Monday, September 30, 2013

DIY Project - Lamp Makeover

It's been about 2 years since we had 2 of these Ikea Lamps in our living room. Suddenly, it started growing on me that its plain jane! Hence, I took over the lamp this weekend to make it better looking, while not really flashy, but a bit more classic!

Things required to make over this lamp - 
1. Thick decorative paper   2. Glue gun   3. Ruler, Scissors  4. Bronze Paint   5. Primer  6. Lace / Trim

  1. Begin with the lamp shade. Wrap the paper around. Set the glue gun to lower heat setting and glue the paper to lamp shade. It takes only 15 seconds before the glue dries, so make sure not to exceed the time. Make sure to leave the overlapping part thin. Once the paper is wrapped, glue the trim.                                                                                                                              
  2. For the Base - for any smooth finished metallic surface, it is important to apply the primer. I used a water based primer and applied only 1 coat of it. Wait for 30 minutes, some primers may take 24 hours to dry, so make sure to check the instructions on the label.
  3. Apply the paint, using nicely dipped brushes and long strokes. Ladies (or gentlemen), if you know how to apply nail polish, this should be fairly easy! I left the painted lamp base to dry overnight. 

And that's it, lamp makeover is complete. I am hopeful, that I can use water and wash away the paint, whenever, I am bored of this again. The next time, I am going to make the lamp shade myself. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Road Trip in Appalachians

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in USA. Nested in the Appalachians, Smokies cover a major portion of states of Tennessee and North Carolina, although in the northern part of NC, it is called the blue ridge parkway. 
The road trip in Smokies is best experienced from months April to November, with the peak of beauty-factor witnessed around fall season. Among the thousands of attractions that this park has to offer, people can pick attractions per their taste and make an unforgettable memoir. In this post, I am sharing a sample itinerary which we wanted to undertake. While we did not visit all the things mentioned below, we did see other beautiful things and those will be covered in the upcoming posts.
Our trip was a round one from Columbus. None of the distances listed here are more than 6 hours, at a stretch. So this is a trip that can be done over a long weekend, like we did!

Day 0 – Columbus to Knoxville, TN
              a.    Distance – 345 miles, Time – 5 hours approximately.
              b.    Stay overnight

Day 1 – Knoxville - Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Distance – 35 miles)
              Things to see in Smokies –
              a.  Rainbow falls in Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
              b.   Drive on the tail of the dragon road
              c.    Cades Cove drive (Abram falls)
              d.   Clingmans Dome
              e.    Waterrock Knob (MP 451)
              Overnight stay at Asheville, NC and leave on Sunday.

Day 2 – From Ashville, NC  to Snowshoe, WV
              a.       Folk art centre in Ashville
              b.      Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
                    i.      Mabry Mill (266 Mabry Mill Rd SE, Milepost 176, Meadows of Dan, VA 24120)
                    ii.    Poor farmer's market
                    iii.      McAfee Knob
                    Overnight stay in Mountain top resort, Snowshoe, WV.

Day 3 - From Snowshoe, WV to Columbus, OH
             a.       Shavers trail
             b.      Black waterfalls state park, Davis WV. (2.5 hours from Snowshoe village)

Davis is about 2 hours away from Pittsburgh, so for foodies, it's a great stop for grabbing meal.

And that's the end of the trip.
Detailed trip coming soon.

Appalachians serve to the taste of many hobbyists, like bird / wild life watchers, photographer, day tourists, hikers and dreamers. And there is no better way to experience it more than the Great Smokies!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jim Thorpe - Switzerland of America!

March is my “happy birthday” month; however, I never had the privileges of having a really nice stress free birthday. For as long as we were in India, March was the exams time and now, after coming to USA, it’s the storms time.  In the past 6 years in USA, there has not been a single time when March was calmer!
So, this time we decided to plan something less extra-ordinary for my birthday, but as it always has been with me, the plan (Jim Thorpe, PA) turned out to be more beautiful, more relaxing and even more beautiful than I could ever imagine.

Jim Thorpe is special for some very random reasons –
1. It is called the Switzerland of America because of its location. It is completely surrounded by the Poconos Mountains and is a visual treat in any season of the month.
2. The proximity to NYC and Philadelphia (about 1.5 hours from both) lends the town so many visitors, that for an outsider, it is far from believable to see no parking spots in the town or no lodging availability even during off seasons.
3. Finally, did you know – Jim Thorpe (or formerly called Mauch Chunk) had the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway System, which was probably the first American Roller Coaster ride?
4. Mauch Chunk was renamed to Jim Thorpe on the insistence of latter’s wife. Jim Thorpe was the world’s greatest athlete in his lifetime. When he died, his wife persuaded Mauch Chunk’s govt. to rename the town to his name and they could have his memorial erected in the town, which was a little more than 1 hour away from the place in Pennsylvania where he started his startling sports career.
5. Also, there might have been a time in Jim Thorpe’s history, around 1880s, when the town saw most number of millionaires living here than in any other city of America. This claim needs to be proven, but the fact remains, during the coal mining period of the country, Jim Thorpe might not have had parallels.

