Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sources for great looking and comfortable barstools

Over the years, I spent quite a lot of time in finding the perfect counter and barstools that are not just good looking but just as comfortable. Since most of my active life in house is concentrated in kitchen, I wanted to get ever lasting and very comfortable stools.

Since I am not a normal human like most, I went to extremes to find the best stools for our decor. In the process, I gained enough knowledge about them to admit I am more knowledgeable about bar stools than I am with software programming (14 years working experience).

First, I had to decide between wood or metal. For kitchen it was an easy choice for us with 2 kids below 7 years. Wood was the choice as it will be easy for kids to move it around and also it doesn't damage the hardwood floors. Then, had to decided whether to get swivel chairs or fixed ones. With all our friends having kids, we decided to go with fixed so they get less abused by kids. Had to go with models that have back so, I can relax my back on a long day.

So, my research started on Google. Initially, search was frustrating as several websites that had barstool in their domain name showed up. Most of those sites were selling cheap looking designs.

Frontgate had very nice collection from traditional to contemporary and if you can wait for their 20% off coupon, you might be getting the best deal on great chairs. Also, Horchow, Layla Grayce for traditional, Eurway for low priced contemporary are good places.

Among manufacturers, Artistica Metal, and French Heritage make very comfortable traditional chairs. Furniture Land South in NC state is the best source to buy most brands if you don't find the one's you like at Frontgate.

Frontgate probably gets lot of them made exclusively for them. So, it's very hard to find them any cheaper. For my kitchen I was able to find a model sold by Frontgate on clearance at a local store.

My Kitchen Stools

For my basement bar, I have my eyes set on this model at Frontgate and will wait to see it in their outlet before I own them.

Will try to own for my bar

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NevoSL -More than an Universal Remote

Not many are familiar with this great remote as none of the boxed stores carry it and is exclusively available only through specialized home automation installers.

While my Home Theater was getting ready, I considered several remotes from Harmony to Universal MX300 to even the very expensive Phillips Pronto Models. I ruled out all of them as I wanted a remote that feels like a remote and looks incredibly cool. Then, I visited the Mecca of Remotes - Remote Central and soon discovered NevoSL. First I fell for the looks. Then, I started information gathering about this remote and soon decided that it's the remote for me. It's Wi-Fi capable with touch screen operation and button controls. I first tried to work with a local dealer but the price was insanely high. Almost $1.5K which included customizing the remote and programming all equipment in my theater.

The price definitely scared me but didn't let me rule out the remote as I decided to risk warranty and get from ebay. I paid less than $400 and I also purchased NevoLink for less than $100 which is needed for my setup as my equipment is located in the back of the theater. NevoSL can transmit the remote commands on WiFi to home network. NevoLink picks up those signals and fires IR to the equipment it's located near. If you know to setup wireless network on your laptop, you sure can figure this.

The remote setup and customization is a breeze and addictive. It has got unlimited potential for creative customization with the Nevo Studio that comes with it. Make sure you update it to the latest version. You can do this from the software menu.

If you are ever in the market for a perfect remote, take a serious look at this one. It's sure to exceed your expectations. If you have a Media center, you can customize the remote to show up images of your media collection and play them remotely.

If you already happen to have this remote please let me know how you like it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Washington Post's Local Explorer recently launched "Local Explorer" on their website which is a very useful tool for locals and those who want to be locals. It's local to Washington DC Metro area covering areas in Maryland, Northern Virginia and DC.

For anyone shopping for a house or looking to move to the area, it should be the go to place to research the area before you buy or rent a place. Local Explorer uses Google maps to show Places in the Area, Recent Home Sales, Schools, and Crime. You can click on point-marks to get more details of that place including Home sale information, School Reports, Crime Reports, etc.

It's also very helpful for people like me who already live here. I am able to look for restaurants, movie theaters, bus stops, daycares, etc around my area. Also, I can keep an eye on crime, home sales, etc around my area. After all, it makes me feel better when I see house prices going up while crime rate is coming down.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pepper Shrimp

Shrimp, Bacon, Fresh Green lemon, Lemon Pepper or any Pepper Mix found in McCormick type seasonings, Bell Peppers, Pam cooking spray, toothpick sticks.

Mix Pepper seasoning to your taste to shrimp. Cut Bell peppers to thin strips. Cut each slice of bacon to 3-4 pieces. Mix all these together in a bowl and squeeze fresh lemon to your taste and leave for 15-20 mins. To each shrimp, put one strip of bell pepper and roll the Bacon over it and insert the toothpick from head side of shrimp to tail side.

Spray Pam on non-stick oven double grill tray that can drain liquids to bottom tray as shown in picture. Put oven in Broil medium and let it heat for 2-3 mins. Now, put the tray in middle rack. Take the tray out in 2-3 mins and turn the shrimp over and place it back in oven for another 2-3 mins.

Ready to serve hot. Add more lemon if needed.

TIP: Don't let shrimp over cook. Believe me, 5-6 minutes in medium Broil can sometimes over cook the shrimp. So, keep an eye on the oven. Since this dish takes less than 10 minutes to cook, it's always better to cook it when the guests arrive.


