Sunday, January 7, 2018

Home Depot – kids construction project

Reading instructions and following the steps
We recently learnt that the local home construction hardware store Home depot arranges free kids construction sessions every month. It’s held on the first Saturday of each month. So Friday night I saw an ad on my Facebook page and I remembered about this, so I got my son registered.

The session is held from 9am to 12 pm. Once registered, you can stop by between the session times. They provide you a pre-packed kit. The kit has all the required items to make that day’s project. They additionally provide paint and hammer.

This month was a block calendar. So when we got the kit, it had the raw material of wooden pieces and blocks; A step by step instruction manual that even kids as old as 5 can read and understand. As it was our first time, my husband did the hammering though we let Aarav hold the nails a couple of times.

We were done with the block calendar in 30 mins and then we painted it with my son’s choice of colors.
After drying it, we got home to finish the project. Stuck the stickers and it turned out pretty impressive. More like a manual calendar.

But it was a fun task to introduce tools to my son. He helps my husband to arrange furniture pieces that come with manual assembly. So he knows quite a few tools and reading the instruction manual. But this was his first time doing a project of his own.

The kit also had a badge for completing the project which can be pinned up on the apron they give the first time. I am definitely taking him every month for these sessions. Looking forward to collect all 12 badges this year for him. Already registered for Feb 3rd project 😊
Growing up in India, we never had any such events. It’s a fun way to introduce different interests and logic building for kids.

So any parents out there in the US, could try one of these session in your local home depot.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sanibel - Shell capital of the US

Sanibel Causeway - giant hard clams
So this Christmas vacation, we decided to drive down from Savannah GA to Sanibel FL - the island famous for its shells. Commonly known as the Shell capital of the US.

Why Sanibel? So a while ago I researched where to find shells, because normally when we visit the local beaches I hardly find any good shells. And as I surfed the internet, Sanibel came up in my results. So I started reading up and checking videos and indeed it's famous for the large variety of shells that wash up the beaches.

Shark Eye (Moon Shell)
I had shared this information with my husband then. So when we thought where do we vacation this year, he knew exactly where to go. Sanibel it is! Almost 8hr drive from Savannah.

I planned the food for the day through the long drive so we have minimum stops. Though we wanted to start at 5am, we could only start by 5.45am. But we made through the drive really well and we were on the Sanibel island at 2pm.

Shelling at sunrise
Info: The island has a toll entry - $6 each time you enter. Luckily, my husband had booked a hotel on the island so we paid the one time. We stopped right at the beginning of the island and we found these large palm-sized clam shells. I knew I was in for big shelling of my lifetime.

We went straight to Bowman's head beach. It's a lovely stretch of beach with heaps of shells piled up at the beach. Out of habit I did pick a few but they weren't the one's I had looked online, or that I had hoped to find there. From there on, we went to Captiva island; again with not much luck at the shells I wanted.

Lighthouse beach - incredible sunrise
So on our way back we stopped at Blind Pass and saw the most beautiful sunset in the longest time I can remember. The sky had cloud formation by the horizon and the sun rays through and after the sunset threw such a lovely blend of colors, no picture can justify what our eyes saw! The beauty of our nature!
Live Lightning whelks - let them back to the ocean

First morning we made it at the Light house beach at 6.45am to see the sunrise at 7.14am. Again...the beautiful colors of the first rays of the sun, scattering through the grey skies was just unbelieveable! 
SANIBEL - shell capital

Sunset at Blind Pass
It was a pleasant morning with the low tide on, I started shelling by the still waters at the beach. Tons of Apple murex shells with crab like creatures in them. I have never been so friendly with critters, but this time I was indeed having fun exploring the sea beds. I found my first Lightning whelk shell - a big one, buried in the sand. Little did I know that it would be a live excitement died in seconds as I knew I had to let it go back in the ocean. So I showed it to my husband and my son and did the next right thing - put it back into the ocean..and this happened about 5 times to me. Finding live whelks and putting them back into the ocean. I was so dejected!

Shells at Gulf City park beach
I was hoping it would pay off at some point. And it did on the next morning.
We ended the first day strolling about the beach and picking other shells like the kittens paw, scallops, clam shells etc.

Day2 morning we went to another beach close to our hotel - Gulfside City Park Beach. My husband had found on his instagram that people had found shells on this beach. As I headed to the beach, the shore was full of fighting conch...sooo many of them. Reminder: there was a low tide at midnight, which probably has showed these shells the way out. By the time my husband paid and parked and came to the beach, the shell bag was half way full of fighting conches! It was payback time indeed. I found all the best shells on this morning the fighting conches in all possible sizes, the empty whelks, olive shells, tulip shells and murex. It got all of us busy shelling on the beach!

