Update Needed

I have mentioned Google Home and automation tech a few times over the years. I’m extremely fond of how easy it is to use. Some of my favorite aspects are the schedules and routines. I have a few like “ok Google, Good Night.” And my bedside lamp goes on and Google says “Goodnight Josef.” Totally awesome.

This week, I added some plugs for the Christmas tree lights and created a routine that turns on every tree and plays Christmas orchestral music from Spotify. “Ok Google- Merry Christmas.” Pretty straightforward. Except that I wanted an icon for the trees that didn’t look like a plug or a lightbulb. But no such luck.

Instead I used the Kettle icon. It’s triangular and kind of works. But who uses a kettle or coffee maker on a smart plug? That makes no sense to me. Most of them have clocks and timers. It would be nice if Google updated their icons on the app to represent activities that make sense. Like turning on Christmas lights. Or the outdoor lights. A lightbulb or plug icon gets kind of lost in the app settings.

In the meantime, our nine foot tree is a kettle. That’s sort of festive… we like hot chocolate.

Big Box

We had a delivery show up yesterday. As much as I want to open the box, my wife has requested we leave it until June of next year. Normally I can do that without issue. Just put the box in a closet and forget about it.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly possible at this time. It’s a large, heavy package that required two delivery people to bring it into our home. Currently it’s home is in our bedroom. To try and ignore box, my wife placed a couple Christmas blankets over it. Once January comes around, we will have to do something else.

My suggestion is to open the box. But I highly doubt that will occur. For now, it will just taunt me every day.

Wet Weather Pool Draining

I got home from work this morning and made my way towards the pool shed. The torrential downpour of rain over last day or two had caused our pool to be rather full. So it was time to drain some water out.

The process is simple really. Just turn off the breaker. Then rotate the handle on the pump to “WASTE”. Turn breaker back on. Wait about ten minutes inside the pool shed (keeping dry) until the water is back to normal levels.

I’ve had to drain the overflow of our pool a few times already. This morning was probably the worst yet. Our pool cover should be about six to eight inches above the water. Not touching like it can been seen here. (That bubble looking thing in the middle is the cover resting on the water.)

Needless to say, I will be keeping up with the runoff more frequently as the rain hits. I’m not in the mood to have to deal with any type of flooding in our backyard. Especially if it can be avoided by spending ten minutes every so often to drain a bit.

I’d much rather be enjoying swimming on a hot summer day than standing in the rain making sure the pool doesn’t overflow.

Creepy Santa: Resurrection

We have a Christmas tradition where we hide a Santa statue in different locations. We do this to scare (and annoy) one another. Sometimes it’s a Revenge tactic and is very thought out. Most times, it’s not so clever.

Creepy was also the first Christmas decoration to escape the attic this year. He is on the loose and ready to shock us with his presence, not presents.

This year, Creepy Santa is starting to check out our new home; finding different spots to hide and provoke each of us. So far he has found a closet, the hallway, two bathrooms, and the living room. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I’m sure the fun will come as the season progresses and our family starts to get irate with Creepy S watching over us.

The Bedroom: A Comfortable Reading Spot

I have been enjoying reading once more. Now that we are essentially settled into our new home (almost FIVE months), I am finding comfort zones. Our home is starting to feel more cozy by the day… And not just because of our Christmas decorations.

When I read, generally it’s in bed right before I go to sleep. Right before we moved we had an ENDY mattress delivered. I can’t believe that my sleep has improved so much over these past few months. This was probably the best investment in our health ever made. What ends up happening however, is that I fall asleep very easily about a dozen pages into my book.

On the other side of our master bedroom is a little sitting nook by the balcony doors. I have sat here numerous times on Zoom calls and to read. My wife has also utilized this spot. It is a perfect setting for relaxing and daydreaming. Getting lost in the fantasy world of a good novel is throughly enjoyed.

Our family members each have spots that they enjoy as well. Obviously the teenagers favor their bedrooms. But I am doing the same. Your bedroom is a place of solitude where you can feel at peace. It’s the great location to read a book.

Do you read in bed? Or do you have a favorite spot that you find comfortable? Let me know in the comments.

Interior Christmas Decorations 2021

Today we worked on decorating the inside of our home for Christmas. I know it’s early in the season, but we have a busy schedule until Christmas that we are utilizing the days off we have ahead of time. With a new home, it meant trying to find the feel for where everything will fit.

Previously in our other home I had made some Hand Made Decorations, specifically garland. The last house was a brick home and Eastern European in style. So I incorporated a red, green and gold theme in all of our decorations. I also had multicolored Christmas lights woven throughout. Today, I took it all apart to start over.

