Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Exciting Autumn Decor from the Southwest US

At the end of October, autumn really explodes in a harvest of colors as we look forward to the excitement of the holiday season - Halloween, hayrides, harvest festivals, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and many more memorable occasions before the dead of winter sets in.

Home decorating colors that are most popular this autumn and into the holidays include palettes of purples, reds, and maroons; with blues and golds for accent and contrast. Decor experts are predicting a trend toward the slightly blackened reds like claret, a deeply dark red; and a berry wine that has a blue cast. Reds can be used in a number of cross cultural and multicultural decor schemes and themes, representing the palette of reds and purples that is prominent in the sunrise of the Grand Canyon to the sunset of a painted desert in the Southwest. A variety of beautiful reds can also be teamed with black and white and or with gold to further represent the Southwest USA, Native Americana, Latin, or even Asian decor.

Considering wall paints for the home, the Glidden 2006 Paint of the Year, Golden Kiwi, was named in January 2006 and has a spicy undertone that accents reds, purples, and blues very well for a sense of energy and comfort all at once. Additionally, Glidden has a wide range of golds from which to choose, and their website has a fun visualizer in which you can pull up a colorless room and try different shades virtually. You can find it at glidden.com and have a lot of fun with it. Benjamin Moore and Company suggests their color called Queen's Wreath, from their Dramatic Palette, a color described as a chameleon color of purple with gray undertones that subtly pick up adjacent colors. Pratt and Lambert promotes their 24-26 Boucle, a lighter blue that is somewhere between aqua and teal. That particular shade contrasts nicely with deep reds, purples, maroons, dark blues, and even browns that may already be present in furniture, carpeting, and accessories.

With new paint on the walls, you really do not need to purchase any new furniture or carpeting, but current furnishings may be enhanced instead. For instance, a straight-backed chair can be transformed into a conversation piece by covering it in buttons of all shapes and styles, glued into place and sealed with varnish, except the seat on which you can place an attractive seat pad or pillow that complements your new colors. New lampshades in contrasting or matching colors can also liven up a room and current furniture can be rearranged into a conversational space. You can do this by moving furniture off the walls into a grouping conducive to conversation, and away from the TV.

If you have carpeting, add rugs in any of a variety of shapes and designs to complement your wall colors. If you have wood flooring that you want to enhance, you can paint a rug over a portion of it with latex or acrylic paint and seal it with several coats of varnish, letting each coat dry before applying another. You might also try this on a concrete floor after sealing it first, since porous materials soak up a lot of paint. If you have patio stones in your front or back yards, you might also seal a few of them, and repeat the painted rug from your wood flooring onto your outdoor stones. You could paint a large rock in your garden or on the patio, and even bring it indoors and place it in a corner to match the faux rug.

As accent pieces for your rooms, you might bring in a selection of prairie grasses, pine boughs, and ornamental plants and late-blooming flowers from your outdoor landscaping, or purchase natural plants and related materials with which to fashion centerpieces, wreathes, mantle hangings, and the like. Many of these can be purchased ready made as well. Use ribbon bows of gold to accent both these pieces and your wall colors for a bright and warm autumn living space.

Finally, consider day and night lighting of your new decor with your current lamps, adding wall lights, candle accessories, or hanging fixtures that will complement your furnishings. A ceiling fan with a light kit also increases your home's energy efficiency as well as being attractive. This will all set the stage for a comfortable and attractive backdrop to your harvest season and Thanksgiving festivities and transition into winter holidays. Have a wonderful season!

Window Dressings (By 4Ernesto)

Window dressings are an important part of the decorative appeal of most rooms in the home. The options range from extravagant curtains and valances, to plain blinds or shutters. These are all traditional ways of decorating windows, but with a little creativity you can break loose from convention and introduce your own innovative ideas.

I will give you some tips on:

1. Material selection
2. Choosing curtains

Before choosing any window dressing, look at the style and shape of a particular window, and consider all decorative options. Take into account the practical functions that dressings will serve, such as increasing privacy, keeping out the cold or heat, or blocking light.

Window types and sizes vary considerably. Adapt your window dressings accordingly.

The common window types are:

Sash. These are often tall and narrow. "Widen" them with curtains and a half-drawn blind.
French. Draw curtains right back from the frame to ensure easy opening and closing.
Picture. These are simple in design. Choose from all types of window dressing.
Bay. Consider carefully the hanging system required for these multi0faceted windows.
Casement. These vary greatly in size and design. Assess each one individually.

Setting a Style

Choosing window dressings can give you a wonderful opportunity to release your own artistic flair. Whether you drape lavish swathes of expensive fabric or adopt a more minimalist approach, the decorative style of a room can often be set by the window dressing alone.

Before choosing fabrics and styles of window dressing, think about these purely practical considerations:

Choose simple, inexpensive hanging systems whenever you can, especially if your window dressings are purely decorative. You may need to invest in more costly hanging systems if you decide to hang curtains made of heavyweight material for warmth, for example.

Very full drapes usually result in great expense, so make sure that you work out what your budgetary restrictions are before you make choices.

If you decide to try to follow a regional or period theme, research appropriate materials, designs, and colours in order to create a complete, authentic look.

Keeping Fabrics Plain

Colour scheming simply
Use plain materials to make colour scheming easier. Window dressings will thus play a complementary decorative role.

Dressing up plain fabric
Although a fabric may be plain in colour, drape it effectively with an unusual tie-back. Use windowsills as display areas for interesting collections of objects.

Making a Statement

1. Drawing attention
If you want a window dressing to be a focal point, choose bold or contrasting colours and patterns to draw the eye.
2. Enhancing embellishments
Emphasize a flouncy window dressing by offsetting it against understated walls. Paint walls off-white or an extremely pale, complementary colour.

Treating a Window in Different Ways

1. Disguising window shape
Curtains hung outside a recess will disguise the shape of a window, especially if tied back from a closed position. Use a shaped valance to disguise the squareness of a window.
2. Emphasizing window shape
Hang a blind inside a window recess to emphasize the shape of the window. A patterned blind will draw attention to clear lines and square angles, and help to make the window a feature.

Setting the Scene

1. Having Fun
Choose an appropriate fabric and use it for curtains, bedcovers, and cushions to produce a sense of fun in a child's room.
2. Aiding relaxation
Indulge yourself in swathes of curtain material in restful colours for a lounge that is used for calm recreation and relaxation.
3. Improving light
Use pale coloured dressings at windows that receive little or no direct sunlight. These will encourage the greatest amount of light reflection into the room.
4. Increasing privacy
In private areas of the home, such as a bedroom, cover the window completely to help to create a secure, restful mood.


Selecting the right materials when dressing windows is as important as in any other decorating job. All tasks at this stage of your project will be easiest if you use the equipment and materials that are specifically designed for the job.

Basic Window-Dressing Equipment

You may need to amalgamate several collections of tools and other items for dressing windows.

Toolkits include a basic sewing kit for making and altering furnishings, as well as general household tools for fixing dressings in place.

Hanging equipment. Choose a simple, relatively inexpensive hanging system - a track and gliders, or a lightweight rod - for light to medium weight curtains. Use a stronger, more complicated system for hanging heavyweight fabrics.

The basic window-dressing equipments are: scissors, hand-sewing needles, tailor's chalk, sewing thread, fusing web, tape measure, set square staple gun, weight, small brass curtain rod plus rings, wooden curtain pole plus rings, track and gliders, track with integral draw-cord and weight, plastic hooks and tie-back hook.

Choosing Fabrics for Window Dressings

Most fabrics can be used for curtains or blinds. Make your choices based on practical as well as aesthetic factors.

Colour, pattern, and fibre
Let colours and patterns, or the weave of fabric such as damask, guide your choice, but bear in mind practical factors also

Choose heavy fabric such as brocade for sumptuous drapes. Sheer silk or fine fabrics such as lace, cotton, or calico will be more light and airy.

If using thin curtain fabric, consider lining to block light or interlining for warmth.


You do not have to be an expert at sewing to make curtains. Not all curtains have to be lined or hemmed. It is possible to adapt many curtaining techniques to suit your level of ability and still achieve the look you would like.