Final loot of the day

Truy satisfied, I was done with my shelling desire. Although I didn't find a few of the common items like worm shells, urchins, sand dollars and larger whelks - but, there is no scope to complain when you look at my final loot! 

The beaches had amazing sand castles created by the tourists. Managed to capture pics of few castles.

Beautiful castle with a moat to let the water go around

1. Low tide is the best time to do shelling, so do consider checking the times online (I did)
2. Full moons also help in the tides and thus in good shelling.
3. Ideally after storms, the beach is full of the best shells. So may be consider the hurricane/storm season of Sanibel (Aug-Nov).
4. Time of year also would be important. As december was a holiday season I believe there is a larger audience to the amount of shells on the beach.
5. Early morning visit can give you higher chance of finding more shells.
6. Shelling tools like a digging net, sifter would probably help you to pick up chunks of shells on the bed and look through to find tons of shells. ( I didnt have any)

Hopefully this post will introduce you to the joys of shelling and make you visit Sanibel. But I'd definitely mention that whenever you find a live shell, please just put it back into the ocean! It's against the law and its just the right thing to do! There are TONS of dead shells washing up to the shore! I can't wait to go back again, but not anytime soon!

Now, that I have my shells all washed up in clean water and sorted, I am deciding the right way to clean them up. I have studied that using muriatic acid brings out the true colors of the shells, by removing the calcium buildup. For now I have just cleaned them up. I have to shop for the acid and go through the whole process. Really hoping I do it sooner than later like so many of my pending tasks in past year!

Here's to a wonderful new year 2018. I wish all my readers a happy new year! 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Upwork - work from home options.

Hello readers. It's been a really long time since I posted on my blog. I have checked once in a while though. I have thought of posting so many events and occasions, but just kept forgetting with daily chores. 😞

So recently, as in from May 2017 I started working from home. Again, I am put up in a small town that pretty much has no IT jobs. And now that I have an almost 5yr old boy, there is no scope of moving to other cities in search of job; which I have done in the past.

After waiting for almost 6 months for any IT opportunity, I finally thought of looking for any possible "work-from-home" options. I have never been keen to work from home, I am social person and I would like to go to a real work place, meet colleagues and work ..the usual work life!

Anyhow, I really didn't have much hopes of finding anything. But I came across a website

It had a freelancer account creation. So I followed the usual online profile creation; uploaded my latest resume. This website has logins for both job hunters and job posters. So as a freelancers seeking a job, I can send a proposal to the jobs I search. I basically did a keyword search like "testing"; it shows up tons of jobs posted and you can submit your proposal. Basically the rate at which you want to work etc; its pretty much like a regular online job aplication with resume and cover letter.

If they like your profile they might get back. Also the jobs posted display the pay they are willing to provide. I considered the posts that has a blue tick mark saying "Payment verified". I believe it means they provide payments sincerely.

So I created my account not having much hopes; but to my surprise I got an interview invite mail in 3 days and I agreed to interview and after an hour of video call interview I got the job. Now I won't say the pay is exactly what I'd earn at a regular office job; but it ain't bad either considering I get to work from home, no travel, easy breaks as required.

How it works is once you get a job, the website provides an software to install that clocks your time and takes random snapshots of your PC screen. Basically monitoring your work hours.

Tip: As a freelancer, you can take up free tests on different subjects which I did and I chose to display the scores on my profile. Not sure, but it must definitely make your profile score some points and appeal.

Now it's almost 8 months and I am happily working from home. Infact my entire team works from upwork from different locations across the globe...US west coast, east coast, germany, UK, australia. Everyone works during their day time. I can take breaks as needed (flexible hours), so I can manage getting my son ready for school in the morning, drop him and get back to work; pick him up on some days if my husband is busy at work. And this job came just in time as my son started a 6hr school. So sitting idle at home watching movies and shows would have been such a waste. Instead I get to do what I love and also paid ofcourse!

I wanted to share this information for all those women who are at home after marriage or kids etc...and want to start working. There are different jobs with different work hours. Like my job is 40 hrs/week; so it's like a regular 8hr job. But you can look for jobs like 30hrs per week or anything that really suits your situation, your expected pay and your skills.

Hopefully this post will help one or many readers out there who are looking to get back to work at their pace. Best of luck 😊

Friday, March 11, 2016

Home made costumes

Aarav has quite a busy month of March at preschool. With so many events, I end up being busy doing craft projects on his behalf.

Every week they have a "letter of the week", and his teachers mentioned couple of weeks in advance that during the week of W, they'd have a day of wearing "What you want to be when you grow up". 

Personally, I didn't take up this event seriously because at his age of 3, he doesn't understand the question of what you want to be when you grow up. And even if we ask, his answers are so cute..but wild! Some days he'd say "I want to be a Kangaroo", or "Penguin" or "horse" on other days, as he gallops around the house.