The family decided that our new colour scheme for the main floor was going to be silver, gold and blue. I saved all of the gold from the previous garland. I bought a bunch of shatterproof silver ornaments (read as plastic) to add to the garland strands. Much like before with the perfect amount of outdoor Christmas lights- I had the perfect amount of garland as well.

Hanging the garland above the windows and doors was time consuming but well worth it in the end. That aspect of our home looks elegant. We have been slowly putting out some of the other decorations, doing our best to make it feel natural. Having our teenagers help was great as well. They brought their own touches and opinions to the design.

We have an abundance of red and green ornaments. Next week we will be putting them on the outside of our home. Mostly on the wreaths and a tree. We will also add those multicolored lights to match the outside lights.

I love decorating for Christmas.

Jump Start The Christmas Decorating

Yesterday I was in the attic above the garage putting away the Halloween decorations. I figured that while I was up there I might as well bring down the Christmas decorations.

My wife happily dove into the boxes in order to see what we owned. We both sort of remember everything, but that was also laid out in our previous house. It was time to see how to create a new layout for our current home.

Today, I took advantage again of the break in the rain. Turns out the amount of exterior Christmas lights we had on our old place will fit nicely on our new home. Since we will be here for years to come, I thought it was best to add hooks and clips.

Before the night rolled in, I was able to get the majority of the lights up. There is one peak remaining to do. That is the highest and most terrifying one. I may have to “Phone a Friend” in order to get these last 25 lights put up. So far, my wife and I are enjoying the way it looks. Very festive and gingerbread-esque.

Are you ready to put up your outdoor lights for Christmas? Or do you just leave them up all year long?

Gutters, Rainbows, and Fireworks

The autumn rain was falling periodically today. Between the rainfalls I decided to clear out the gutters of leaves and debris.

Our last home didn’t have gutters the way most houses do. Instead it was a flat roof with slopes to the drains. Cleaning these gutters was easy. I just put on some gloves, climbed a step ladder and scooped them out. In the spring, I plan on giving them a hose out as I check the shingles on the roof.

I also enjoyed another break from the rain as I drove to get the kids from school. The sky cleared up in the distance and the sun refracted beautifully off the remaining droplets in the atmosphere. Seeing the rainbows against the autumn colours was amazing.

I’m ending my day by watching fireworks from my bedroom window. Diwali is being celebrated. I really enjoy living in such a diverse country such as Canada. Especially on the outskirts of Vancouver. Those celebrating have a clear night to enjoy the festivities. I have a front row, million dollar view of the action. What a day.

Life is good.

Halloween Home 2021

Yesterday was the first Halloween in our new home. Not knowing the neighborhood made it difficult to predict how much candy we needed to purchase for giving away. In the end, we had about 60-70 kids show up.

Not to brag, but our house drew a lot of attention last night. Kids came bounding down the hill and bypassed the neighbor’s homes in order to stop at ours. We had a modestly decorated home. However, I did put up a sheet on our open garage and showed a movie. You could hear “The Nightmare Before Christmas” down the street. Perhaps that’s what drew the kids…

Some of the neighbors also came over to chat with us. This was the first time that a few of us had the chance to hang out. It was a beautiful evening so we pulled out the fire pit and talked about the neighborhood. It was a warm and welcoming experience.

My wife and I enjoyed the night hanging out, giving away candy and socializing. Afterwards we went to the backyard and watched the fireworks out in the distance across the cityscape. All in all a good evening had in our new home for our first Halloween. I look forward to many more years of this.

More Google Controls

I cannot stop automating our home. About a month ago I thought I was done. Our Google Home is feeling futuristic and connected. Today I added what may be the final item… for now.

The Nest was our latest item added. Basically an overpriced thermostat. But it has so many features that my wife really wants to utilize. Mostly watching the usage- that’s the sort of thing which has become a pastime for her. She is also starting to come around to how to use the automation of our home.

For me, it’s another Google app that will make life easier. Having access to everything in the palm of my hand is exactly what I always wanted. Controlling lights, television, music and temperature creates comfort. I love all of it.

I love the fact that I can control nearly everything now from my phone. The accuracy and instantaneous of it all astounds me. I have used some of the other apps and controlled devices while away from home. Pretty cool and dorky. Now I can be warm or cold- whatever I want.

Keeping our Nest controlled by Nest.

Bird Brains

I always feel bad when birds die.

In our previous home, there was a neighborhood cat that left dead birds on our back deck one year. Numerous times a bird would fly into our glass doors and windows of our sun room and just not survive. It was always unfortunate.