Considering Options
Curtains offer a lot of scope when it comes to covering window. They come in many different materials, styles, and designs. You can make them, buy them ready-made, or adapt existing ones. Consider your preferences as well as practical requirements before you decide.

Planning Curtains

You do not have to line curtains, but if you do so it will improve the hang and provide the room with extra warmth. To avoid sewing lining in, attach it to curtain material using fusing web.

Avoiding obstacles
Pipes, radiators, and other obstacles or restrictions may prevent curtains from falling nicely. Take these into account when determining the style and the length of your curtains.

Selecting hanging systems
Choose a hanging system before you measure up for curtains, since the drop will clearly affect your calculations.

Weighing up windows
While you are choosing a style and material for your curtains, consider the ideal length. This will be determined by a number of factors, not least of which are the shape and size of the window itself, the position of a window on a wall, and practical purposes that curtains serve such as keeping a room warm or cool, or blocking light out of it.

Measuring Up

Measure up as accurately as possible to reduce the risk of making expensive mistakes.

Checking figures

The old adage about measuring twice and cutting once is wise advice. Always check your figures because mistakes are easily made when taking a number of measurements.

Being precise
Not all floors, windows, and ceilings are absolutely "square", so take at least three width and length measurements.

Allowing for pattern repeats

As with wallpaper, centralize large patterns for balance.


Window dressings and curtains particularly, offer a good opportunity to break with tradition and create your own designs and decorative themes. You can, of course, make or buy new curtains, but there are many ways of adapting and revamping existing curtains.

Reducing Costs

Reviving old curtains

Give old curtains a new lease of life simply by attaching some new braid or trim to their hems.

Cutting down curtains
To give a room a fresh new look, make some cafe curtains by cutting down an old pair of curtains from a different room in your home.

Using old for new
To save time and money, use old curtains as a lining around which to fit new fabric. Enclose the old in the new and simply secure around the edges with fusing web.

Buying seconds

There is quite a market in second-hand curtains. Consider buying second hand to reduce your expenses significantly. You may, however, have to make size adjustments for the curtains to fit your windows.

Using Other Materials
Consider how a curtain will hang when you are planning to use alternative materials, and keep headings simple.


Use blankets as heavyweight "curtains" in very cold rooms. The insulatory properties of blankets make them ideal.

Sew hessian sacks into a patchwork to create a rustic but very natural looking window dressing.

If you have a window with a poor outlook, use a decorative rug as a window dressing and a distraction. Make use of a rug's looped fringe to hang the rug from a substantial curtain pole.

Money-Saving Tip
Use a sheet as a simple, single curtain. Nail the sheet to the top of a window frame using large, exterior roofing nails. Drape the "curtain" to one side of the window over another roofing nail which is used as a tie-back.

Making a tassel
Make a tassel by carefully rolling up some excess trim or braid and securing it with fabric glue. Insert a length of cord and use as a tie-back, or hang several tassels from a curtain rail to dress it up.

Using Applique
Attaching Shapes. Brighten up a plain material by cutting themed shapes out of a differently coloured fabric. Attach the shapes to the curtain using fabric glue. Use a non-fraying fabric such as felt for the shapes to avoid finishing edges.

Decorating Sheers
Tracing Outlines. Use sheer curtain fabric like a piece of tracing paper. Draw straight on to the material using a colourfast outliner pen. Leaves are an easy subject to draw around. Fix the outliner ink by ironing the back of the fabric.


There are two main methods of hanging curtains: using poles or using tracks. Most types are straightforward to fix in place. You can, however, adapt either of these basic systems in order to add a touch of originality or to suit a particular decorative or colour scheme.

Using Poles

Selecting materials

Choose a wooden pole for a fresh, lightweight appearance, or a sturdier-looking metal pole for a more solid, heavy look.

Covering poles
Cover a pole with wallpaper to match the walls. Attach the paper with neat PVA, let it dry, then apply several coats of matt varnish to protect the paper and facilitate curtain pulling.

Measuring & Fixing

Adjusting width

Adjust the length of a curtain pole depending on whether the curtains will be gathered back beyond the edge of the window, or whether they will hang partly in front of the window and therefore require a shorter length of pole.

Allowing for finials
Do not forget to allow for finial attachments at each end when calculating a pole's length.

Making poles level
You will require only two brackets - one at each end - to fix a curtain pole in position above a narrow window. It will be easy to ensure that the brackets are level using a spirit level. It is more difficult to align three brackets. Fix the central bracket first, and use this to take a level to where the other two need to be positioned.

Using Tracks

Looking and learning

If you are concerned that you might not be able to assemble and fit a curtain track, have a look at a similar working system, either in your local supplier's showroom or in someone else's home. You will then know what the track should look like once assembled.

Painting to match
Consider painting curtain tracks, which are usually supplied white, so that they blend in with wall colours or curtain materials. Eggshell gives the best paint finish on plastic surfaces.

Lubricating tracks
In order to maintain a curtain track in good running order, lubricate it occasionally with a few drops of washing-up liquid.

Alternative to Using Poles

You can choose from a variety of alternative materials as substitutes for curtain poles. Alternatively, use your imagination and substitute a less obvious but still suitable item instead of a pole.

Have a nice time!!

6 Unique Games You Can Host for Your Friends

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

The idea of traditionally celebrating one's birthday party bugs me. I mean there's nothing boring about spending time with friends and relatives on one occasion. In fact boring is probably the last adjective to describe it. Daunting is more appropriate. But the fact that you celebrate your birthday every year, invite each loved one to your house and blow candles on your cake each and every time may be tiring if you come to think of it.

I feel like challenging myself by doing something different next year. Say importing some Bengal tigers and Australian kangaroos to have a realistic theme of the Survivor show perhaps? With that theme, I could facilitate a game named Canadian Cobra Hunt. I bet my friends, for the life of them, would do their best in the game. Okay, I'm not seriously considering having such a game, but I do have 6 activities in mind which you may consider having the next time you celebrate your birthday or decide to have a get-together with your friends.

1) Banana Blast

This game's name may sound like throwing bananas at each other. Although that may be a fun idea, this game actually requires you to be creative, not to mention civilized. It is a brainchild of my sister, whose identity I'm going to hide in the name Bananaprincessmighty. Well, on the day of her birthday celebration, as she walked through grocery aisles, Bananaprincessmighty fancied hosting a game among our relatives--something simple yet fun. Thus, the banana split contest was born on that fateful day. Okay, a banana split contest may not be a novel idea, but considering the history of my family's game-deprived birthday celebrations, this was utterly original to us.

Materials: Well, what is a banana split without bananas? Bananaprincessmighty and I bought two bunches of them along with strawberry and vanilla ice cream. For the toppings, we bought chocolate syrup, some "barquillos", peanuts and marshmallows. Besides purchasing these ingredients, Bananaprincessmighty was suddenly forced to buy a decent ice cream scooper for this game. You see, for years we have been using a spoon to get ice cream from a tub. Not that using an ice cream scooper makes the dessert tastier, but we figured it is easier and faster to use. Of course, with the pretty and almost perfect ice cream spheres a scooper makes, Bananaprincessmighty realized she had to spend a little more for art's sake.

Mechanics: During Bananaprincessmighty's party, we did not tell our relatives about the game until after we brought out all the ingredients. It turned out pretty well except that she had about 10 participants, 2 half gallons of ice cream and 1 ice cream scooper. With this statistics, the participants had to restrain themselves from killing each other to have their turn at getting a scoop of ice cream. But overall, it turned out great and Bananaprincessmighty insisted that each participant give a name for their concoction.

Tips: First, if you're wondering what "barquillos" is, it is a Philippine delicacy made of flour, sugar and milk and shaped in a long hollow cylindrical form. Just imagine a tobacco except that it's sweet, hollow, and longer. You may substitute ladyfinger, ice cream wafer, or even ice cream cone for this delicacy.

Second, you may, of course, use some other fruit instead of bananas. Perhaps a mango split or a strawberry split may even be tastier. If your taste buds are extremely adventurous, you may try bitter gourd or broccoli. Now that will really call for your friends' creativity, eh? In that case you may consider changing the contest's name to "Dessert Iron Chef" or "Fear Factor Birthday Edition".