My husband insisted to buy a pilot costume, which when I googled came out to about $50!!! So much for a couple of hours! Then as I surfed through the internet, I noticed the commercial pilot costume is easy; white shirt, black pants, shoulder pads, tie and a hat. With so much of crafty things I do, I happened to have all the required things to make his costume except for the white shirt which I bought. Rest all cut out from the art sheets; referred a video for making paper pilot hat and voilà, Pilot costume ready!

And then March 3rd was Dr. Seuss birthday and they had to dress up as one of the characters from the comic. A blue feather garland from dollar store and matched up his red clothes and again, voilà - Thing1 character was ready! 

His teachers loved his costumes at school. We never had these events during our school times, but I enjoy the fun in making these creative things while making memories for my son to look when he grows older!

Now working on his Easter party goodie bags for his friends at school! 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Painting Gift for Birthday

Original Image
About 6 months ago, a dear friend moved to a new house and I thought I would paint one of my modern Ganesha as a gift. When I shared my thought to her, she said she had a wonderful picture of Infant Ganesha that she'd like to put up in her study room; it'd be great if I could paint that for her.

I asked her to share the picture while playing it safe; saying I'd try to paint it. I sat over this idea for about 6 months and just a week before her birthday I thought I should give it a try to make it a birthday gift.

I started to sketch on the canvas board and it got really difficult as the pencil gets stuck in the groves of the canvas cloth. Racked my head for more ideas, came up with drawing on chart sheet and framing the final painting.

My attempt
Drawing on plain sheet is so super easy; I finished the sketching in like 15 mins. Almost exact to the original. The sketch looked so beautiful, I wanted it on a canvas so she can hang it directly on the wall. Then I racked my head further and the idea of carbon paper lighted up! Spend 2 days looking for carbon papers; finally found a good stationary store locally - The Paper clip  (better than Michael's) about 14 miles from my house. Drove down and got perfect A4 sized carbon papers.

Only on second attempt with the back of a fork, I finally traced out the image onto the canvas board. Next day, finished the entire painting in 1 sitting. Have totally fallen in love with this image of Ganesha, couldn't believe I'd be giving it away as a gift!

But it made a perfect gift for my friend. Feel accomplished! Glad I attempted and it came out close to the original picture. I may make a copy of the same painting for myself too!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

HELP: A friend diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Sara McDowell
I met this amazing girl Sara McDowell during my Seattle days in 2009, doing Thriller flash-mob. She recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. Frankly as much as I was shocked to know someone from my friend circle to have this illness, I'm praying each day for her recovery through her well planned treatments. She's a wonderful girl & she's got the right spirit to fight back, all she needs is some financial support that can help her get through the treatment costs. 

Of course, an illness like cancer is going to cost her a lot, and she is trying her best to deal with the stress of both recovering and covering the cost!

If you can, PLEASE help her with any possible amount, small or big. Every amount paid is going to help her for treatment costs, medicines, food etc.

Please read the link below to know details of her illness and ways to help her. Thank you for helping my friend. And please do share among your wonderful, kind-hearted friends.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Star of the day - Aarav at school

My almost 3 yr old son has been going to a christian preschool for the past 6 months. After the first 2 days of 3hr separation, he got the idea of school. From day 3 until now, he's always been excited about "going to school"! At home he converses like adults, frankly he has a great memory and he uses my sentences exactly each time in the right context!

I got his FIRST report in Dec, all good but working on skills of crayons, painting and pasting. So over the Christmas vacations I made him complete all the crayon art sheets he gets in school, that are incomplete. He wasn't very interested but I managed to sweet talk him and hold his hand to finish all the incomplete sheets.

For pasting, I had color papers and glue from my art hobby, which I'm not pursuing anymore. So now everyday we sit and do simple pasting projects like a tree, sun and letters!

Art work at home
Over these months at every meeting with his teachers, I have learnt that he's a very sweet kid in class, never throws a tantrum, in fact he's always smiling! I asked them at occasions if he talked to them willingly, because he was in that phase of conversing 3-4months ago. But they said, apart from asking for using the restroom he wasn't much of a talker! Surprising, coz we at home were pretty much like "Shhhh...stop talking for 2 mins".. haha.

Reason for this post is- Yesterday one of his teachers, Ms. Tiffany came to speak to me and she mentioned "I just wanted to let you know that Aarav has been doing so well, he's been talking to us off late, he does all the activities so well, we just wanted to share this with you. He was the best kid in class today!"

I was so happy..I just thanked them. I'm so glad they are getting to see his real side! The way he's so interactive and talking with us at home!

When I checked his bag, I saw the certificate for being the 'Star of the day'.

Proud mama! JJJ