Thursday, May 9, 2019

Smart Home Update

Latest state of our smart home. The home screen doesn’t list the multitude of switches and other accessories used in customizations and automations.

Cameras are blanked out on purpose, but they actually do provide a live feed and recording inside the Home app.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Storage Shed

Our shed.Since we’ve moved in into our house more than 10 month ago we have done a lot of things. There is an endless stream of projects and purchases of various magnitude and we end up not writing anything about them.

As the time went we realized that we’d rather take care of our yard on our own instead of hiring somebody else to do it. Grass cutting, leaf clean up, snow plowing — all these things really add up cost-wise and you end up with subpar service.

Our shed.We weren’t really lucky in finding any good parties that would provide a quality service that we would be happy with. Initially we were paying $140 to get our grass cut twice each month.

At first that worked OK, but then the autumn started to get closer. Leaves started falling. Instead of mowing through the leaves and mulching them our hired help started avoiding those area altogether, which was ruining the grass.

Walkway. Work in progress.If it would rain and the soil would be soaked with water they would still come and ride their machinery through all that mud, ripping up the yard. Nobody really cared.

And then we were quoted $400 for leaf clean up that has to be done at least twice a year if not more. And on and on it goes.

Walkway.We did leaf clean up ourselves — mostly Alёna actually — with a small electric tube blower. Then one of the neighbors landed Alёna a walk behind gas blower. She said that she did the work in hours that would take her days with that tool. So we bought our own.

Then we bought a pressure washer. And then we bought a wheel barrow for yard work. And then we bought a grass mower. And a ton of other yard tools such as rakes and shovels of different kinds on top of that. And the snow blower will come closer to winter.

Unloading the shed.That’s when we realized that we really need a dedicated place to store all that gear since one of our cars has stopped fitting into the garage as we were taking up more and more space with our tools.

We decided to order a proper storage shed for our house. After some research we went into a place that was recommended by a lot of people in the next town over. We ended up ordering a 10 by 16 feet shed with windowed doors and windows, painted in the the same color as our house.

Pegboard. Garden tools.It is build from weather and pressure treated wood that is durable and should last for a long time. We also ordered a gravel foundation to be built for it. All in all it ended up costing us somewhere around $5,500.

We placed an order in the middle of March. The foundation was built in the first half of April and our custom built shed was delivered on May 1st. It was delivered and put in place by a single guy which was quite amazing to me.

Closet shelves repurposed.In the last couple of weeks we have installed a couple of pegboards inside and a bunch of shelves that I’ve removed and kept from when I rebuilt our master-closet. They really came in handy.

All-in-all we’re quite happy with our shed and the amount of additional space that it gave us. We’ve also gotten a number of compliments.

P.S. We’ve build a stone walk-way next to it to store our garbage bins at and we’re planning to extend this walkway to the entrance of the shed itself in the coming weeks. It came out OK for our first self-built walkway ever.

View from the back.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Venice 2018

Canals of Venice.It’s been a while since our Italian vacation, but Danya and I keep thinking about writing a few words and posting a few pictures about Venice. So here it is.

Doge's PalaceDanya and I have been to Venice once before, but for our children it was the first time. Before the trip we told them stories about this city on the water — how unusual, beautiful and epic it is. I think they were not disappointed.

Gandola ride.We arrived by bullet train and took a water bus to get to our hotel — Hilton Molino Stucky. We booked a suite room, but got upgraded into a humongous two bedroom two bathroom suite. Probably the largest room that we’ve ever stayed in.

Gandola ride.We had our first dinner at Trattoria ai Cacciatorri on Guidecca — same place where we enjoyed our anniversary dinner 5 years ago. It was nice. We got grilled calamari as an appetizer, and I am proud to say that both of our children tried them, although I don’t think that they were particularly taken with the meal. They did love their main pasta dish though! It was Thanksgiving too, so we toasted and gave thanks for all the good things that happened to us last year.