Third, make sure you have a camera or videocam ready while facilitating this contest. Before long, those artistic creations your friends have concocted will turn to melted desserts. Before that happens, you have to immortalize them through pictures or videos.

2) Jazz Up a Bandanna

As the name implies, this contest entails making a bandanna more interesting or attractive. I haven't really tried holding this contest with my friends or relatives but I did get the idea from my organization back in college. Our organization held this contest titled "Jazz Up My Pants" among several students in our university. I figured that using jeans would be very costly so I chose shirts instead since they are more affordable. Then again, judging by the length of time I have last seen some of my friends, they may have these bulging stomachs compared to the last time I saw them skinny. I finally decided to hold the contest with bandannas since I figured that humans' heads can't possibly get too big for them.

Materials: Readers who may belong to the male species, you have to forgive me. I don't have the slightest idea as to what materials are appropriate for men. In fact, I only know a handful of male friends who may participate in this contest in case I hold it. Anyway, apart from the bandannas, some materials for this contest are beads, scraps of cloth, fabric pen, and fabric paint or any paint which works well on cloth. Of course, do not forget the scissors, cutters and a few glue guns.

Mechanics: The mechanics are pretty elementary for this game. You just have to allot a period of time for your friends to jazz up their bandannas. While half an hour may sound like an ample time for them to work on their creations, I think it is alright to give them an hour or even more. Besides your friends coming up with more creative bandannas with more time in their hands, I bet you would chat with each other while they do their thing, thus taking up more time than needed.

Tips: For your friends to respect your judgment in this contest, it might be a good idea to set up your criteria beforehand. You may request them to bring their own scissors, cutter and glue gun if you wish to avoid any form of violence from the sharing of only a set of equipment. Make sure that you set up several layers of scratch paper or old newspapers on the floor to avoid discoloration or damage due to the use of cutters, fabric pens and paints. You may also direct your participants to give a name for their creation to stir their creative juices further.

3) Blind Man's Clay

This game requires pairs meaning you need an even number of participants. I have yet to try this game but I have seen it done on TV when the show Big Brother was adapted locally. This was one of the activities which Big Brother required his residents to perform. While the mechanics are simple, the performance process may be fun for both the participants and spectators.

Materials: If you think you could hold this contest without ever buying a modeling clay, well, just skip this game because you have to buy this material. Repeat it to yourself like a chant, "I have to buy modeling clay. I have to buy modeling clay. I have to buy modeling clay." This is not the time to practice your stinginess so invest in various colors for your participants to produce more attractive artworks. For this contest, you also need some rope and blindfolds. The number of blindfolds and strings of rope depends on the number of pairs. Therefore, if you have 3 pairs, you need 3 blindfolds and 3 strings of rope.

Mechanics: One member from each pair is blindfolded with the bandanna, while the other member's hands are tied with a string of rope. It is up to you if you would rather choose who gets to be blindfolded and who gets to be tied in each pair; or let each pair decide for themselves. After all, they have no idea yet what you're up to. Only after having secured each blindfold and rope can you finally provide them with the modeling clay and explain to them what they have to do.

Again, don't be a miserable cheapskate. Give each pair various colors of modeling clay. To promote brotherhood, provide the same colors to all pairs and the same amount of each color. Then, tell them the theme that they should follow for their creation. You may tell them to mold a garden or create a beach scene with their clay. If your participants have the makings of Leonardo da Vinci, then, direct them to create a Disneyland miniature.

The catch in this game is that the blindfolded member is in charge of molding figures with the clay, while the tied member should guide him where to place each figure. They must accomplish this within the given time. They may also give a name for their masterpiece once they are through.

Tips: Make sure to lay sheets of plastic on the floor or table before you start the game unless you want some fuchsia modeling clay sticking to your precious marble floor or glass tabletop. Again, to gain the much-needed respect as a clay game host, provide your game's criteria unless you welcome chaos from bitter losers. I also suggest that you take pictures or a video of your participants and, at your discretion, torture them in any way as this may be the only opportunity to be with them with either their hands tied or their eyes covered.

4) Cooking the Unexpected

You don't need to have a culinary arts degree to be able to facilitate this game. The same is true with your participants. All they need is a lot of creativity and probably a little silliness. While I have thought of this game as a proposal to myself for a nice activity with my friends, it was simply adapted from a competition named "market basket contest" which the culinary world holds among chefs. I have never tried facilitating this activity, yet the thought of tasting food without cooking it myself may possibly turn this idea into a reality sooner than later.

Materials: Well, I have never heard of a cooking contest without food so I guess food must be included in this section. This activity is doubly fun and challenging if you assign a list of ingredients which seem unlikely to be part of one dish. For instance, ingredients may be cheese, anchovies, onions, pasta, chicken, pesto and raisins. Get the idea? Perhaps an even better idea is to simply get ingredients presently stored in your fridge. That way, you don't have to worry about your dinner after hosting a party with your friends.

Along with the given ingredients, you definitely have to prepare the needed cookware and tools for preparation. Have the oven, microwave oven, food processor, knives, chopping boards, wooden spoons and cooking pans ready. I don't know about you, but if I invite my friends to cook in my kitchen, I will definitely have a fire extinguisher at hand.

Mechanics: While the activity is quite challenging for the participants, the mechanics are very simple. You must have an even number of participants. Divide them into two groups and hand each group a basket of the given ingredients.

Make sure that the measurements are the same for each group. For example if raisins are included among your ingredients, if a group gets half a cup of it, the other group must also be provided with half a cup. The same should be done for all the other ingredients given. With all the ingredients handed out to them, each group must concoct a dish of their own. An hour to about an hour and a half should be enough since they have to brainstorm before setting their plans to work.

Tips: Besides having a fire extinguisher ready, prepare some garbage bags near your participants' worktable to make their work easier and neater. You may lay out some old newspapers or big placemats on the table to make cleaning more convenient after the cooking activity. Prepare also some floor rags to be used in case some liquids spill on the floor.

5) Fashion From Scratch

This game is originally a teambuilding activity I experienced firsthand in college. I figured that I can turn it into a simple game for my friends or relatives. It requires a lot of materials but, overall, it is a fun experience for both participants and spectators.

Materials: This game may wake the fashion designer in you but you don't need fancy pearls or crisp clothing to create a fashion show of your own. It actually requires the simplest materials such as crayons, newspaper, manila paper, cellophane paper, scratch paper, colored paper, cutter, scissors, glue, and stapler. To make your game more interesting, you may need some play money. If you don't have one, you may consider providing your participants with real money in case they have a good credit history.

Mechanics: First, make sure that you have an even number of participants. Group them in such a way that each group has at least 3 members. Then, hand all groups the same amount of money. Lay out in front of them your art materials with each material having a corresponding price. Then, instruct the participants that they have to create an outfit with the materials in front of them. But, they can only use these materials after buying them from you. This means they have to budget the money given to them in able to come up with enough materials yet nice-looking ones. 15 to 20 minutes should be enough for the brainstorming and creation of the outfits. After the given time is up, each group must baptize their creation with a name. Then, each member wearing the created outfit must ramp while his group members describe what he is wearing.

Tips: Being instant fashion designers, your participants may demand a lot from you so you better make the criteria clear before anything else. You don't want your precious materials flying all over the place just because they think you have biases. Lastly, have your brooms ready as this game may produce a lot of clutter.

6) Game Buffet

This idea came from a good friend whom we may call by the name Cuddlygameromancer. Being a game freak, Cuddlygameromancer holds this activity every year, on his birthday celebration. You see, this is his way of paying homage to his ancestors who were game artisans during pre-historic times. Well, okay, Cuddlygameromancer didn't really say that, but I reckon he must have a reason as otherworldly as this.

If you think Cuddlygameromancer invites his friends to devour his game boards and pieces, as the name suggests, well, he may be a game freak, but he's no wacko. I called it game buffet because it is somewhat done in a game convention fashion. Cuddlygameromancer invites his friends over to play various board and card games. He acts as the overall moderator, maintaining peace and order, considering the chaos this activity may bring as a few prizes may be at stake.