(Picture Courtesy:

If you like, call it anything else!

I used green veggie bananas. Peel them well, slice them and marinate in a mixture of anything to suit your taste. I used a mixture of red chili, salt, little garam masala, amchur powder, besan flour(very little), rice flour(very little), lots of pepper and little water. Marinate for about 30 mins to 1-hr.

Deep fry them. You don't need a pan full of oil. Just enough oil to drown the bananas. If you prefer fry in small batches to use less oil. Fry them until well cooked. Spread them on Bounty paper napkin to remove any oil. For healthy eating, substitute deep frying with baking in oven at 375F for 20-30 minutes.

Now, fry green peppers, and curry leaves. Add some red chili powder and salt to taste. Add jeera powder. Add fried/baked banana, stir them and add finely chopped coriander leaves and add lemon juice to taste.

The appetizer is ready. Makes an excellent side with sambar or rasam.

Apollo Fish

Use Priya fish masala (The packet specifies the amount of fish that can be used) to marinate the fish (prefer Tilapia) for couple of hours. Marinate should be made of Priya fish masala, salt, red chili powder, jeera powder, ginger paste, lemon juice, and some ground pepper.

Semi deep fry the fish (For fat conscious diet oven it at 375F for 7 mins and then 3 mins in Broil Mode). Keep the fish aside and fry hot green peppers, and lots curry leaves. Add 1 or 2 onions that are cut thin and long and stir fry for a 5 mins. Taste deep fried (or oven baked) fish to check the taste of salt and chili and add more salt and chills as needed to your taste. If needed, add more Priya fish masala and some amchur powder to get a tangy taste to the appetizer.

Add finely chopped coriander leaves to the stir fry mix and immediately add deep fried fish. Turn very slowly to avoid splitting the fish. You don't have to fry much once the fish is added.

Apollo fish is ready to be enjoyed. Remember, a good presentation can help enhance the psychological taste of your dish. Enjoy it with a raspberry fruit wine.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Brunch Party with Friends

Most of us Indians living in US have a busy weekend schedule filled with parties. Fortunately, we choose a lifestyle that doesn't take up most of our weekends for parties. We believe they are just tiring and take away lot of fun time we can have with our kids. So, we restricted our friendship to few friends who are all very close. We maintain a yahoo group and a Google calendar to share information about our weekend activities and we all always unite for any fun activity for kids.

We cycle through get togethers that occur once in 6-7 weeks and each time a one family hosts. As most parties, we had our parties at late evening and they last through midnight. Kids enjoy them a lot as all of us have kids in same age groups. But we come home tired and then it gets even tougher to get the kids from car to their bed. Then, for most part of the next day we are all tired.

Well recently, one of our friend had to host a brunch get together as I was on call and couldn't make it for night party. To our surprise we all felt it was just the best way to have a get together with kids. We all enjoyed chatting, playing games, eating (my fav part), and more food. The food was the best part as we get to enjoy all the famous traditional Andhra breakfasts like Pongal, Pesarattu Upma, Idly, several chutneys, Poori with mutton and poori koora, shrimp vepudu, fruit salad, fruit cocktails, and Mysore coffee.

We covered the whole day meals and when we returned home in the evening, we are all fresh for the evening and ready to sit in our home theater to enjoy a movie.

Probably, all the next get together's at our place will either be brunch or early evening cookouts filled with light food and lots of games and talking sessions around the kitchen island!

Friday, June 8, 2007

GreenFront - Hidden Gem of a store for oriental rugs and high-end furniture?

I spent quite a bit of time to find the perfect store in DC Metro area for quality oriental rugs and furniture. I wouldn't rate Greenfront highly for furniture as most of the brands they sell don't make to my taste but their prices might surprise North Carolina shoppers. I personally prefer my furnitre to look very elegant and unique. I might find a occasional surprises from brands like Mirador or Habersham. What impressed me the most about Greenfront is their amazing prices and collection of Indian and Pakistani made rugs. Before I found em, I restricted buying my rugs either from Pottery Barn or Bloomingdales famous tent rug sale they have in first week of July each year. Greenfront rug prices can beat the best prices you can get from a rug store in India. I highly recommend this store to all my friends for rugs, furniture and accessories.

It's worth taking a look at Bloomingdales TENT rug sale as the have better collection and the price will be close to Greenfront prices if you take their 10% off coupon to use with their 75% off sale and also open a new credit account to get additional 15% off. In a nutshell, Bloomies has to have a 75% off sale + 10% off coupon + 15% new credit card discount to get their prices to Greenfront price range for almost similar rugs.

For furniture, I still like to stick with Bloomies and buy when they have their famous Friends and Family sale. Domain Home, Sage, Savage Mills stores, and Roche Bobois are some of the excellent stores in DC Metro area. I also like to stick with well known brands for furniture as I want them to last long. Baker furniture, French Heritage, FreeMarc, Henredon who make Ralph Lauren and Barbara Barry collections, and Artistica Metal are some good brands I would like to stay with. For barstools, counter chairs, etc, is your best bet when they have a sale and you also have their famous 20% off coupon to use.