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Archive for "Projects"

Fun Water Bottle Project

Posted on June 24, 2018 by under Projects.    

Brian surprised me with a really cool, customized insulated water bottle a few weeks ago. We both have S’well bottles that we’d gotten for Christmas a few years back. They work great but they’re kind of expensive.

Recently, Brian found some better insulated water bottles at Walmart. They work like S’well bottles in that they can keep hot things hot for 12 hours and cold things cold for 24 hours but they’re actually better in that they have a wider opening so they’re easier to fill with large chunks of ice and they have a built-in carrying handle. Not to mention they are cheap!

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The Walmart by our house had tons of them in various colors. We saw four sizes: 64, 40, and 26 ounces. And, because we never can just have one of something, we got a bunch in various sizes. You can never have too many insulated water bottles.

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The skinny 26-ounce one was only $12. I mean, we could get three of these for less than the price of one S’well bottle. You can’t beat it.

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The 40-ounce one that Brian got me cost less than $15! The gigantic 64-ounce one was only a few cents more.

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The best part about these water bottles is that if you mess up your project, it’s not too bad because they didn’t cost a fortune.

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Brian’s brilliant project idea was to customize my new water bottle with the Zumba logo and my name. The finished product looked amazing! I could not wait to show it off to friends when I went to Zumba class. It is definitely one of the best surprise gifts that Brian has ever given me!

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Here are some step-by-step progress pics for those of you curious how he did it and want to make your own. Brian says it’s not complicated. It just requires patience more than anything else.

Besides the water bottle, you’ll need permanent paint markers. Brian had some Sharpie ones that he purchased just for this project.

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First, you need to create a template for the design you want to use.

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Then you cover the entire back side for the drawing in pencil lead.

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This is how you get the design to transfer to the water bottle. You can also use carbon paper for this part but this is a nifty trick that Brian learned in art school and it works great in a pinch.

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The next step is to trace the outline in Sharpie and then fill in the design with the paint marker. Brian recommends using the paint markers because they work on any surface and they hold up better than just a regular Sharpie but if you want to use a regular Sharpie I guess you could.

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Once you’ve filled in the design, let it dry for at least 24 hours.

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Next, he added my name to make it extra special. You can freehand this part if you have neat handwriting. Brian opted to use a nice font because he’s a perfectionist who is gifting this to another perfectionist. LOL.

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You use the same steps as before to transfer the design to the bottle, fill it in with the paint marker, and then let it dry for another 24 hours.

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Voila! There you have it. A very cool customized water bottle that will keep your water (or beverage of choice) a constant temperature throughout the day. It’s so easy that Alex actually did hers during Brian’s party last weekend.

Anyway, I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful. Next weekend Brian and I plan to each do a water bottle project LIVE on our FLIP + CHING Facebook page. Tune in on Sunday, July 1, around 9:30 AM.

If you’ve done a similar project before, let us know how it went in the comments. We love hearing ideas and learning from others.

Until then, happy crafting and GNG!

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I am not a Handyman!

Posted on April 6, 2018 by under Home Ownership, Projects.    

So, the back door to the garage has needed some work for a long time now. If anyone remembers the Farmstead fiasco of a home, then you all know that I am not a handy person. I don’t really know how to fix things all that well.

Heck, I had to have my father-in-law come help me install two smart light switches because the switches were smarter than I was and I couldn’t figure out the wiring. If it wasn’t for him and his friend (Tito Arnel) I could have very well wired it and burnt the house down.

Back to the door! So, the door was water damaged and rotting because the previous owner cheaped out on the install and didn’t seal it properly. One of the sprinkler heads wasn’t ever adjusted right and water just pounded that frame and, well, we get a crumbling POS.

About a month ago I got fed up looking at it and called a professional to come give me a quote on installing a new door in my garage and, while he’s at it, installing a new front door too — because, if they are already here, it will probably be cheaper… Right? No!

After about an hour of his time and the price getting all the way up to $9000, I had to dial him back and tell him I wasn’t going to fork out what could be money for a pretty good vacation, for a couple of doors. We narrowed it down to just the garage door and that was still well over $1000. I thanked him for his time and looked at option 2, 3, 4, and even 5.

I looked at a few videos and found a door at Lowe’s for about $170. Add in screws and caulk and we’re looking at $200 max, plus my time. I managed to convince my wife that this was going to be so easy, a child could do it. I told her they made the doors idiot-proof and that even I could install one now. Heck, even my dad was convinced we could both tackle it and be successful.

Then one night I was playing online with my buddy and remembered he worked construction for like 15 years and knows how to install doors! So I buckled down, swallowed my pride and asked him if he would be willing to help. Without hesitation, he said yes. My wife has never been so relieved to not have to do something in her life. I think her exact words were, “Oh, thank God!”

Fast forward to this last Saturday. My friend and his son Eli come out. I already had the door and everything we needed. He gave me more information about installing a door than I could process. It wasn’t really as easy or simple as I thought it would be. But, in the end, we got it done and it looks great.