Materials: Any board or card game will do for this activity. With card games, I don't just mean the usual deck of cards with hearts, diamonds, spades and clovers. You may use such card games as Bang, Flux, Magic game cards, Vampire cards or other game cards which your guests may like. Make sure that you provide several kinds of games to have variety. This activity may take the whole afternoon so the last thing you want to happen is for your guests to get tired of the same game. Make sure, too, that you have enough, if not more than enough, games for your guests. You don't want some guests to feel left out just because you don't have games left for them to play.

Of course, for this activity, you need lots of tables and chairs unless a Voluminous Varicose Award is up for grabs at the end of the day. You may also want to prepare some paper weights if you plan to hold your activity outdoors. Otherwise, some of your game cards or paper money may get stuck in your garden's bushes due to some gusts of wind.

Mechanics: The mechanics for this activity are pretty simple. You just have to explain to each group the game they are about to play. To make the activity more enjoyable, you should let them choose which games they want to play. You just have to act as the moderator, guiding them and answering whatever questions they may have. You may provide prizes for winners, especially if your friends demand a reason why they should join some games.

Tips: This activity will be a lot more fun and exciting if you provide games which your guests have never played before. This way, your activity provides a good venue for them to discover new games. Of course buying games is costly but you could always borrow from other people for this event. Also, be sure that you know very well the ins and outs of each game should any question be posed to you by any of your guests. Lastly, even if this is no sports fest, having a game buffet can be tiring so you better prepare some refreshments for your guests. After all, this activity may take the whole day if your guests themselves get addicted to playing and trying out various games.

Eye Deception: Making Your Room Appear Larger

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

Do you feel like your home is a claustrophobe's nightmare? With the countless home makeover programs on television, you may not be surprised to know that this is a common problem among several people. If you are considering major renovations to extend your room, then read on first to find out if your dilemma may be solved without having to undergo drastic measures. The following suggestions, which are mostly elementary, may help you make your room larger, visually that is.


The first and most important thing to do is to clear every room in your house of any clutter which makes it look not only untidy, but less spacious. This means minimizing accessories in your room. You may argue that you are a figurine collector and would love to display your collections for your guests to behold. You may minimize clutter in this case by grouping together your figurines in one place.

One common flaw among most households is placing a lot of stuff on their tables even between meals. This adds to the eyesore of your house and makes your room appear claustrophobic. The same is true with placing books and other whatnot in bookshelves. There is no commandment saying that you fill in all available space. You may occupy only the needed space to make your room appear neater and airy.


The colors you choose for your furniture, accessories, walls, ceilings, flooring and even your moldings affect the way your room visually appears in size. To make your room appear larger you have to minimize the colors present in every room to create a more spacious feel. Then again, you may be a rainbow lover who loves to express herself through a chromatic room. You can still reflect yourself without going overboard by carefully splashing colors without making them look unorganized or like a complete eyesore for your guests. This means making these colors blend well since contrast among your walls, flooring and furnishings will visually create an even smaller space.

While some would tell you to stick to neutral controls for your walls, you may still choose your favorite color for them. But you have to keep in mind that to make your walls appear further away, you have to choose lighter shades since these reflect light while dark shades absorb light which makes your room feel and look less spacious.

You may also consider choosing a cool color like green or blue for your walls as these colors visually create more space. Warm colors, on the other hand, give a warm and cozier feel. Then again, you can still paint warm colors on your walls by sticking to their lighter shades to apply the principle mentioned above.

The same rule applies if you use wallpapers or fabrics for your walls. Make sure to avoid those which have crowded print in them. It may be a great idea to choose a wallpaper with lots of white space to give your room an airy sense.

As for the flooring of your room, make sure that it has a darker shade than your walls. In contrast, your ceilings must have a lighter shade than what your walls have. This strategy visually makes your room appear larger. This becomes even more effective if you choose darker shades for your crown and base moldings.

However, it is another story if your room happens to have a low ceiling and you want it to appear not only larger, but taller. In this case, it is still a good idea to choose a darker shade for your crown molding as compared to your ceiling as this also makes your ceiling appear higher. But instead of having to worry about painting a darker shade for your base moldings, you may paint them with a shade the same as your walls to add height to your room. As for the ceiling, you may leave the white or lighter shade on it as this also tends to make your ceiling appear higher. You may also add horizontal stripes of dark color on your walls to make your room appear taller.

Lastly, if you want to add dark colors to your room, you don't have to stop at applying them on your moldings or flooring. You may add them through your other furnishings while keeping in mind that they should have a minor role as compared to the light shades in your room. You may do this by applying darker shades in table accents or other minor pieces in the room and keeping draperies and other major pieces in a lighter shade. This way, you create an illusion that your room has less stuff in it than it really has.


It has always been a universal rule to place mirrors in a room to add both depth and height to it. This creates an illusion that your room is twice bigger. Then again, you have to choose where to properly position them to achieve a greater effect. This means reflecting light and images which show or create space.

Placing a mirror opposite a window is one of the best ways to visually add more space since you can bring the outdoors indoors. You may also place it opposite a door to reflect not only the outdoors or other rooms, but also guests coming in or out. Placing a huge mirror on a wall may be a good idea, but be careful not to overdo it by placing too many. Also, you may consider adding glass tabletops to your room to greatly add to its spacious feel.


Size. Some may advise you to keep your furniture small. Actually, an even worse case is having small furniture in the room but too many of them that it makes your room look overstuffed. You may keep your big furniture but make sure that they are not bulky or oversized. The key is to stick to the number of furniture which you really need and which give less for your eyes to see.

Look and make. The look and make of your furniture also affects your room's visual size. You are better off using those which have simple lines or nothing at all. Also, choosing couches and tables with open legged bottoms will not only make your room look neater, but will also let air circulate better in your home.

Arrangement. The choice of furniture is not the only factor which affects the visual look and feel of your room. Their arrangement is also vital and therefore, must be taken into consideration.

You may try setting some of your furniture diagonally to provide a larger view of the room. This is because, if you angle your furniture in such a way that it is coming out of a corner, you can see more of your room in an angle, than you can see in a straight line, when you have your furniture set up horizontally against the wall.

The space behind the furniture even provides for extra space for your end tables or shelves. You may do this technique for some of your couches and even for some of your beds. Just don't overdo it and try doing it in a trial-and-error fashion. If you find that the angled position of your furniture does not make your room look any better, then you don't have to put up with this arrangement just to follow this suggestion. Do what you think looks and feels comfortable for you and your guests.


When it comes to lighting, the first rule is, the lighter the room, the bigger it looks and feels. After applying the suggestion of having lots of light colors in your room, with the proper kinds and the right amount of lighting, the light colors in your room tend to reflect the lighting, thus making your room appear and feel larger.

To even enhance your lighting with the purpose of making your room appear larger, you must maximize the use of natural light. You will find that your room extends outdoors and your colors indoors reflect the beauty of nature outdoors.

If you light all corners of your room, you will find that your room appears larger since your eyes see the room in its entirety. If you want your ceiling to appear higher, you may get the help of pendant lights with long stems, since their long stems cause an illusion that your room is taller. Don't overdo it, though, especially in the dining room. You don't want to have fluorescent bulb for dinner, do you?

Lastly, if elongation is what you need, the key is in employing the use of repetitive shafts of light. You may install sconces in your stairs, hallways and foyers to achieve this. Not only do you add that decorative flair to your space, but you also get to trick your eyes into seeing a longer walking space.


Another way to maximize your room's space and make it appear bigger is by doing something about your storage space. The most effective way to achieve this is by using vertical space for storage. If you think installing floor-to-ceiling storage spaces will give you the added space without sacrificing your room's overall look, then go for it. Also, stir your creative juices and bring out your resourceful side by looking for corners or nooks and crannies in your home where you can place cabinets, shelves or hooks on which to hang your stuff.


Having curtains definitely add that extra chic to your room. Be careful, though, in selecting them since you do not want to turn the classy to dowdy.

Make sure that your curtains do not contrast the color or style of the walls. If you are really stubborn and would want to create a contrast, then do so without making the contrast too much. Don't forget that too much contrast may backfire by making your room look cluttered, thus, making it appear smaller than it really is.

More on, the contrast between your walls and curtains may steal the attention from the beauty of the view offered by your windows. Remember that while you may experiment with the styles of your curtains, they must still compliment the view of the windows. In fact, you may even consider getting rid of the curtains if you see that the windows themselves and the view they offer are enough to beautify your room and visually enlarge it.

