. Anyway we bought one bottle of the medium spicy wine. First my husband was not willing to buy wine which was costly. I insisted him to buy one as he loved the taste. In middle of the luxuriant green with bright sun overhead created a romantic evening. We wanted to spend sometime there to feel that. But my son put the spoke in the wheel. He became too irritated and didn’t want to sit for a single moment. An elderly lady gave him some color pencil and paper to color but he was not willing to do the same. Then without any other option we left the winery. We planned to visit another winery but it was already 5 in the evening. My husband saw a lake in the map but we couldn’t find the lake. But driving through the vineyards miles after miles was a different feeling. Here I would like to share one fact about wine which is one barrel of wine makes about 20 cases, or 1200 glasses. A ton of grapes equaled 720 bottles of wine, or 60 cases. One vine annually produces between four and six bottles of wine, or 20 and 30 glasses. Each bottle of wine contains about 2.8 pounds of grapes; each 5-ounce glass of wine a little over half a pound. After sometime we came to our hotel room. Then we went to nearby Wal-Mart to buy some essential things. Meanwhile my husband tried to book tickets for the wine tour in wine train. Unfortunately he couldn’t get any ticket for next day. I was hesitating to go in train tour. $50 per person was too much for us. But my husband was very interested so I didn’t object. He booked the ticket for Monday, 6th September. 
The winery before sunset

Next day we woke late and decided to visit Jelly Belly jelly beans factory in Fairfield. Aroma of chocolate, peach, cinnamon, pineapple and many more welcomed us in the factory, as it was Sunday the production was closed so we couldn’t see that. But we were shown every details of the production in a 40 minutes guided tour. We also came to know a brief history of the company and also some fun facts related to the company. The company was first started in Chicago in early 19th century. Now they had factories at Chicago, Fairfield. The most famous attraction of the factory was the artwork made of jelly beans. Almost all the famous personality of the world had their jelly bean portrait there. Another attraction of the tour was the jelly beans tasting of every stage from start to the finished product. We were told that former US president Ronald Regan used to have jelly beans to give up his smoking habit. We received complementary Jelly Belly packs after the tour. After coming back to the hotel we searched other places to visit in Fairfield. Then we found the Air Museum in the air force base. Without knowing anything we went there. When we reached there we found that the museum was already closed down to public. There was nothing to do so we went to the nearby mall for strolling.
Inside Jelly Belly factory

Jelly Belly Art

6th was the last day or our tour. We woke up early in the morning. Our plan was to go back home after the wine train tour. Though we tried our best to start early form the hotel still we were late. My husband drove very fast to reach Napa downtown. The road was closed for repair work near. Somehow he managed to reach the McKinstry Street Station. We rushed inside to take the tickets. Then we waited for a while to taste wine. I didn’t understand that why I couldn’t get any taste of wine. I found every wine to taste bitter. I didn’t know how my husband could distinguish the tastes between different wines.  Anyway after that our journey started through the calm and serene Napa downtown. The Napa Valley Wine Train provided a relaxing three-hour thirty-six mile round-trip journey between the historic town of Napa through one of the world's most famous wine valleys to the quaint village of St. Helena and back. The tracks upon which the Napa Valley Wine Train ran were originally built in the 1860s to bring guests to the hot spring resort town of Calistoga. While the track to Calistoga no longer existed, much of the rest of the route of the Napa Valley Wine Train was unchanged. The Napa Valley Wine Train was a leisurely journey through the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley in painstakingly restored vintage rail cars.
The Wine train

 I was enjoying the beauty of the nature. While I was taking snaps, suddenly my camera got switched off automatically. My husband and I tried to switch it on without any success. I became very disheartened. I couldn’t capture the moment which I spent in the train. The journey became boring all of a sudden. I wished I had spare battery with me . My husband suggested having some food in the train. We ordered for dessert and burger. But the taste was not good. The journey ended at 2:30 pm. Then we started for our home and reached at 5 in the evening.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Atlanta Trip