We spent a weekend in the first weekend of March in Jim Thorpe and like I mentioned above, it was surprising that there were no lodging facilities available even in that stormy season. For those who are familiar with Mussorie, Jim Thorpe shares similar credentials, so like Mussorie is the foot hills of Himalayas, Jim Thorpe is the foot hills of Poconos.
We left Philadelphia around noon only to reach Jim Thorpe by 1.30 approximately and we checked in the Inn at Jim Thorpe’s guest house! It is a nice little guest house, away from the main Inn and boasts of beautiful rooms for short stays. Our first destination was the nearby Glen Onoko falls. As luck would have it, we lost our way, but then who was complaining with the new route looking like this?

We never made to the actual falls. It was also recommended not to walk in some areas near falls, as it was slippery from previous snow falls and could lead to deaths. This was enough for us to stop short of some plans. But then we walked around the trails along the railway tracks for as long as we could and returned back to the town. However, whatever we could see in that short walk was enough for us to decide to come back again.
The town looks equally enchanting in the evenings. There are enough bars in the town to keep the visitors busy throughout the night. Thing to note is that, in this entire town, there is only one street of popular interest – called the Broadway. It starts with the visitor centre or the railway station which runs trains in the summer and fall seasons around the mesmerizing Poconos. The front part of Broadway boasts of architecturally beautiful clock tower, the Inn at Jim Thorpe and other mom and pop stores, with wide array of colors on walls.
Snippets from the evening time Broadway, Jim Thorpe
Of the many attractions that this small town can boast of, one of the most “historically rich” one is the “Carbon County Jail”, where the famous “Molly Maguires” hanging took place. It is said that one of those men, Alexander Campbell, had left a hand print on the wall of the jail and proclaimed that, if he was innocent, the print will never fade away. This happened in 1877 and inspite of repeated attempts to remove it, the print remains there on the wall. Spooky?? You bet it is!
County Carbon Jail
There are other numerous historical buildings and museums which on one’s interest, can be explored. The town also has a Mauch Chuck Opera house which hosts numerous musicians and has been featured in the national geographic as well. Also notable are the small coffee bars, mom and pop stores and other novelty items which can add to the experience of the traveler. Of the places to eat, we tried our luck with an Italian restaurant, Trattoria 903, located about 5 miles away from the Broadway and we definitely selected the right one for a birthday night. Great ambiance and amazing food. Meanwhile, the best surprise came in the form of the coffee (Strange Brew) and the breakfast (Bear Apetit) joints located right on the Broadway. If you are there, you must try these little gems of the small town.
The Packer mansions are also the very famous attractions of the place along with the Jim Thorpe memorial. Asa Packer's mansion is a museum of the legendary and wealthy businessman while his son's, Henry Packer's mansion has been turned in to a bed and breakfast. 
But of course, of the many things to do here, outdoor activities take the cake obviously. Some tours can be experienced only when weather permits, but there are others like the ATV tours which can be booked in advance and I can vouch that they are lot of "scary-good" fun. Paintballs, hiking, white water rafting, biking and other activities keep the town brimming with visitors.

Some of my favorite photographs of the town in both day and night -
The Inn at Jim Thorpe
Various views of the Broadway,  Jim Thorpe

We finished our trip the following morning with the Flagstaff Mountain Park. Now, what's important to note is that your GPS is non functional here. One should know where to stop, the roads are unprotected and dangerous. There is a small open land like a parking spot, and that's from where some amazing views of the town can be seen. Is it worth it? Yes it is, by all means!

I guess the photographs by themselves present a view of where the town is actually! In the foothills of beautiful Pocono Mountains.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New York City - Exclusively for Tourists

This post will be one of the billion posts on NYC. So, really I have nothing new to share that hasn't been said or done before in NYC. However, I had a chance to take my husband to NYC for the first time and it could't have been a more better time than Christmas. In 2007 during thanksgiving, I saw the city for the first time and I remember it's layout and streets, ambiance to this day. 
This post by far has been the most difficult to write as I kept trying to say something different and new and kept failing at it. So, I thought of giving the 'gyaan' in some bullet points. Here is an exclusive list of everything everyone hears about in things to do in NYC and something you must really do while you are in the city, for the first time. 
Plan - Make a plan to see the city in bits and pieces in about 3-4 days. One day is not enough to do anything here. We had about 3.5 days, which were somewhat well spent. 
Stay - It's advisable to stay in the city centre like near Times Square / Upper or Lower Manhattan. A cheaper option is for sure to stay in some close by areas in NJ like Journal Square or Newark, but staying in Manhattan is a time saver, a factor which cannot be ignored while in the city. We stayed in the hotel - The Manhattan at Times Square on 51st street / 7th Avenue. A great location obviously where you can see the David Letterman's show building at one corner while from the other corner the Broadway can be seen. It was a great decision, as we had time to just come back and relax as and when we wanted to and to be on the streets for much longer than the usual tourists. 
Tips - If planning to visit more than one ticketed shows / destinations of NYC, try going to some advance online booking sites like Smart Destinations and save some bucks by purchasing the tickets in combinations. We purchased all our tickets here and it claimed, we saved about $50 in total. It doesn't give you the exact price of actual tickets but sure does tell you, by making a pass of your own, how much did you save in total. A great time saver and also helps you move past the waiting lines in some cases. 