I honestly don’t think it would have been as good without him. I’m sure I would have done something to either ruin the door or mess up the install. I am grateful to have friends with skills.

Here’s some pictures of the new door and the old one we removed.

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Old, rotten door.

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New door, in progress.

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New door, trimmed up.

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Outside view.

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By the way, anyone need a door?

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ZINCON Schedule Excel Worksheet

Posted on February 23, 2018 by under Projects, Zumba.    

The Zumba Instructor Convention web site launched last week and so I did what I normally do every year that I go to convention — I created a worksheet to help me build my ideal schedule. ZINCON registration doesn’t actually open until February 28 but the schedules are posted so we can all start building our perfect schedules. Then, when the appointed time comes, everyone descends upon the site to make sure they get their top choices.

The scene when registration opens is a lot like this one in Big Bang Theory.

So many people are hitting the site all at once, it’s actually been known to crash a time or two. I often am stuck in some sort of meeting when registration first opens so Brian usually has to register for me. Thus, the need for worksheet that tells him what classes to sign me up for. I usually give him several options in case a session is no longer available, which happens more often than not. Specially with some of the more famous presenters and new training programs.

In 2016, when STRONG by Zumba launched, the training session was full within minutes of registration opening, so I couldn’t get in it. Brian ended up signing me up for Sentao, which is the only other format that I wasn’t already licensed for at the time. I waited another full year to complete my SBZ training.

Since registration will be open in just a few days, I decided to build my worksheet before bed one night while watching the Olympics. The worksheets I’ve used in the past just allows sorting and filtering, to make it easy for me to compare sessions and review all of my options. I usually still have to build my schedule manually. This year, Brian challenged me to make the worksheet so that it would build my schedule automatically. I’ve never made that part automatic in the past because there’s multiple ways to build a schedule. You could opt to take training sessions on both Friday and Saturday, or you could just do training on Friday and regular workshops on Saturday, or the opposite — regular sessions on Friday and training on Saturday, or you could go with just all workshops and no instructor training. I usually have to decide this for myself so it’s really tricky to make a worksheet automatically build the schedule. I figured it out, though!

Worksheet 2

The solution isn’t the most elegant, but it works. Basically, I created tabs for the four scenarios: SESSIONS ONLY, FRIDAY TRAINING, SATURDAY TRAINING, and FRI-SAT TRAINING. The first tab has all of the options listed. You put an X in the SEL column to specify which sessions or training you want to take. The worksheet populates all of the other tabs. Obviously some sections will be blank in the other tabs, depending on your choices.

For example, if you opt to take a training session (which takes up pretty much the entire day) then you won’t have time to take any other sessions on that same day. If you go to the SESSIONS ONLY tab then it will have some empty slots. Depending on how you laid out your schedule or what choices you’ve made, you just have to click on the appropriate tab to view your personalized ZINCON schedule.

It’s not perfect, but it works. I probably could create an Access solution but most people don’t have access to Access (see what I did there – LOL) but almost everyone has access to Excel. The gears are working in my mind now, though. I could create a web site that does this more elegantly. An app would be better, but I don’t know how to make phone apps. Sigh.

Worksheet 1

Here’s a preview of the first page of the full schedule, should one decide to print it. I don’t know why you would, unless you just want to kill trees. There really is no need to print the whole thing. Oh, and you’ll notice there is an X next to the Kickoff session. I made it so you can’t remove that X. I’m a nerd and I think everyone should go to it. Obviously, people could still skip attending Kickoff if they want but it will print on their schedule regardless because that’s how I built the worksheet.

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I’ve enabled auto-filters so the person using the worksheet can slice and dice the schedule however they wish. This is an example of how you can filter by Time. Say, for example, if you don’t want to get up before a certain time so you only want to see morning sessions that start at 8:30 AM or later.

Worksheet 3

This next one is an example of filtering the schedule by Presenter. It makes it easier to see all the various sessions that someone is presenting. Makes stalking your Zumba idols a lot easier. LOL.

Jokes aside, it really is mostly for doing comparisons. Being able to look at all the times side-by-side makes it easier to plan around sessions that you absolutely, positively do not want to miss.

Worksheet 4

Here’s an example of filtering the schedule by Session Title. So if you just want to look at all the ZIN Jam Sessions, you can do that.

I don’t show an example of it but you can also put an X in the SEL column of the sessions that you want to compare side-by-side. Maybe they are totally different sessions at different times and by different presenters but you want to look at them side-by-side so you can decide. When you put an X on all these sessions and then filter the schedule by SEL then you can eliminate all of the other sessions and look at just the ones you want to compare. It helps to remove all the clutter.

