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Archive for the year 2017

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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Thanksgiving 2017

Posted on December 29, 2017 by under Family, Food and Drink.    

Brian’s parents came up from Oklahoma for Thanksgiving this year. It worked out great because the place where we normally get our Thanksgiving dinner form (Fresh Market) closed a couple of years ago. Since Brian’s mom enjoys cooking she offered to make Thanksgiving dinner. In exchange, we agreed to buy all the ingredients and have them ready for her.

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Brian put together the most hilarious grocery list.

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Brian usually gets ham from his work but Donna wanted a 20-lb turkey also. We have never bought so much food from the store. Ever.

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This is where he tells me to brace myself. LOL.

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Here are some pictures of our Thanksgiving feast.

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Here’a picture of grandma’s plate.

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It turned out to be just the five of us. Brian, his parents, grandma, and me. Brian’s parents invited another couple to join us but they canceled last minute. Brian and I also invited Eleanor, Peter, and Ella but Peter ended up falling ill and so they bailed as well. We appreciated him not spreading his germs to us, though.

Eleanor and Ella stopped by later that evening to enjoy some of the homemade chocolate ice cream that Brian’s mom made. We also sent them home with a bunch of leftovers. We still didn’t make a dent, though. We had leftovers for days. We tried to eat as much of it as we could but mostly ended up just throwing a bunch of food away, which is a complete departure from our usual MO.

I always feel so wasteful throwing food away. I think next year we’re going back to just having the right amount of food. You live and learn.

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Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Posted on December 28, 2017 by under Life.    

Things that happened last month…

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I had the opportunity to take project management training at Wichita State University from one of my favorite Rotarians.

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We formed a team and attended sci-fi trivia night at Aero Plains. Our team name was Red Shirts. It gave us the perfect excuse to don our Star Trek costumes from a few years ago. We didn’t win but we held the top place for a couple of rounds and we had a ton of fun.

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We spent a Saturday afternoon with some awesome people from my work helping Child Start set up for their annual Polar Express Literacy Event. This is our second year helping with the event.

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I finally caved and let Brian replace our WattSaver thermostat with Nest. He took us off the program over a year ago but we kept the thermostat because it was useful.

Brian had been begging for a Nest thermostat for years but I wanted to support our thermostat program at work. Anyway, we both decided it was finally time. He’s supposed to blog about his new Nest so stay tuned for that post.

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Departure Day

Posted on December 24, 2017 by under Travel.    

The last day at the resort is always the hardest because it means vacation time is over and it’s time to head back to reality. I really hate this part.

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Brian and I stopped by the cafe on the way out for one last frappucino for me.

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Here’s a pic of where the cafe is located. Goodbye, paradise!

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As we were waiting for our ride to the airport, we ran into two superheroes from the entertainment team. They were on their way out to one of the local schools to read to the kids. Apparently this trip happens every Friday morning. We missed it the last week because Friday was our arrival day and we didn’t get to the resort until almost one o’clock. We missed it again that day because it was time to leave.

I love reading aloud and I love doing volunteer work so this excursion would have been right up my alley. I’ve made a mental note for next time not to arrive or depart on Friday so we can participate. I love that they do this.

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Here’s our other butler Jackson seeing us off.

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Finally at the airport, I took a pic with the map on the wall depicting the island that we visited: Great Exuma. I never want to forget this place because this has probably the best vacation ever.

The island was beautiful. The resort was beautiful. The people were beautiful. Everything about this trip has been completely fabulous.

Here are a couple of video clips I took to remind me of the island.

This next one is a time-lapse video I created at the Atlanta airport.

The flight home was pretty uneventful. This has probably been our smoothest trip ever (besides flying first class to the Dominican Republic a few years ago). Brian gave us a long layover at the Atlanta airport because he was worried that customs would take forever but they have kiosks now and everything is automated. So even that part went really quick. I think the entire process — deplaning from our Bahamas flight to going through customs to arriving at our terminal — took less than an hour. We really didn’t need the long layover.

But, since we had it, we took advantage of the opportunity to grab some drinks and a bite to eat at Gordon Biersch. The thing that stood out to me the most is that my drink cost $13. I guess, that wasn’t really much of a surprise considering I’ve traveled a lot and I know that airport food and beverages are a rip off (they kind of have you hostage so what are you going to do, it’s not like you have a choice) but it was particularly shocking coming from a whole week of not having to pay for drinks at all. It was like, “Yep. We are officially back in the real world all right.”

This should be the final installment of my 40th birthday trip. It has been fun reminiscing about this amazing trip with you over the last couple of months. Our next big trip will be the Zumba cruise in April 2018. Until then, may each and every day of our lives be a wonderful adventure.

Links to all the trip recap posts below:

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Last Full Day at the Resort

Posted on December 23, 2017 by under Travel.    

Thursday, November 2, was our final full day at the resort. We decided to keep it laid back and just hang around at the resort. The morning started off with a visit from one of the resorts friendly feline residents.

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The cat and Brian look like they’re both giving each other a once over in this photo.

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Cat’s like, “Meh.”

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This is where the cats live. I was told not to call it a cathouse because that has a negative connotation. Don’t know what else to call it, though.

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Anyway, we passed by this house several times to and from the main pool and the cats are never home. They’re usually out roaming around the resort.

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Our final day was a good day to relax and just stay on property. We did go down to aquatics to take the hobie cat sailing again.

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Brian not only looked legit but he was so much more proficient this time around. We were zigzagging back and forth so we had to come about (turn) several times. No once did he whack his head.

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He was quite proud of himself too. LOL.

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We hung out at the main pool after sailing and had some fruit delivered to our cabana. Mostly for me. Brian doesn’t really like fruits.

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It was craft days so they brought some locals in to teach us a few things like basket-weaving and jewelry-making.

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This is Miss Jennifer. She helped me make jewelry for Jenni (my sister whose name is also Jennifer) which I gave to her for her birthday this year.

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Here’s a picture of us with our favorite butler Garth.

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For our final dinner at the resort, we wanted to do something unconventional so we asked for dinner to be delivered to our villa. We originally had it set up on our patio so we could enjoy the sunset and beach view but Mother Nature wasn’t having any of it. As you can see from the photo, it was super windy.

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We ended up relocating our dinner inside our room.

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I took pictures of our food but they didn’t make it to Flickr and I’ve deleted them from my phone. Ugh. Brian took one for the team that night. I wanted to have both the red snapper entree and lobster but I didn’t want to look like a glutton and order two entrees so Brian ordered the steak and lobster for dinner. He ate the steak and gave the lobster to me. I ordered the fish entree and had myself a surf and surf.

I had talked up the coconut creme pie so much that Brian decided to order one for himself too, despite the fact that he hates coconut. He doesn’t like the taste or texture. He doesn’t like any of it. He figured he would try it and, worst case scenario, wouldn’t like it and give it to me. He’s knows I will eat it so it wouldn’t go to waste. He didn’t hate it and actually ate the entire pie. That was perhaps the biggest surprise of all.

We had such a great time the entire week and our fabulous butlers took really good care of us, neither of us wanted to leave. Sadly, all good things must come to an end so the next post will be all about departure day.

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