Albert Einstein meets Juliana Catlin. You do the math. The following suggestions in making your house appear larger may imply that some math lessons are actually applicable in interior design. Find out how substitutions, deductions and additions may all work in making your room appear and feel larger.


To minimize the amount of space occupied by your stuff at home, you may consider doing a few substitutions. This means saying goodbye to some old furnishings and welcoming those which not only save you space, but make your room even more stylish.

When it comes to lighting, it has been a tradition to use table lamps in study areas or work places. You may consider giving them up and saying hello to elegant sconces in your home. This means you may even get rid of the tables on which these table lamps rest.

If you feel that your room feels claustrophobic and no painting or any type of furnishing could do the trick, it may be a good idea to knock down a big wall, especially if behind it a breathtaking view of nature is waiting to be appreciated. What are you going to do with the space, you ask? Well, you may consider putting up a big window to extend your room outdoors, that is, visually.

Lastly, changing the type of doors in your home may do the trick of literally adding space to your house. You may consider substituting your hinged door with a pocket door. This is because a hinged door, if you come to think of it, actually takes about 10 square feet of your space. However, if you use a pocket door, you get to use more space since the door is slid into a frame inside the wall.


There's nothing wrong about using rugs or carpets in your home, so long as they compliment the overall look of the room. But besides the style or print of your rugs, you must also take into consideration their number. If no wall is dividing your dining room from your kitchen and you plan to put rugs to separate them, think again. Putting a rug in almost any room to define their boundaries may actually make your home look a lot smaller and your ceilings lower. This is because with every end of a rug, the sight is stopped, dividing the space into smaller sections instead of seeing it as a whole large space.

Lastly, for the nth time I'm going to say it: minimize the contrasts present in your room. It may be hard to make your flooring, ceiling, lighting and furnishings compliment, but you have to make the extra effort to avoid having your room appear cluttered. Remember this formula: more contrasts = clutter = smaller space


While the colors of the furnishings and the kind of lighting may add or lessen your ceiling height, the added paint may also do the trick to visually make your room taller. By extending your wall paint 2-6 inches onto your ceiling, you create an eye trick of heightening your ceiling even more.

When lighting is the problem and your room seem to have that cave look even at day, you may consider adding a window or a skylight to let nature in and melt darkness. This even makes your room look inviting and airy.

Hosting an International Party

by Deborah Rosalind Nieto

It's been awhile since I have invited my friends over for a party. The last time they came over our house, we simply talked and dined on food. That's it. Every three or four months we meet and eat out but after eating, we often end up not knowing where to go next.

Although we have tons of things to talk about, we can't help but think that meeting each other would be much better if we set plans for our day together. In fact, we feel that we must do something different, something productive. Someone suggested we have a movie-thon, while another said we must try cooking together.

At length, I have thought of a party which incorporates some of their ideas plus a lot more to enable us to have fun, and at the same time, do something productive. My idea is to hold an international party, much like a United Nations celebration among my friends. You may try doing it yourself for a unique yet fun get-together.


An international party is a lot of fun when you and your friends wear costumes from different countries. Each of you doesn't have to be well made-up. You may simply don a kimono for a Japanese look or a headwrap to achieve an African flair. If you want to go Hawaiian, a lei or a floral polo shirt is enough. As the host, it is your job to have some international costumes or accessories ready in case some of your friends come without one. You may simply prepare a bindi, the ornamental mark that Indian women wear on their foreheads. Preparing some face paint may also be a good idea. This may indicate a touch of a Native American or an African look.

But assuming you're going to hold this party with your friends, and not your corporate bosses, I suggest that you threaten them to follow your orders--the simplest of which is to slip on a decent foreign costume or at least adorn themselves with a foreign accessory.


In any given party, ambience plays a good role in enhancing the mood you want to evoke. Even a pajama party won't be a success if you don't have a proper ambience for a sound slumber.

Visuals. Holding an international party does not have to be too tedious. To achieve a Japanese environment you may simply hang a few Japanese lanterns outdoors. You may also place a Japanese Shoji screen indoors if you are willing to spend for a divider. If you don't feel like keeping one after the party, you may get a plain divider and just post floral scraps of cloth or Japanese fans on it.

To achieve an Indian ambience, you may put up a curtain of flashy beads on one of your doorways. If you find a curtain of beads expensive, you may opt for three or four colored see-through cloths which you may hang below your ceiling. Hang them in such a way that they are flowing, as if you're making small hammocks with each of them. To achieve a more sensual look, you may lay the same material of cloth on the floor and randomly place candles on them. You wouldn't want your house to burn down so you better place little bowls or saucers with water beneath the candles.

If you intend to remind your guests of the Chinese culture, you may replace your curtains with silk floral draperies. Again, if you have a slim budget, you may get several empty Chinese food boxes, lay them on the floor and place candles in them. You may also get a few large papers, paint Chinese characters on them, post them on your walls or hang them from the ceiling.

An international party actually has no limits. You may combine a few or all of these and add your own ideas. Just make sure that the fusion of various decors does not look tacky. This means placing the ornaments in such a way that they go together despite their differences.

Music. An international party's ambience does not stop with the looks. You must be able to provide sounds which remind your guests of the marriage of different cultures. This is a day for you to do away with the usual music you listen to. While you may not own CD's of foreign artists, and there is a less chance you can borrow from your next-door neighbor, everything you need is available on the web. You may download almost anything from Salsa music to Kiwi songs.

With the great fraction of the day which you and your friends will spend together, you will need several songs, and a great variety of them, meaning you need to get from a multitude of sources. The possibilities are endless. You may play Grenadian lullabies, Spanish serenades, Latin Gregorian chants, Thai country music, Estonian choir songs, Albanian hip hop songs, or Fijian folk music. You may turn a simple activity of listening to music to a game by letting your friends guess the country of origin or the language used in each musical piece.


One of the most exciting and memorable components in your party is the food. You may either prepare each food yourself or agree on a potluck with your friends. This way you not only make your life easier, but you also get to make the dining experience more exciting as each of you do not know what the others are bringing. You may determine who brings what kind of food by drawing papers with countries written on them.

Just as the international music choices are endless, the food you may prepare are boundless. To make preparations less tiring and faster, you may agree on finger food or easy-to-make dishes. Whip up some kani maki, tofu steak or raw tuna for Japanese food. A few choices for Korean food are Korean barbeque, kim chi and Korean sushi. You may also prepare shrimp dumplings, mini spring rolls or a few fortune cookies to satisfy your Chinese appetite. Think of Italy and you may prepare a simple beef lasagna, foccacia bread with pesto or mini pizza pies. To better appreciate the Spanish culture, you may cook a small serving of tapas, Spanish omelette or Gazpacho.


After or while having your fill of every kind of food, you and your friends may watch some foreign films. Nowadays, you don't have to wait for international film festivals to watch a foreign film. Some video stores now rent out this kind of movies.

If you and your friends are in the mood to be silly, you may try watching the same foreign movie twice. For the first time, watch it without the subtitles and guess what is happening and what the characters are saying. Then, after the first run, watch it again, this time with the subtitles.

More art-related activities

Watching foreign films is not the only way to get in touch with other countries' art. You may try other interesting activities. Some of you may bring some magazines or CD's featuring German wood toys, Tunisian ceramics, Syrian furniture or Acoma pottery. You may also indulge your eyes in such works as Armenian sculptures, Filipino shellcrafts or Brazilian abstract paintings. If you don't have such media, again, the web runs to your rescue.

You may also try a shot at a poetry reading. For an appreciation of Spanish poems, you may read the original poems of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Then, after reading his Spanish poems you may read the translated versions. You may do the same with Japanese haikus, Italian sonnets or any foreign poem you intend to read.


If you still have some time for games, then you may try playing a few rounds of charades. You may write a name of a country on each piece of paper. If a person, for instance, draws a paper with France written on it, she has to act anything that would give her group members a clue pertaining to this country. You may also write a name of a thing unique to a certain country on each paper. If a person, for example, draws a paper with the word "sushi" written on it, she must be able to act "sushi" out.