In our new home we have glass railings and large windows. I have already picked up half a dozen birds since June. I’m starting to see quite a variety of dead birds.

I have reached an age where I enjoy watching the living, flying birds outside. I have seen storks, hawks, owls, crows, geese, woodpeckers and all sorts of little cheep-cheeps. What I have discovered about myself is that when I find a bird that has died, I talk to it briefly. I’m apologetic. As if somehow I caused it’s demise. And then I toss them away unceremoniously.

After all, there’s nothing I can do for them. These wild birds entered the suburbs unwittingly. Or people created the suburbs in their homes?

I enjoy the bird’s songs and beauty, but when it ends, it ends.

Naked Tree

Yesterday we had a wind storm hit the west coast. My wife and I are glad that we moved to a place with no large trees in our yard anymore. The fear of losing power or a tree slamming into the roof is gone. With this sense of relief came something else- a sense of humor.

As I was leaving for work at 5:20pm, I noticed the small tree in our front yard lost all of it’s beautiful red leaves. They just dropped straight to the ground. So I leaned out and took this picture. I was going to send it to my wife and tell her the tree was naked. I headed out to work and was going to message her afterwards. As I arrived at work, she sent me this text:

She beat me to it! We both thought the same thing. This is absolutely hilarious to me. After being together for over 21 years, I guess we just know each other so well.

Naked tree. Why is that so funny to us?

Reds, Yellows and Greens

The tree on our neighbor’s property.

I love autumn. For the first time in ages I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the colors of the leaves as they change. Our last home was in a beautiful yard filled with pine trees. So we didn’t have much in the way of fallen leaves to clean up. In our new neighborhood- we also don’t have a lot of leaves to deal with, but the neighborhood looks beautiful as the season changes.

Looking out our front door there is a cornucopia of trees and colors. I love being able to witness the world as it transforms. The suburban life is something I never would’ve thought that I’d have enjoyed. I can wave at neighbors and smile a greeting to them. We still have the privacy of our back yard.

As the seasons change, we get to see more of it from our windows. Besides all of the beautiful skies, I’m loving that nature is sprawling out for miles. Plenty of green space separating us from the rest of the world.

Nature is amazing. Red is probably my favorite color of the leaves. There’s something vibrant about the color. Almost passionate.

Do you enjoy autumn and the changes in the world?

VR Sharing

Sunday Morning, our son decided that he was going to enjoy some VR gaming. For whatever reason, he also decided that he needed to cast it to our television.

It was odd that he did this, since no one else was around at the time. I walked downstairs and he was just talking away to thin air. When I asked who he was talking to, he said “the people in the game.” It turns out that when casting, he decided to turn the volume off because there was a bit of a lag/ delay and it was throwing him off.

I also asked why he was casting, and he said “So that we could watch him play.” I don’t think he realizes that we don’t all enjoy watching him play video games. especially on a Sunday morning when most of us wish to sleep in or have a quiet start to the day. At least he kept the sound muted, so I was entertained by his wild movements as he played a game called Gorilla Tag.

If we were taking turns playing a game, cool let’s cast. But he had already taken over the living room space, I guess he hoped we would enjoy watching his game that makes no sense? Wanna play tag? Go outside with friends and play tag. Why are you doing it in VR???

Where’d The Time Go?

I am almost finished having a week of vacation. There is one day left to go and I’m hoping to make the most of it. Most of my time off was filled with appointments and keeping myself busy.

Looking back at the week, I accomplished what I need to do- but relaxing wasn’t there. Early mornings and chores filled my excess time. I did get a short nap in on Friday afternoon which was nice.

Saturday will have a few fun fall activities planned. I’ll share the story afterwards. Or follow along on my Instagram and you may see the fun before I write about it. It’ll be silly fun for me and my family. I hope that you enjoy it, as I’m looking forward to finishing my vacation with some fun. (If I say fun enough times, it’ll be fun, right?)

Ending a vacation is always difficult. Work creeps up quickly and then you’re back in the grind waiting for the next set of days off. That’s just how life works.

Covered

Today was the final opportunity for us to see the blue of our pool. The final objective we needed to deal with in our backyard to prepare for the winter, was to throw a cover on the pool. All of our furniture is stored away, and the other day we Wrapped The Palm Trees for winter.

It was a sad moment having to say goodbye to the pool for the season. But we haven’t gone swimming in it for about a month now. What’s great about the cover is that it attaches right to the concrete all around. There are sunken pegs that come up and hold the straps in place keeping the cover taught.

