Furnishing A Beautiful Home

Furnishing a new home can be a very challenging project. There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration: the quality, the style, the comfort, and the price, etc. Most of all, how we furnish our homes tells a lot about who we are and what we value.

Despite my strong interest in home design, getting the right furniture for my new home is still quite an overwhelming task. After some intense research and numerous visits to furniture stores, I found the fine furniture by Amini Innovation Corp. (AICO) a shining crown jewel that clearly stands out among its rivals.

Designed in the United States with an exquisite European touch, AICO furniture featuring Michael Amini Signature Series are impressive collections of distinctive style and fine quality. Each carefully designed piece is marked with superior craftsmanship. Thanks to globalization, AICO furniture is handcrafted and manufactured in China, making this high-end luxury home furniture relatively affordable.

Among its many selections, Cortina bedroom set caught my attention. Inspired by the beautiful resort Cortina d’Ampezzo in northern Italy, the Cortina bedroom furniture is a stunning example of combining classic sleigh bed with modern elegance. Its unique Oval Marble Medallion accent in the center of the headboard gives a feel and look of majesty; and the gentle curves and subtle texture set the tone for romance. Indeed, each collection of AICO furniture is characterized with a cultrural and cosmopolitan flair.

When it comes to home furnishing, I see it more than a project to furnish a beautiful and comfortable home. It is also a chance to go deeper inside ourselves and understand who we are and how we want to express ourselves. As we know, after traveling all over the world, the greatest trip is returning home – that’s where our families and friends are.

Please also see my previous post Home, Sweet Home

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Fashion Show in Santana Row

If you think Silicon Valley is a place for “geeks” who only wear jeans and t-shirts, not any more! Last weekend, the Annual Fall Fashion Show in Santana Row flashed the runway with the season’s latest style and high fashion – right on the street of Santana Row in a lush garden park setting.

With world beat music and impressive chic models, the fashion show featured the world’s top brands, from leading British designer label Ted Baker, to cross-cultural fashions of Anthropologie, to world-wide renowned fine leather Furla purses and high-end luxury shoes designed by orthopedic surgeon Taryn Rose – all are picked from the neighborhood’s retailers.

The elegant black and white outfits are still the high point of this year’s fashion. Additionally, the combination of vibrant brown and blue color has become my newest fancy for the Fall.

After the fashion show, I cruised into the designers’ shops featured in the show. Among them, I found Anne Fontaine a timeless class. A French designer drawing her creativity from her Brazilian roots, Anne Fontaine’s collection captures the purity and simplicity of white with a touch of feminine and elegance. In her boutique, “each shirt has a story and a meaning, and with each new creation, a new woman emerges.”

Another fun boutique is Pink Stripes – a unique retail concept combining clothes and sweets. Here, you can shop while sampling truffles, chocolates and other sweet treats. It even has a live model in the window! The shop carries the lesser-known lines from Nanette Lepore, Tracy Reese, Rachel Pally, etc. The price is quite affordable ranging from $50 – $150. The place is hip, hot and entertaining!

The Fall Fashion Weekend, highlighting six fashion shows over Saturday and Sunday, is one of Santana Row’s signature events. A must-visit place in Silicon Valley, Santana Row represents a high quality lifestyle that “blends a distinctive mix of living, shopping and dining experiences.”

Please also see my previous post about Santana Row.

Photo source: http://www.dailycandy.com

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Monet in the Legion of Honor

San Francisco’s most beautiful museum – The Legion of Honor, is my best-loved place in the city. Located in Lincoln Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and the City on the other, it has the world’s most awe-inspiriting collection of 4,000 years European art.

My love for the Legion goes beyond its fine arts; I love its neoclassical architecture, its magnificent beauty, and its breath-taking and unforgettable view of Golden Gate Bridge. Most of all, I love it because it holds a precious moment in my life that is a secret only belonging to me!

This Saturday, we returned to the Legion of Honor for Monet in Normandy exhibition. The exhibit includes fifty-three splendid impressionist paintings by at the turn of the century.

As a lover of all forms of art, it was a delight to have an overview of Monet’s paintings throughout his career. Monet drew artistic inspiration from the countryside of Normandy, its villages and towns, and the seasonal rhythms of the region. His unique techniques to capture the effects of weather, light and color made his painting illusively beautiful and picturesque.

Among all the paintings, my favorites are still the ones he painted at Giverny, a town outside Paris where he spent the last decade of his life. The beauteous water-lilies and Japanese bridge in Monet’s garden became enduring sources of inspiration for his creativity. The richness of the colors in those paintings contrasted the blurring images of his early works, and indicated the peak of his artistic expression.