If you still have a few dollars to spare for souvenirs, then by all means, buy or create any kind of souvenir for your guests. You may buy Japanese fans or umbrellas and give each to your guests. If you'd like to create them, you may do so by pasting Japanese paper on old fans and umbrellas. To slash your expenses for the souvenirs, you may create mini versions of fans or umbrellas.

If your friends are fond of dolls, then a Chinese doll or an Egyptian mummy doll may be cool to give. If jewelries are their thing, then they may be thrilled to get African cowry shell earrings or Indian bangles.

You may even personalize your souvenirs by writing designs on them yourself or letting all guests sign on them to remind the receiver of every person who has been a part of your international party.

A Solid Look At The Video iPod

A couple months ago I received a fifth generation iPod, one of those Video iPods, from one of those online sites that gives you a free iPod after you complete a couple offers, and have a couple of your friends do the same.

I never really wanted an iPod; truth be told, I was just going to give it to someone as a gift, but after looking at the small sleek packaging, I decided that since I had put some hard work into getting the little device, I might as well use it.

Now I'm not a big fan of music. I listen to music in the car and when I workout, but other than that I do not really listen to music very often. Although the iPod is a portable music player, the new iPod Video models also have the ability to play games, show photos, and watch TV shows / movies.

I was really surprised when I took the black iPod Video out of the packaging
and saw how small the device was. I was never interested in any iPod before,
so I never really paid attention to them. I was expecting the iPod to be
about half the size of those old Walkman cassette players, but the iPod is much
smaller. Even though it has a thirty gigabyte storage capacity, the device is
slightly larger than a deck of playing cards.

I installed the iTunes software on my computer, and the program automatically installed all of the music from my computer onto the device. Now, because I don't really listen to music on my computer only about ten or fifteen songs were transferred over.

At the same time, I noticed that not only could I purchase music with the iTunes software, I could also purchase TV shows for around two dollars an episode. I became greatly interested in this fact when I found out that a couple of TV shows were available for free. I immediately downloaded the free TV shows to test how the quality of the shows on the small iPod LCD display screen.

While I was not very interested in the free TV shows I had downloaded, I was very impressed with the quality of the playback on the iPod's LCD screen. I was so impressed that I went back to the iTunes video store and purchased a couple episodes of some old television shows that were not shown on TV anymore.

As the weeks passed, I soon found out about several websites that provided content for my iPod Video for free. Google Video even has a service that will convert any of their videos to the iPod Video format. Now I have so many TV shows, commercials, and even full movies on my iPod I do not even have any music left on it.

The only gripe I have about the iPod Video's video performance is the fact that playing back long TV shows will quickly drain the battery. While I never have any problems watching a couple twenty five minute episodes of a television series, watching an hour long television show or a movie seems to make zap a completely charged battery. While I understand for such a small battery, an hour and a half
is great, I just kind of wish Apple would have made the iPod Video a little larger to accommodate a larger battery.

I mentioned earlier that the iPod Video not only plays music, but it also does a lot of other things. I already mentioned how I was not even listening to music on the device anymore, but I am not always watching television shows and movies on it either. The iPod Video has a lot of nice little extra features that have
been keeping me busy when I just do not have enough time to watch a complete television show.

The iPod Video also stores your photos on the unit, which is a pretty useful idea. Now whenever I am talking to one of my old friends or family members, instead of describing what my puppy did, or how my basement looks, I just pull out my iPod and show off the photos. The iPod Video even lets you add transitions to your
photos so that you can make little slideshows.

My iPod also allows me to display text files and store contact information for all of my friends. It even came with three games; solitaire, break out, and a copter shooting game. While these games aren't exactly the greatest, they are awesome to play when you have a couple extra minutes to kill. The iTunes store also recently started selling games for the iPod video, too. Priced at nearly five dollars a game, you can play games such as Tetris, mini golf, and my personal favorite Vortex. All of the games are made specifically for the clickwheel so you should not have any problems playing the games.

I am still more than content with the iPod's built in games, but I still purchased one, mainly because I wanted to see how well the iPod Video handled 'real games'. I was very impressed and hope the company continues to release games for the iPod Video in the near future.

One problem that I have with my iPod video isn't about the unit itself, but rather the accessories that come with the iPod Video. Instead of including a regular power adapter that could be used to charge the unit from a standard wall power outlet, you have to use the USB transfer cable to also charge the unit. This has become a pain for me several times, because I always want to charge my iPod outside my home, but I never can because I always leave the transfer cable attached to my desktop PC. Apple has a AC adapter charger available, but in my opinion thirty dollars is a little too pricey for something that I believe show have been included for free with the price of the iPod Video. While I can find lots of other third party
accessories for much cheaper than their Apple counterparts, I still have been unable to find a cheap wall power adapter.

In the end, the iPod was made for playing music and instead I use it to watch TV shows, commercials and movies and play a game every now and then. I never had any intention of actually purchasing and using an iPod, but now I am glad I have an iPod Video. Like I said before, I do not even listen to music on the thing, but I still carry it with me nearly every day. I am very impressed with how awesome this thing is, and now I completely understand why Apple is dominating the music player market with these devices.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Healthy lifestyle

Everyday we eat up the food that has less nutritional value and we don't recognize how can it greatly affect our body. Today most of the people get a lot of sickness due to bad habit and unfortunately, some cannot resist from doing the same thing over and over because of the busy schedule. The habit becomes longer and later we learn that our bodies are suffering.

Burger and pastas are easily accessible to most hectic people. Before going to work, a convenient way is just going to a drive-thru. They eat inside the car while driving and even eat while walking going to work. Not to mention that some are still using cigarettes to ease their tension as one chain smoker would say.

These will soon add up to the risk of getting high blood, diabetes and worst is heart attack. So why risk your life trying not to get a minute late to work while subtracting a period of time in your health or worst your life? Sometimes with this kind of habit, we seldom noticed that our children or our family are suffering too.

Start changing your lifestyle having these practical suggestions that can somehow save your health.
Before going to sleep, try looking at your refrigerator of what you can prepare next thing in the morning. Give time to list down all the food that you will be serving the following morning. Sometimes time is of the essence in preparing a simple meal, list down at least five easy to prepare food. Sandwiches and fresh salads are best for the kids to bring at school. It can also avoid them from buying food from school of which you cannot monitor what kind of food they are eating. It can even save you money. Keep it as part of the routine and let your kids participate in the preparation.

Second, avoid buying prepared foods that have less nutritional value or that have lots of fat instead of nutrition. Get an easy guide cookbook to enhance your cooking ability. Eating healthy food reduces the risk of health problems. You might enjoy eating burger and fries for so many days however you are depriving your body from vitamins and minerals it should get. Of course, there are food supplements for our bodily need but it is not sufficient where our stomach constantly grinding. Mainly the affects of using too much drugs are insomnia, stomach upset and even emotional distress. Living a healthy life is going back to the basics, eat and exercise.

Third, cut off any bad habits such as smoking, drinking and staying up late. All of these habits add up to stress which can greatly affect both inside and out. Those who are smoking inevitably will cause skin aging. During this stage, your skin looks dull, breakouts, oily and worst is wrinkles. Alcohol drinking is also a big factor that causes obesity and big bellies. Not only it will not make you feel good about yourself especially on the way your appearance look, it can even affect you emotionally. Bad habits will always remain bad habits.

Fourth, stick to baked, boiled and cooked foods not grilled foods. Make sure that you are in the correct balance with the sugar and salt. Either way of excessive use can cause a disease. Still home-cooked meals are the best food as long as it is rich with vegetables. Always give time to prepare food whether thrice a week or four times a week. Make sure that during weekends, it is a time where you can spend time preparing for nutritional food despite the working days of not doing it.

Fifth, is going to the grocery, what you pick is crucial to what you are going to eat. Avoid yourself from buying many junk foods for you kids like chocolate candies and drinks that has preservatives. Instead, make a fresh blend of fruits that you can store for one to two days.

So start living a healthy life, you can be both a good example for your children but also respecting the body that you have. Not all health problems came in just a second it is accumulated through time. No one can be blame except our selves who allows it to happen.

Preparing the turkey

Christmas is part of our tradition; we always served it as bountiful and festive. It is always the best time for kids since they like receiving more gifts but for kitchen Mommies, food preparation is essential.