The top things to do in NYC (esp during Christmas) - Not in any order, just do them! 

1. Times Square - This junction is amongst the world's most visited tourist destinations and perhaps will stay so for any foreseeable future. Times square is named after the building - One Times Square. It is located in the Midtown Manhattan across the 42nd street and 7th Avenue. Times Square is merely a junction to walk by and stare (in complete awe) at the dazzling lights from the billboards hanging over the buildings displaying the upcoming broadway shows, news, ads and some newer attractions like watching yourself all over those screens (which were not seen till 2008, correct me if I am wrong). Number of people at any given time of year / day present there is not proportionate to anything because there are people at all times of the day. On weekdays, one would find the working class hurrying by and on the weekend, it's time for tourists to pass by. Times Square, perhaps, is a major reason as in why NYC is called the city that never sleeps


2. Radio City Christmas Spectacular - Now this is something which is a special Christmas attraction for families and the tickets get sold out well in advance. The Christmas Spectacular is an annual holiday tradition for the city and should not be missed for anything. The show takes place in the Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue. The performers are called 'the Rockettes' and the show goes on for about 90 minutes. A little 30 sec video can be seen here. 

3. Rockefeller Centre - The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre has been an attraction since 1932 and is one of the most crowded attractions of the city during Christmas. The building, fondly called as 30 Rock or the GE Building is a host to many shows on NBC like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon's, Conan O'Brian's etc. Another non-seasonal attraction of the Rockefeller centre is the observation deck. Open all year round, usually the deck, also called as the 'Top of The Rock', is located on the 70th floor. However, on occasions like high wind alert days etc. the 70th floor is closed and only 69th is opened, which is glass sealed and is not an open view. The view from top of the rock has a special attraction - the view of the city with empire state building in the sight. 


4. Empire State Building - The world's tallest tower for 40 years is one of my favorite attractions of the city. The view remains the same every time I go there. However, the excitement to stand on the top of the 86th floor and see the city densely populated with high rise buildings is maddening. Of all the attractions in the NYC, this remains the most time consuming one, as the wait line to go on the top is approximately 1-2 hours sometimes and is insanely crowded from 9 00 AM to 9 00 PM on any given holiday. Also across the street from Empire State Building is the world's largest departmental store (till 2009) of Macy's. Empire State Building is also open everyday of the year (may be except holidays, I am not sure about that though!). 

5. Statue of Liberty and the cruise - The lady liberty is more famous than anything else in NYC. My mom always said, you can go to Tirupati / Tirumala umpteen number of times , however, you will be able to see the lord only if he wishes. I believe that's true with this lady as well. How else, can I justify that of 5 times that I have been to the Battery park, only once have I been actually able to see get down on the island and see the statue up and close. Regardless, there are two ways to go to the Liberty Island, one from the Liberty State Park in NJ and the Battery Park in the lower Manhattan area in NYC. 
Some renovations had barred people from climbing on the top of the crown of the statue of Liberty and those renovations were completed in 2012 around the last week of October. The superstorm Sandy that struck in the first week of November closed the Island altogether till the Memorial day of 2013. So once again, we had no choice but just to see the lady from far away, like always. 
We however, chose to take Zephyr Statue of Liberty Express Cruise, from Pier 16 near South Street Seaport, which circled around the lower Manhattan and the Ellis and Liberty Island. The cruise has comfortable heated indoor seating as well as open air upper deck seating for crazy photographers like myself :). The narration by the captain is usually witty and enriching. 


6. Lower Manhattan / Financial District of NYC - Home to the once tallest WTC towers and to the very famous Wall Street with NewYork Stock Exchange, Lower Manhattan is often called the Financial Capital of the world. This part of Manhattan probably sees slightly lesser number of tourists than the other parts like Midtown, especially as evening progresses. Some of the very famous attractions here are the Wall Street, NYSE building, 9/11 site and memorial, the new One World Trade Centre building, the Chinatown, the Bull, the Financial Reserve Building, the memorial for RMS Titanic etc. 

7. Broadway Theatre - What's a post on NYC if the Broadway shows are not mentioned here? I have seen only one show till date - Mamma Mia, and I can vouch for it, even if it is not your cup of tea, just go ahead and try watching at least one of the those shows, you won't be disappointed. The class act put up by the performers, stage settings, dressers and make-ups are things that should be witnessed by all.

8. Museums - NYC boasts some amazing world class museums like the Museum of Modern Arts and some funky ones like the Ripley's Believe it or not, or the Madame Tussaud's. Depending on the interest and time, one can select whichever they may prefer.

P.S. - To select a few destinations in NYC among the thousands it boasts is a very difficult thing to do. Every time I go to the city, I try to add something new to the itinerary and while still catching up with some old faves like the Times Square. This post was intended for the tourists who are as vague as I was when it came to selecting what I wanted to really see - arts, entertainment, history, food, fashion, architecture and other things. 
New York City was anyways never meant to be visited just once, so what would you see if it were your first time here?