The incident brought back a sweet memory: on my honeymoon, we took a day trip from Paris to visit Monet’s house and his gorgeous garden at Giverny. It was a romantic addition to the beginning of our life together. Standing on the famous Japanese bridge and gazing at the water-lilies in the pond were indeed reminiscent and enlightening….

It was a beautiful art exhibition of Monet at the beautiful Legion of Honor. As we were leaving, the late afternoon sun painted a golden color onto the museum, presenting a sublime view of the Legion of Honor.

Photo source: http://www.monetinnormandy.org
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My Experience at Esalen

Before we went to Big Sur for the Memorial Day weekend, my massage therapist advised me to schedule a massage at Esalen Institute. “It’s right on the cliff overlooking the ocean,” she winked, “it’s an experience not to be missed.”

I did not know anything about Esalen Institute. From what I read on the website, it sounded very intriguing: “The word itself summons tantalizing visions of adventure, of unexplored frontiers, of human possibilities yet to be realized.” My innate sense of adventure and curiosity kicked in – that’s something I want to explore. Isn’t it a one-of-kind experience? I must go!

Only after I arrived on the Esalen property, I started to get a sense what I was getting myself into. On the way to the massage house located on the cliff, I saw people, men and women, lying around sunbathing – they were all naked.

At the entrance, a woman, noticed my confusion, kindly handed me a towel and led me to the hot spring lounge. Just as I turned around the corner, I was appalled to see an open shower room with both men and women in it taking showers. It has a huge glass wall facing the jet-blue Pacific Ocean.

Too shocked to enjoy the scene, I turned myself to the corner. For a moment, I thought perhaps I should just turn around and leave. I didn’t mean to act like a conservative “bumpkin,” but I was not mentally prepared for this! I reached out to open my bag. I could put on my bathing suit, no one would force me to be nude. As I was hesitating, I took a peek around me – there were both men and women, quickly undressing or dressing themselves. No one was paying attention to me. Of course, no one was looking at anyone else.

At this point, I realized putting on anything, even my very sexy two-piece bikini, seemed pointless. What the heck, I thought, if I have gotten this far, I might as well just do the rest. It’s not a big deal. I took a deep breath and slowly undressed myself. I took off everything like everyone else, except my sunglasses. Thank God, I just got a new pair of sunglasses with big dark lenses of this year’s fashion!

I rushed into the shower room to take a quick shower, and then rushed out to drop myself into the first hot spring tub I saw. After I settled in, I started to look around to get myself oriented. This is an open veranda with three hot spring tubs enjoying a spectacular ocean view. People were walking around care-freely like Adams and Eves. A picture of Medieval Greek gods amusingly came into my mind….

I sat stiffly in the water, trying to relax. Big drops of sweat started rolling down my forehead. The half hour seemed extra long to me. Finally, my massager came in to fetch me. I thankfully wrapped myself in towel and followed him to the massage room on the other side of the building.

It was a large open room with six massage tables facing a huge glass wall toward the ocean. The place was exceptional serene with the soothing sound of ocean waves. As I lay down on the massage table, pacing my breaths with the rhythm of the ocean, all the tension faded away. I felt my whole being dissipating into an infinite vastness.

The essence of Esalen massage is to align our body’s internal rhythm with the rhythm of the ocean, of the nature, and of the universe. It was transformative. It magically awakened my inner awareness and helped me to regain a sense of harmony, reverence and balance.

After the massage, I returned to the hot spring lounge feeling reborn. I was able to walk around like Eve. I discovered there were three outdoor hot springs on the cliff. I soaked into one of them like a mermaid, and crawled to rest my arms and chin on the edge, enjoying the bountiful ocean of dark blue waters in front of me. I no longer cared who was around me. The ocean, the sky, men and women became one…

I closed my eyes and let the natural healing hot springs penetrate deeply into every inch of my body. I felt the gentle sea breeze caressing my hair, and warm sunshine kissing my face, neck and back…. I sunk into a deep meditation. I prayed for the ocean, for the sun, for the land, for the tree, for the valley, for the mountain, and for the world, “where mention of God has been made, and His praise glorified.”

My experience at Esalen tested my “unexplored frontiers.” It expanded my horizon to a new level. No wonder it is such a renowned place for “revolutionary ideas, transformative practices, and innovative art forms.” I look forward to returning to Esalen Institute someday in the future.

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