Christmas is near and everybody especially in most Western countries are ready to celebrate the eve with a deep fried turkey and not roasted. Some prefer to fry the turkey since it gives a crisp taste. Everybody likes fried chicken, having it no different from the turkey that came from the same family of birds. However, few of us seldom know that frying a turkey can be dangerous if done in propane turkey fryers.

For these reasons, regular fryers have no automatic shut off if the temperature exceed from 400 F. If oil is not regulated in its maximum heat of that the fryer can tolerate, instances are it will burst or explode. In the busy schedule, we just rely on our smoke sensor if everything gets hotter inside the kitchen perhaps to late for us to handle the effect. Now, it can even ruin our holiday feast aside from the fact that it can be of danger to the family.Second, the spilling of the oil or splatter of oils, the fryer should have a non-slip base to retain its position. What is important is to keep your turkey frying safely.

It is the tradition itself that turkey must be deep-fried and without standard tools tested quality, then it can be of danger. If this is so, if frying in propane fryer then we must take any alternative to reduce danger. Why not we get out from the conventional and try changing our turkey preparation for this Christmas season. Try looking other western or European preparations on turkey. Better yet, try blending Asian cuisine into your menu. There are endless probabilities on how to create your Christmas menu.

Turkey served in different types of cuisine not just fried and one must always experiment in different kinds of preparation. What is amazing with this type of dish is that we are so used on expecting result that is fried and toasted. Nevertheless, using another variety of preparation can be surprising and perhaps make some new ideas.

Turkey always served as a whole but mostly in this case it is inconvenient if we have many guests. They cut the turkey using their own knife to get piece that shared unequally to all. To avoid this, cut the turkey as equally as it should be. You can easily budget how many can share in one turkey. Even though cut in pieces, make sure it is presented in a plate, as any guest would like to expect. Place beside it some seasoning, mayonnaise, or toppings that suit their taste. It is merrier if turkey presented in such a way not only it will leave the table presentable and clean but everyone gets a piece.

Nothing beats a champagne or wine to match with a turkey. A heavy meat needs soluble to digest in the body. The right champagne or wine is crucial although some demand other alcohol and drinks in one table. It is also the same with plates, glass, spoons and forks. Dishes and drinks placed separately but close enough for easy access. If you are having a party in a small space, try maximizing the dining area as if a buffet. This will also reduce the hustle in the dining area. The living room can be use as a social area for guests.

In the end, no matter how food is serve in this yuletide season the important thing are the people who share the food. It is the togetherness of the families and food dining is just one thing to gather the family and friends. It is by making sure also that everyone gets a treat and merry.

I used to remember how bountiful the food preparation when I was younger. The menu packed with the food I always expect be served. Now, since the siblings are getting older and having their own activities aside from family togetherness I noticed my Mother to prepare less. No matter how festive is the turkey if there is nobody who will share the food, still it is of no use.

Acrylic Glazing (By 4Ernesto)

Acrylic is light, easy to cut, and has more impact resistance than glass, though it scratches easily and has a high rate of expansion. Double-skin acrylic sheets are translucent, and the diffuse light is good for plants. Designer Valerie Walsh thermoforms these sheets into curved roof sections for custom sunspaces.

Commonplace now as the stuff of automobile lights, bank security window, gas-station signs, camera and contact lenses, TV screens, and even paint, blankets and carpets, acrylic plastic has been around a long time. Although development of this highly elastic substance began back in the 19th century, it was not until the 1930s that chemical firms first began producing commercial quantities of acrylic, which can be manufactured as a liquid, as fibres or in sheets. It took World War II, when the War Department started testing and using acrylic extensively in aircraft, to push the technology into the applications familiar to us today.

The larger family of plastic glazing materials has been closely scrutinized over the last decade by solar designers and builders searching for the least expensive material for collectors, greenhouses, windows, skylights and water storage. Most plastic glazings are flexible, light-weight, impact-resistant and light-diffusing. Acrylic stands out because it will not degrade or yellow in ultraviolet light. Along with high clarity and an impact resistance of 15 to 30 times greater than that of glass, acrylic offers a lifetime gauged at 20 years.

Given a burning rate of Class II in the codes, acrylic burns very rapidly, but does not smoke or produce gases more toxic than those produced by wood or paper. The ignition temperature is higher than that of most woods, but acrylic begins to soften above 160F.

Used for exterior and interior windows, doors, skylights, clerestories and greenhouse glazing, acrylic sheets can be moulded into various shapes and contours. Both single-skin and double-skin versions of the material are available. Single-skin acrylic is clear and comes in sheets or continuous rolls of various thicknesses. Extruded into a hollow-walled sheet material, double-skin acrylic has interior ribs, spaced 5/8 in. apart, running the length of the sheet. It is translucent, but not transparent.

The Debate
Builders and designers who have worked with acrylic fall into two camps: they either hate it or love it. Any type of glazing is ultimately compared with glass, and those who like acrylic, whether single or double shin, offer these reasons:

It is versatile. Single-skin acrylic can be cut into a multiplicity of shapes, either for pure design reasons or to meet the demands of an out-of-square solar retrofit. Single-skin acrylic can be cold-formed into curves; both single and double-skin sheets can be heat-formed.

Acrylics are easy to cut and can be site-fabricated. Lighter in weight and easier to carry, the double-skin sheet is more convenient to install than glass. The flexibility of single-skin sheets varies with their thickness; longer sheets of thinner acrylic require more people to handle them.

Acrylic has high transmissivity, and better impact strength than glass. Double-skin acrylic has an R-value competitive with insulated glass units. It is safe in overhead applications, because it will not shatter. Instead it breaks into large, dull-edged pieces.

On the other hand, builders who prefer glass offer these reasons: Acrylic has a high rate of expansion and contraction, requiring careful attention to keep an installation leak-proof. As it moves, the acrylic sheet makes a noise described as ticking or cracking and acrylic scratches easily. The extent, to which this is considered a problem, or even an annoyance, varies from builder to builder.

Acrylic used to be much cheaper than glass, but now single-skin acrylic is competitive only when purchased in bulk. Any cost advantage is likely to be lost if you attempt to double-glaze with single-skin acrylic. This is a labour intensive process, and it is tough to eliminate condensation between the panes. The price of double-skin acrylic is close to that of insulated glass, but the cost is higher if the price of a compression fastening system is figured in. (Some builders expect the price of double-skin acrylic to drop in the future when more companies begin to manufacture it.)

If acrylic is used for a roof in a sunspace or greenhouse, however, its availability in assorted lengths can cut down on labour costs. Designer Larry Lindsey, of the Princeton Energy Group, pints out that long pieces eliminate the need for horizontal mullion breaks, and so can be installed less expensively than several smaller ones. They are also cheaper. An uninterrupted piece of glazing can run the full length of the slope, supported by purlins underneath.

Professional use
Architect David Sellers of Sellers & Co., an architectural firm in Warren Vt., explains his extensive use of acrylic: "Our whole plastics experiment has been an aesthetic means of expanding the type of architecture we do. With acrylic we could push the house beyond what it was already, both the inside and the outside experience of it". In the process, the firm has developed a spectrum of applications for single-skin acrylic (sidebar, below right).

Designer-builder Valerie Walsh, of Solar Horizon, Santa Fe, N. Mex., uses double-skin acrylic greenhouses and sunspaces that are her firm’s specialty. She first used single-skin acrylic because it was slick, clean-looking, and did not degrade in the South-western sun. She began to explore unusual shapes, such as a wheel-spoke roof design. Then she turned to using double-skin acrylic. Walsh thermoforms acrylic in her own shop - curved pieces that are as wide as 5½ ft. and typically 6 ft. to 7 ft. long, although she has done 8-footers.

Safety and economics figured prominently in the Princeton Energy Group's decision to use acrylic glazing overhead in their greenhouses and sunspaces.

"The whole issue is a matter of expense," says Larry Lindsay. "In order to have glass products we feel comfortable installing overhead, we have to pay two penalties, one in transmittance and one in bucks. At present, there is no laminated low-iron glass available at a reasonable cost."

For those who have years of experience with acrylic, a willingness to experiment and to learn from mistakes has produced a valuable body of knowledge about working with the material, its design potential and its limits.