Each spring will be filled with a glorious moment as we view the pool once more. The joy will extend through the summer. For now, we will protect the pool from the winter elements with the cover. Until next spring…

That’s A Wrap

The weather was sunny and the temperature was decent, so we decided to take advantage of it. My wife and I went for a 5km walk at the Tynehead Park. It’s a short drive away from our home, so it was nice to wander an area that wasn’t quite at home. Since it’s autumn, the leaves have mostly left the trees and the bare bones of the park remains.

Later in the afternoon as the sun crested over our house, my son and I ventured into our backyard to wrap our palm trees. We used some burlap and created a blanket around the trunk. It was easy enough to do, and I know it is better to do this while it’s nice instead of when the cold snap hits. Hopefully the winter is mild and doesn’t hurt the palm trees.

After wrapping the trees, my son helped to run an extension cord under our back deck so that we could spin some rope lights around the trees. Besides a fun look, this will also keep them warm in the winter months as required.

Next spring it’ll be nice to see everything come back to life and spread some colour in the world. For now, gardening isn’t over- that’s a wrap.

Existential Doggo

Another great evening to be had on the back deck as the sun begins to set. I keep on sharing pictures of the view, and it is well worth it. It seems I’m not the only one who enjoys the deck and the sky.

Our dog, Maki, has decided that she is just as good as her human family. She has discovered the joy of sitting on our back patio set and staring off into the horizon. I watched her for a while while she just zoned out.

When I finally got her attention, she just looked so happy. She also didn’t want to leave her seat. So I sat beside her and we gazed out on the horizon. She’s a great companion who can sit silently and just enjoy the moment.

Dogs are the best. I wonder what she was thinking?

Google Home

A little over a year ago we got ourselves set up on Google Nest Wifi. Since then, I have been really happy with using it as a Wi-Fi and as the occasional speaker. We then picked up a Google Chromecast to enjoy watching videos and VR. But today, I stepped up my Google Game and incorporated a bunch of smart devices.

Costco has dimmer switches available in a pack of 3 and plugs in a pack of four. The plugs are great since you can just plug them into the wall and then add your device. The switches take a bit more work. I’m glad that our home had a neutral wire available at every switch. Thank goodness for new home builds.

After getting the switches and plugs all set up, it was time to create some routines. One of the routines is to turn the lights outside on and the off at scheduled times of the night and morning. Saying “Ok Google…” and a catchphrase will set the mood for a pool party, or even meditation lounging in the bedroom. I also set up a bedtime routine which will turn on a light and added some nature sounds to calm down before sleep.

I’m sure there is plenty more to do with Google Home. For now, it’s time to teach my wife how to use it also. She may not like my Enya playlist and salt lamp going on, so she can create her own routines.

Nerdy tech stuff like this is fun. It takes a while to set up, and then I swear it’s forgotten about for ages. I need to get myself in the habit of taking to Google and not just turning on the lights. Maybe it’s movie time and the lights need to dim. Better use my phone since it’s already in my hand.

Do you have any tips or tricks when using Google Home? Any favorite devices or products you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Weather Report Is Close

I think that the weather reporting is getting better than it once was. Take my local report for example. Today calls for “Mostly Cloudy” but no rain; with images of sun peaking over the clouds to end the afternoon. Let’s ignore the next few days, because I swear it is subject to change.

As you can see, the weather app is pretty close. I’d say it’s not as cloudy as expected. So a vague report of clouds and sun is about as accurate as it will get.

Reporting the weather is still a guessing game it seems. Having a precise weather report is a thing for movies like Back to the Future 2. Maybe one day scientists will get it down to the second. But they cannot even get it right for two days from now. Predicting next week’s weather? Not even close.

But I’ll take a day of clouds with sunny breaks anytime.

Rooms Less Viewed

Since autumn is slowly encroaching on our lives, we will be spending more time indoors than we did over the summer. Of course I have mentioned some of our more used rooms in previous blogs. But there is also a couple of spaces that we use but just don’t have the pizazz or views that I have shared.

The “Flex Area”

Upstairs in the main section that leads to the bedrooms- we have a squared off “Flex Area”. Our couch fit in the spot under the window perfectly. Our dog loves this location as well. I also put our old plasma television with the PlayStation 4 across from it. The kids can disappear for a bit to watch tv or play games, but still be within yelling distance of the staircase.

It’s also a great area for the VR headset. Our son will put a couple of our Yogibos at the top of the stairs as an added safety when playing. (Although the virtual parameters are set well inside of this and will warn the player if they are crossing the border.)