After the Hawaii trip in July 2009 my husband and I decided to go to Atlanta to visit my sister-in-law and her family in December of the same year. We booked our ticket for the same. My son and I were not keeping well for few days. I was very worried whether we could travel. On 24th in the morning the LAX airport became so crowded that it became news.  Too many people were traveling that time. We thought the same thing would be repeated in the evening also so we started early from home for our evening flight. But the LAX airport was not much crowded like morning so we could do all the formalities at airport very peacefully. In the airport while we had been going through the security check suddenly the security alarm started ringing. We couldn’t understand what happened; we only followed the security officers’ direction and waited quietly. My son slept most of the time so we didn’t face any trouble.
In the early morning of 25th we reached Atlanta airport, officially known as Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport which is the world’s busiest airport. I had never seen such a colossal airport in my life. After getting down from the flight we started walking towards the baggage claim without knowing the enormity of the airport. After walking for some time when we didn’t reach baggage claim area we rode the travelator. Still it was taking time to reach. Lastly we took the airport train to reach the baggage claim area. To our amazement our son was sitting quietly in his stroller. My sister-in-law and her husband came to receive us. The weather was not good that day. It was drizzling and nobody was in the mood to go out. Also we were very tired so we slept for a long time. My sister-in-law prepared many delicious dishes and we enjoyed the food a lot. We chatted a lot and watched a movie in the evening. That was our quiet Christmas day celebrations.
Next day we woke up very late so we dropped our plan to go Georgia Aquarium and Coke Museum. I told my sister-in-law about the post-Christmas sale in Michael’s store. First we went to the nearby mall. My sister-in-law bought some beautiful dresses for my son. Then we returned home. After a hearty lunch we went to Michael’s store. But to our disappointment we didn’t get our desired things as we arrived there late. Anyway after doing some grocery we came back home. My brother-in-law suggested going for dinner in a restaurant named Zyka, which was one of the famous Indian restaurants in their locality where we had a yummy dinner on 26th December night. Then we went to a real adventure unknowingly. Our plan was to rent a car for the following day trip to The Great Smokey Mountain.  It was already late at night and the other car rental offices were already closed except the airport rental office. So we went to the airport to rent a car for my family. My brother-in-law didn’t know the exact route to the rental office so he took the help of his GPS. According to his GPS he drove for a long time but there was no sign of airport. To our horror we finally reached the dead end of a pitch dark road in the middle of night. My husband then tried to find out the route from the Google map of his i-Phone. Then my brother-in-law started following the direction for my husband’s i-Phone. The road was dark and empty; the houses beside the road were shady. The surrounding was very scary like horror movies. Then we reached a deserted place and from there we could see the Hertz rental office from distance. My brother-in-law then suggested going back to freeway 85 from where the route of the airport was known to him. We went back there and came to the Hertz office at the Airport. When we went there we found a long queue in the counter. I nearly gave up hope of getting a car. After a long waiting we got the rented car and came back home around half past one in the early morning.
On 27th our plan was to start at 8 o’clock in the morning. But when I woke up it was already 8:20 and everybody was sleeping as we went to bed very late on previous day. After sometime my sis-in-law woke up. Then my son and I went to get ready for the day. My son was the first person who became ready for the day. It was already 9:10. After having breakfast when everybody was ready to go the clock was showing the time 11:30. It was three hours’ drive from home. We were not sure whether we would be able to make the trip successful. Anyway we started our journey in two cars. The roadside lash greenery was very enjoyable.  As I love to feel the beauty of nature, the drive was very mind refreshing to me. I found a striking difference between green east coast and barren west coast. After driving 190 mile we took a break and had lunch at Burger King at 2:30. We were caught in the traffic snarl due to some construction works on the road. It was already 3 o’clock and I gave up all the hope to reach Smokey Mountain. On our way we passed a picturesque town named Gatlinburg. My husband wanted to stop there to see the Town instead of going to Smokey. But I wanted to go to Smokey. So we gave a last try to reach Smokey Mountain. My sis-in-law and her family was in a different car and they were little behind of us. It was the holiday season so the roads were overcrowded and it was difficult to drive fast. At last when we reached the Sugarland’s Visitors center of the Smokey, it was 4:30 in the evening and the center was going to be closed down. Then we dropped the plan to go to Smokey Mountain as it was already becoming dark. It was not very safe to drive in an unknown dark mountain road. We decided to spend some time in Gatlinburg. It was too cold and I was shivering. The whole town was decked up for the holidays and it looked amazing. I felt that Gatlinburg was the best place for complete relaxation and as well as entertainment. After having coffee we decided to go back. That time it was 7 o’clock in the evening. There was no possibility of reaching home before mid-night so we decided to have dinner on our way. While returning my husband made a mistake by taking the route 40E instead of 40 W. So he had to take exit to come back to 40 W. Our plan was to have dinner around 9:30 in any fast food restaurant which would be available on our way. At 9:30 we reached at Cleveland. Reaching Cleveland we found one signboard showing the direction of Subway. My husband drove according to the direction but ended up in a dark empty road. Then we came back and found Pizza Hut and DQ. We decided to have dinner from DQ. My son was sleeping in the car; we didn’t get down from the car which could cause him to wake up. We had our dinner in the car and started our journey. We tried to contact with my sis-in-law but we failed to do that. In the dark empty road in an unknown place we became little bit scared. After sometimes my sis-in-law called me and told that they reached home already. It was really very painful to remain seated for such a long time. I was feeling that home was getting out of reach. At last at half past twelve we reached. I asked my sis-in-law how they could reach home so early. She told me that my brother-in-law took the shortest route according to the GPS. But it was a very dangerous mountain road. Though we took the longer route but it was safe to drive in the dark.