Leaking is a particular concern with acrylic glazing because it moves a lot, expanding and contracting in response to temperature changes. To avoid leaks, design principle number one is to try to eliminate horizontal joints, and yet glazing systems that may do a perfect job of sealing glass joints will not work at all with acrylic. Its movement will pull the caulk right out.

"Acrylic has a tremendous coefficient of expansion - you have to allow maybe an inch over 14 ft. for movement," cautions Chuck Katzenbach, construction manager at PEG where they have worked with double-skin acrylic for exterior applications and single-skin for interior ones. "No silicones or sealants we know of will stretch that potential full inch of movement." Indeed, one builder tells a story about using butyl tape for bedding: The acrylic moved so much in the heat that the tapes eventually dangled from the rafters like snakes.

Room for expansion must be left on all four sides of an acrylic sheet, because the material will expand and contract in all directions. The amount of movement depends on the length of the sheet and the temperature extremes it will be subject to.

Acrylic glazing can be installed year round, but it is vital to pay attention to the temperature when it is put in place. Katzenbach explains that if it is 30 F outside, then you have to remember to allow for expansion to whatever you figure your high temperature will be. If it could go from 30 F to a peak of 120 F in your greenhouse, you have to make provisions for a 90o change.

To cut a sheet of acrylic, use a fine-tooth carbide-tipped blade set for a shallow cut, and move like a snail. This is important because speed will cause little pressure cracks to appear on the bottom edge. While cutting, make sure that the sheet is firmly supported on both sides of the cut. Sharpness is vital, so use that blade only for working with acrylic. When the acrylic is cut it heats up and the edges melt, but the wider kerf of a carbide blade will prevent the newly cut edges from melting back together again. After the cut, the edges can be planed, filed or sanded.

As the acrylic is cut, little fuzzy pieces will fly up. Some will reglue themselves to the edges and can be broken off when the cutting is completed. With double-skin acrylic, the fuzz tends to fill the 5/8 in. dia. columns between ribs. Use an air gun to blow it out.

If you drill acrylic, support the sheet fully, and use a very sharp spade bit, ground to a sharper angle than for drilling wood. The sharper angle helps prevent cracking. Drill very slowly, and slow down even more just before the drill breaks through the sheet. Be prepared to break some pieces, no matter how careful you are.

Acrylic sheets come protected with an adhesive masking, which exposure to rain or sunlight makes quite difficult to remove. Leave the protective masking on the acrylic as long as possible, and be prepared for a good zap from static electricity when you pull it off.

For years it has been common practice to fasten single-skin acrylic by screwing it down. The designers at Sellers & Co. developed a pressure-plate fastening system to distribute the pressure evenly and drilled the holes for the bolts or screws an extra 1/8 in. wide to allow for movement. But after ten years or more, the hole has shifted and started pushing against the screw in some installations. Cracks developed where none had existed.

Small cracks in single-skin acrylic can be stopped if the force on them is not too great. Although his firm now uses installation details that do not involve drilling the sheets, Jim Sanford at Sellers & Co., recommends stopping cracks by drilling a 1/4 in. dia. hole at the end of the crack and filling it with silicone. Designer-builder Alex Wade, of Mt. Marion, N.Y., who still uses screws, suggests drilling a tiny hole at the end of the crack, too. He then widens the crack slightly with a knife and fills it with silicone. Finally, he removes the offending screw. Wade suspects that many builders do not take into account the season of the year in which they are working when they drill the holes for screws. When installing acrylic in the extremes of summer or winter, Wade drives the screw either to the inside or the outside of an over-sized hole in the acrylic, to allow for subsequent contraction or expansion when the temperatures change. It is important to space the holes evenly (about 2 ft. apart) and to tighten the screws uniformly to distribute the pressure equally. The sheet must be held down firmly, but still be able to move.

To avoid taking a chance with cracking, however, most builders have abandoned screw. Instead they use a compression system of battens that hold the plastic sheet down on a smooth bed of ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). It comes in strips and is supplied by several manufacturers. The acrylic can easily slide across the EPDM as it moves.

Manufacturers recommend a 3x rafter to support the bedding in the compression glazing system. PEG installs an interior condensation gutter on greenhouse rafters that doubles as a smooth, uniform bed for the EPDM gasket in the glazing system. The 20-gauge sheet metal straddles the rafter and is bent into a 5/8 in. lip for the gutter on each side.

PEG has also developed a system for a standard 2x. A clear all-heart redwood 1 x 4 trim piece is screwed on top of the 2x, widening the bed and providing a smooth surface (inset drawing, facing page). Concentrated stress on the acrylic sheets is as important to avoid with a compression system as it is with screws. If one point is fastened tighter than the others, the acrylic will bow in and leak or crack.

Larry Lindsey recommends aluminium battens on south-facing roofs, because wooden ones will eventually cup upward, creating a leak. Aluminium battens can be purchased with various finishes, or they can be capped with a strip of red wood.

Double-skin acrylic needs to be supported at its base or it will bow instead of moving within the compression glazing system.

PEG lets the sheets hang over the roof's edges as a shingle would sealing it underneath. For the bottom edge on installations with curved roofs, Valerie Walsh has developed a system with no damming problems. She slides on aluminium terminal section (ATS) from CYRO on the bottom of the double-skin acrylic, then snugs the acrylic into a larger aluminium U-channel that is in turn screwed into the wood beam. Walsh then caulks the inside and rills weep holes through the outside of the U-channel.

In one of his designs, David Sellers decided to glaze the south-facing roof area with long strips of single-skin acrylic. To avoid leaking, he encouraged the tendency of the 1/4 in. sheets to sag slightly. Small blocks under the edges of the sheets accentuate the dip. Melting snow or rain flows to the center of each panel and then drains off the roof. On the bottom edge, an angle keeps the acrylic from slipping.

Glazing materials
Acrylic is fussy stuff. Chuck Katzenbach reels off a list of materials to avoid using with this plastic. Vinyl leaches into acrylic and weakens its edges. Some butyls have plasticizers that may also leach into acrylic. In these cases, either the acrylic will eventually fail or the butyl will become very hard. The plasticizer in most neoprenes is not compatible, so check with the manufacturer.

Compatible glazing materials are few: EPDM heads the list. Silicone caulk is okay, but sooner or later the acrylic's movement will pull it loose. If it is installed on a cold day, the silicone may pull out on the first really warm one. There are many urethane foams you can use, but you would be well advised to consult the manufacturer directly about compatibility.

The double-skin acrylic can bow in over the length of the roof, and the sheet could conceivably pull out of the glazing system under a very heavy snow load, according to Larry Lindsey. So as a cautionary measure, PEG figures on a 30-lb. snow load and installs purlins 4 ft. o.c., about 5/8 in. below the sheet.

Acrylic transpires water vapour, so a double-skin unit typically will have some cloudy vapour inside. Double-skin acrylic should be installed with its ribs running down the slope so that any condensation inside the channels will collect at the bottom edge of the sheet. This edge needs to be vented. Double-skin sheets arrive with rubber packing material in both ends of the channels, to keep them free of debris. PEG's construction crew just leaves it there and perforates it with a scratch awl to allow air movement.

Never use abrasives, ammonia-base glass cleaners or paint thinner on acrylic glazing. Mild detergent, rubbing alcohol, turpentine and wax-base cleaner-polishers designed especially for plastic are safe when applied with a soft cloth.

Cleaning brings up the controversial issue of scratching. "The scratching drives me crazy, though other builders do not seem to care as much," says Valerie Walsh. Whether she is storing the sheets she has heat-formed into curves or transporting them to the building site, she keeps thin sheets of foam padding wrapped around every piece.

"With double-skin acrylic, people's tendency is not to expect to be able to see through it. They are not looking through it as they would through a window, and so they are not seeing the small imperfections in the surface itself," argues Chuck Katzenbach.

Even though single-skin acrylic is transparent, many builders who work with it say that scratching just is not a significant problem, particularly if the glazing is kept clean. The only serious scratching problem is likely to be the work of a dog. Most scratches can be easily removed with a Simonize paste-wax buffing. And now some single-skin acrylics are available with a polysilicate coating that makes them abrasion-resistant and also improves their chemical resistance.