The “Dining Room”

We have never really used a “Dining Room” as intended. Our last house had such an open concept that we would constantly move our dining table and piano around. In our new house, we opted to put our parlor grand piano and a glass door bookcase in the dining room. This section of the room is hardly used. Except for the dog bed. How come our dog gets two rooms?

A small section of the dining room is devoted to my wife’s work station at this time. She is enjoying facing the back windows and staring at the views whenever she looks up from her monitor. Next summer all of this will move into our front office (which is currently our eldest’s bedroom). For now, it’s a great use of a space we don’t use very often.

Do you use rooms for unintended purposes? Is your dining room a craft room perhaps? Or is a spare bedroom a darkroom for photography? Let me know how you use spaces in your home.

Starting Autumn Right

Autumn has officially started. All I can say is that we are doing alright as it takes hold and kicks summer to the curb. I have enjoyed the past few days already. The weather has been rather cooperative. Fooling us into thinking summer hasn’t ended.

Even though we have packed up our pool toys and patio furniture- we are getting every last possible day of use in. The last two days, and tomorrow as well, have kept the temperature in the low 20’s. So we’ve kept the pool heated and clean. I’ve spent more time doing laps than I did all summer. The pool is invigorating and relaxing.

Last night, my wife and I sat on our back deck with the fire pit warming us up. We talked and watched the traffic off in the distance as the darkness took hold of the evening. I love seeing the stars above and the city lights off in the distance. A cup of hot chocolate was a nice treat as well.

How are you enjoying the start of fall?

Morning Moon

The views from our home keep enthralling me. The other day was no exception.

I came home from work after a nigh shift and the fog had rolled in. Much like it had the other day. This was a bit different though- as the moon was still visible in the sky.

I zoomed in on my iPhone, but it couldn’t quite make out the moon. However, those colours were amazing. After numerous attempts to get a better photo of the moon, I gave up and retreated to my room.

Right before going to bed for the day, I moved the telescope in our bedroom and aimed towards the moon. I peered through the lens for a bit, entranced by the craters and shadows. I tried to get a photo using my iPhone, but it turned out far too blurry. However, you could still see the shadows on the surface.

It makes me want a better telescope with an attachment to take photos with my iPhone. Perhaps I’ll get one sometime. But for now, I’ll take what I can get. And what I get is beautiful scenery each day that I look out onto the horizon.

Gas Fireplaces

Today was a chilly and rain filled day. After being out shopping, my wife and I came home a tad bit wet and rather cold. So we relit the pilot lights on three of our four fireplaces. We turned the fireplaces on shortly after to burn off some of the summer dust.

Our bedroom boasts a two sided fireplace. For the part facing our bed, we placed a lovely faux sheepskin on the carpet. We love walking across it with bare feet- sliding along the softness. With the fireplace lit, it adds a lovely ambiance while laying in bed.

On the other side of the fireplace we have a painting hung up above that our friend made. There is also a chair by the door which leads to the deck. My wife is hoping to learn how to play her bass guitar while sitting with the fire on and viewing the sky.

Our living room fireplace is the only one with a fan. Which makes sense since it has the largest area needed to heat. Today, I decided to add a smart device to it. Now through Google Home I can turn on the fan and the tv. At Christmas, I’ll add a couple plugs for the trees and have them connected to Google Home as well.

The other fireplace we have in the upper floors of the house is in the office. However, the office is currently our daughter’s bedroom. So I’m not adding a photo, she likes her privacy. But once she moves downstairs, my wife is looking forward to working from home with a lovely fire. Our tenants have the other fireplace which is in the second living room. Soon, that will be our oldest’s personal space.

Having gas fireplaces is a luxury we never knew we needed. Our last home has wood burning fireplaces which we used every winter. After having the fire going today in our living room I did notice that my asthma was not affected. Unlike our previous house where I would be wheezing within an hour.

I love having a fireplace and enjoy the moments hanging around them. The soft warm glow makes me happy inside.

Blister In The Sun

After a hard day of manual labor, I had to take note of my hands. They were rough, dirty and beat up. I was assaulted by blackberry bushes that caught my skin and tore me up. But the worst was the blisters I received from the tools I used.

It may not have been an excruciatingly sunny day, but I broke into a sweat. After my first blister began, I caught myself singing “Blister in The Sun” by Violent Femmes over and over in my head. Let me go why??? I also tried to baby that spot, but the skin quickly tore away, so I gave in to the pain.

My days off are usually filled with chores and work that I do for my family and home. Seeing my rough hands makes me think of my father and how hard he would go to finish his chores. I have a similar trait and when I start something- it needs to be seen to completion.

I still get prideful doing work. Blisters and all.