City of Gatlinburg
On 28th morning we woke up at 8:00 so that we could start at 11:00 in the morning. Our plan was to go to Georgia aquarium and Coke Museum. We started from home at 11:00 in the morning. When we reached the Aquarium it was too crowded, an irony to our thought that the aquarium would be less crowded on Monday. We got a parking space on the sixth floor of the parking garage. Though the day was sunny but it was chilling cold. I was feeling that somebody was cutting me with knife. We bought combined tickets of Aquarium and Coke museum through online. We asked one helping personnel at Aquarium and he asked us to stand in the queue of ‘Will Call’. We waited in the chilling cold. But when we reached the counter we were told to visit Coke museum first and to get the entry pass for Aquarium from there. Again we walked to Coke Museum which was opposite side of the road. Again we waited in a long queue. The museum was nicely decorated for holidays. There we saw all the advertisement of coke from its birth to till date. It was wonderful to see how the advertisements evolved with time. The exhibits of advertisements of different countries were also admirable. The best part of the museum was the tasting facility of different product of coke in different countries. I found the taste of ‘Bebo’ of South Africa and the ginger bread coke (I forgot of which country) really cool!!!
The Coke Museum
After that we went to world’s largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium. First we went to the Cold Water Quest exhibit. The naturalistic rockwork, the state-of-art light lighting system that mimics the natural light cycle from twilight to moonlight of the accommodation gave us a taste of the habitat of beluga whales, Africa penguins and other cold water animals. We could get the experience of the rocky ledges and kelp forest of cold water oceans. The thing which attracted me most was the travelator through the water. We could see the beluga whales; huge manta ray was swimming over our head.  We went to The Georgia Explorer gallery which was highly interactive with touch pools full of horseshoe crabs, sea stars, stingrays. Several large habitats featured a loggerhead sea turtle and the fish of Gray's Reef. Whales lived right off the Georgia coast! The rays were very soft to touch. The ocean voyager exhibit consisted of manta rays and sharks. In the River Scout gallery, we saw a wide diversity of animals found in the rivers of Africa, South America, and Asia and right here in Georgia. Lastly we went to the Tropical Driver, the relaxing Coral Reef. We saw the garden eels were popping up out of the sand and above them a swirling mass of thousands of tiny glassy sweepers.  We also found thousands of “Nemo"s (Clown fish) as well as seahorses, fairy basslets, yellow-head jawfish and other beauties of the sea. Then three impressive exhibits of jellies ("jellyfish") were really marvelous. At the center of the gallery was one of the largest living reef exhibits of any aquarium in the world. Living corals and thousands of colorful reef fish were presented in a faithful recreation of a tropical Pacific coral reef, completed with an overhead crashing wave. After that we didn’t have time to go to Deepo’s undersea 3-D wonder show. My son was very excited throughout the tour. Every time he was thinking of catching a fish by hand. JAround five o’clock in the evening we left the aquarium and went to return the rented car. Then we boarded in the driverless sky train from the airport to come to Marta Station. Then we boarded the Marta Train to come back home. After 2 long years I boarded a public transport. We reached at home 7 in the evening.

Sandtiger Shark

Jelly Fish
On 29th we started very early in the morning to catch our flight to home. The four days seemed very short. I wished I could go back to Atlanta to make another trip to Smokey Mountain.