Walking around Venice.The next day was our wedding anniversary. We did a lot of Venice sight seeing. It was cold, but at least it was not raining and the streets were not flooded. After some bargaining, we took a gondola ride. Our gondolier was a tall good looking blue eyed Venetian, who was steering gondolas in narrow Venice canals for the last 10 years. He said that it took him 6 months to learn how to do it, but just as with driving cars, some people learn slower, and some will never be good.

Tiny streets of Venice.During the ride it was even more obvious that Venice is sinking — slowly, but surely. Some buildings had water covering the steps completely and getting uncomfortably close to the windows. As much as I liked visiting Venice, there is no way that I would have chosen to live there.

Wedding anniversary dinner.We ate dinner at some fancy and expensive place, which to my dismay did not have a risotto on the menu. I ended up ordering black ink spaghetti, which were just OK. It was still a nice and memorable experience with my most favorite people.

Hunting for Venetian masks.We wanted to buy some Venetian masks, so we visited all the mask stores that we could find. Sadly, we were not able to find the place where we bought our joker mask last time, but we found a few authentic stores which produced real things and not cheap made in China counterfeits. I also love buying jewelry while traveling, so Daniel got me a nice set of earrings and a matching necklace made with Murano glass.

Lunch.Executive lounge in Hilton proved to be very useful for having light free dinners, and that’s exactly where we went in the evening. Sadly there was no indoor pool in the hotel, but Anna was having trouble with her ears as is, so maybe it was for the best. By the way, we figured out that swimming cap in the pool greatly diminishes ear issues, so during our last Canada trip she had zero ear ache, even though she used the pool almost daily.

Flooded Venice.The next day was a little rainy, but not overwhelmingly so. Venice was somewhat flooded, and we had to use those raised wooden walkways on some streets and avoid certain streets altogether. A number of people was using special waterproof bags to protect their shoes, but we decided that we can get by without and as I mentioned just avoided especially flooded streets when possible. I’m sure it was fun to be wading though the humongous puddles though, but at 15 euros per shoe bag it was not worth it.

Saint Mark's Basilica.We visited Saint Mark’s Basilica, which is beautiful and unusual. The children seemed to like it too — it will be curious to see if they will recognize it on the pictures.

Flooded Venice.We continued our search for masks, and ended up buying a whole lot of them — four for us and one for Aaron. Anna got a cheap mask which she could wear the previous day, and it looks very cute on her. Arosha could not decide for a long time which variety of masks he likes best, but at the end he bought a sun and moon mask to match the overall stars and planets theme of his room. I think it fits very well and getting it certainly was very exciting for him. The masks that we got are three female faces, which we hanged over the fireplace in the living room, and a borg-looking mask which Daniel keeps in his home office room.

Gnocchi!We tried to find good gelato places, but I guess late November is not the prime time for this treat, so even though we bought it on few occasions, it was not as good as the one that we bought in Milan. By the way, there were a lot of Russian speaking people working in food industry in Venice. Pretty much every food place, including Hilton buffet, had someone who spoke Russian. Also, if on mainland Italy Anna’s and Aarons blond hair and blue eyes attracted extra attention and smiles, Venetians were completely indifferent.

View from the top of the bell tower.On our last day we went up the bell tower of St. Mark’s Cathedral. Sadly, we had to take the elevator — no option of using steps. The view was very beautiful.

Bell tower.Afterwards we walked around some more, bought more jewelry for me, ate lunch and went back to the hotel. It was raining pretty hard, and walking in the narrow streets with umbrellas was not very enjoyable.

Lunch.The next day we took a water taxi to the airport and departed home.

Water taxi to the airport.I know some people love Venice, and some find it smelly, hot and overcrowded. I think a lot of this experience depends on the time of the year when people visit. Yes, it was cold and rainy, but I still think that visiting during less popular months beats being there in crowds of people during the peak season.

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