When you are finished making your choices, remove all the Xs that you don’t need and leave only the ones that you want (making sure that there is only one session selected under each time slot). Then click on the appropriate tab based on the choices you made. The tabs represent the four possible schedule scenarios:

  • SESSION ONLY – this tab is if you didn’t select any instructor training at all
  • FRIDAY TRAINING – this tab is if you opted to take a training on Friday and picked regular sessions for all the other time slots
  • SATURDAY TRAINING – this tab is if you opted to take a training on Saturday and picked regular sessions for all the other time slots
  • FRI-SAT TRAINING – this tab is if you opted to take training sessions on both days

Worksheet 7

If you selected training sessions on Friday and Saturday, then click on the SESSION ONLY tab, you’ll see a bunch of blanks. Your correct schedule will be under the FRI-SAT TRAINING tab. It does take a bit to understand how to use the tool but, once you understand how it works, then it makes building your schedule super easy — since the tabs are automatically populated.

Here’s an example output of selecting all regular sessions.

Worksheet 6

Having your schedule automatically populate on the schedule tabs is actually a real time saver. So you can create multiple schedule scenarios. You can have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and so on. Trust me. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who can actually get on right when registration opens (they never tell us the time either so some people actually take the day off work so they can sit in front of their computer and wait and then pounce when the time comes), you don’t always get all of your first choices. Sometimes you can get lucky, though.

Brian is usually able to register for me in case I’m stuck in a meeting and can’t take the time to register myself. I just give him my login credentials. Thus, I’ve had to come up with this solution so he knows exactly what sessions to sign me up for. I give him multiple choices. Anyway, it’s really helped me out a lot so I usually share it with others. I’ve shared my worksheet the last couple of years.

I shared this 2018 version earlier this week on the official ZINCON group in Facebook. If you’re not in the group but would like the worksheet, please leave a comment below with your email and I will gladly email it to you.

I hope it helps. See you at ZINCON!

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New Beanies for Grandma

Posted on January 21, 2018 by under Projects.    

Someone (whose first name starts with the letter B) didn’t tell me that grandma wanted new crochet beanies for Christmas. I found out on Christmas day when grandma mentioned it. I asked Brian about it that night before bed.

ME: Why didn’t you tell me?

BRIAN: I only found out on Friday. I didn’t think you would have time to make one.

Anyway, I felt really bad so I decided to get right on it during my short break from work over the holidays. Amazingly enough, I was able to complete one hat in about four hours. Not bad for a novice.

I was so impressed with myself that I decided to make another one the next day.

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Here are pics of the two beanies I made.

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Brian delivered the beanies to grandma while I was teaching my New Year’s Eve Zumba class and he took photos for me. He said she really liked them which makes me super happy.

I may not have gotten them done in time for Christmas but at least I got them done in time for the cold weather. It has been super cold here the last two weeks. This is the first weekend we’ve had decent weather.

Anyway, I love how the hats (which, if you notice, are two different styles — since I just make these on the fly without a pattern, no two are ever identical) turned out. This has encouraged me to pick up crocheting again. Hopefully, I’ll finally learn how to read crochet patterns and learn to make some new things this year.

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Making My Home Smarter Than Me

Posted on December 31, 2017 by under Home Ownership, Projects.    

I have been wanting to add smart devices to our home for some time. I wanted a Nest since they first came out but my wife wouldn’t let me because the local power company had their own program and she felt since she worked for them, she should honor that program and be a part of it as well. This did get us a really nice Honeywell programmable thermostat, but it wasn’t a Nest!

Several years have now passed and we’ve gotten off the WattSaver program, but we got to keep the programmable thermostat and it’s worked very well for us. But, again, it’s not a Nest. So after visiting a friend’s house and seeing all of his home automation toys, I decided it was time to work on Ching and see if I could finally swing a Nest. It just so happened that Amazon was having a huge sale and I was able to get it much cheaper than normal and Ching finally caved (because she’s a sucker for sales) and I got my Nest.

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This is a picture of me unboxing the Nest. It’s pretty simple when you get down to it and look at how they have everything set up for you. They even include pictures and labels. They offer a professional set up but, unless you are just really not handy (I’m close), I think you would be able to manage.

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Here it’s all installed and working. I love that I can control it from my phone, laptop or even my watch.

After that, it was time to update a coupe of light switches that we have really wanted to have on a program anyway but could never figure out how to do it. Again, my friend showed me some of the things that he had and they fit my needs perfectly. Thanks to Amazon again, they were having a sale and Ching could not resist, so we got three plugs and two light switches.

The plugs are very versatile, they just plug into the wall and there are some instructions on the app and then bam, they are available to be automated and controlled through my phone.

The light switches were a little different. These involved a little help from my father-in-law and a friend of his. I needed expert advise and installation. LOL.

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Here is a picture of all of us looking at the wiring and trying to plan the best way to install them without burning my house down.

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Here we have initiated the plan and we are conversing to make sure that we all agree to the final installation.

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Here is the final product installed.

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And here we have it all covered up with a nice smooth face plate. I like these face plates because you don’t see any screws like traditional faceplates. I think going forward, I may use these on all of my replacement switches.

All in all, I like the way everything functions. I like how it is automated and how I can, in the near future, tie them all to an Alexa and just use my voice to control everything.

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