Monthly Archives: December 2015

Voice Controlled Home Automation (Video included)

Although I have tons of interests, I am a tech geek at heart.  I love playing with new gadgets to see how they can make our lives “easier”.   After combining several gadgets together, some DIY electrical work, and configuration settings, we were able to make our house do some cool tricks just with the sound of our voice.

We started small and  mainly used home automation to off turn off our master bedroom lights from our phone so we wouldn’t have to argue about who should get up!  But after some more pieces, the possibilities seemed endless.

Devices (everything is under $200!):

SmartThings is a neat home device product because there is no monthly fee and is compatible with both ZigBee and Zwave protocols which are the 2 most common.  You start off connecting it to your Wi-Fi and downloading an app on your smart phone.   There are 3 ways to connect lights for home automation.

  1. Outlet – plug a wireless communicating outlet into the wall and plug your lamp into the outlet.
  2. Bulb – Replace bulbs with a wireless communicating Bulb
  3. Switch – Replace the wall switch with a zwave switch.

We mainly used switches.  If you know how to turn off the control panel, use a screwdriver and move 3 wires from your old switch to the new one, you don’t need to hire an electrician.

Tip: Zwave switches require neutral wire so if you don’t have one in your box, check the box next to it and you can fish a wire through after verifying it works. If there isn’t one, use a Zwave dimmer switch.

Harmony Hub integrates with SmartThings and can control your entertainment system.  It also allows your phone to function as a universal remote.  Since our hub was on the other side of the house from the router and behind a cabinet, we needed to add a Wi-Fi extender to give it a stable connection.

Amazon Echo is a cool device on it’s own.  Think of Siri but better and for your house.  Integrating it with SmartThings broadens it’s possibilities tremendously.  Sonos also works with SmartThings to allow you to turn on and off playlists.

It’s not perfect, for example, you have to say “turn off good night” but nonetheless pretty cool.

Next on the list, garage door control that senses your proximity based on your phone’s GPS location.  If only I could make it move the elf!

Pineapple Papdi Chaat

Have you ever witnessed someone try Indian Food for the first time?  Their first bite is the most entertaining as most dishes pack a powerful variety of spices.  One thing that keeps Indian Food my favorite genre is that there are always new and exciting dishes to try.  My mom and brother were in Paris when they found this new twist on an old gem.

Papdi Chaat is a perfect combination of crunch and mouth watering flavor.  Typically served with chick peas, onions, and Moong beans this twist adds a bit of sweetness with alternative ingredients of pineapple and tandoori chicken.

  • Papdis (flat poori) – ready made at most Indian grocery stores
  • Tandoori Chicken Pieces – pre-made tandoori powder available at most Indian grocery stores
  • Tamarind Sauce a.k.a Imli Chutney
  • Garam Masala Powder
  • Boiled and cubed potatoes
  • Yogurt (beaten)
  • Pineapple chunks

One you have all the ingredients ready all you have to do is plate it.  Delicious!

Gun Control is Everyone’s Problem

“Lanza then entered a first-grade classroom where Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, had herded her first grade students to the back of the room, and was trying to hide them in a bathroom, when Lanza forced his way into the classroom.Rousseau, Rachel D’Avino (a behavioral therapist who had been employed for a week at the school to work with a special needs student), and fifteen students in Rousseau’s class were all killed. Fourteen of the children were dead at the scene; one injured child was taken to a hospital for treatment, but was later declared dead.  Most of the teachers and students were found crowded together in the bathroom.”

Those words still haunt me.  The elementary school shooting of December 14, 2012 shook me like it did the rest of the world.  Not only because many of victims were extremely young children, but my oldest child was a 1st grade student at the time like many of the victims.  Her classroom was coincidentally one of the first class rooms when you entered her school and turned left, just as the shooter has done at  Sandy Hook Elementary.  I sent her to school that morning, just as 20 other moms did in Connecticut, trusting that my daughter would be safe.  My daughter fortunately came home to me that day while 20 moms in Connecticut were not so lucky.

The next day, I went to work and could not concentrate.  I could not think about anything except my children.    Were they safe?  How did my child’s school protect against intruders?  At one point during the day, I had to escape because I could not hold back the tears.  How can I go on as if everything is normal when it felt like the whole world was turning upside down?  I started writing emails to schools wondering about safety protocols, joining groups like momsrising.org for Moms who support Gun Control, and researching ways that I could make a difference.

There has been more than 1 mass shooting a day on average in the United States in 2015.  THIS IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM.  White, Black, Brown, and Yellow; Rich and Poor; Democratic and Republican; Christian, Muslim and Hindu; Old and Young.  There is no explanation that makes sense as why we continue to let this happen.

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Finish The Job: Sign the petition and help expand Brady background checks across all gun sales. 

Call Congress: Make an impact on common sense gun legislation. 

Volunteer: Play your part in helping to cut gun deaths in half by 2025.

How to Share Christmas Wishlists

Everyone knows that my girls are into crafts.  They have been for years.  That means that for years, our family has gifted every single type of craft kit available.  Many times a 3rd or 4th of the same type of kit.  My girls LOVE them.  The problem is now we have so many kits that we still have not had a chance to complete, that we have completely run out of storage room.

In order to avoid trying to find more room in the house to store all their thoughtful kits I create an amazon wish list.  I have trouble coming up with enough unique ideas to give a couple to each family member so this way I don’t have to and still avoid duplicates.  If the item is not on amazon (or you found it cheaper somewhere else), you can easily add items from other websites to the list as well.  You can even add ideas but let family shop for it themselves.

Watch this video to learn how to:

  1. Create a New Wish List
  2. Add Amazon Items to the List
  3. Add Ideas to the List
  4. Add the “Add Item to List” button (I am using IE 10 in the example)
  5. Add an Item from Another Site
  6. Share the list (I copy the link)
  7. How your friends and family mark items bought for other websites.

Happy Shopping!