Monday, November 06, 2023
Since 2017, I have been integrating Alexa devices throughout the house.
Almost immediately, I noticed the reception from radio stations was better
through Alexa devices rather than regular FM stations, so at the same time- I hooked
up most of the new Alexa devices to various stereo receivers and amps that were already
in the house.
This post provides a video of how some of the Alexa devices are used.
The most frequent uses for Alexa in my environment include:
- Streaming Music
- Streaming Security Cameras
- Information Requests
Years earlier, before 2017, I hooked up the television in the family room to the receiver/amp and the four older floor speakers in that room. When I added an Echo Dot for streaming music, all I had to do was purchase an RCA splitter and add the 3.5mm (Echo Dot plugin) with a two male RCA plugs on the other end to the existing configuration.
All of this worked well, until recently, when I decided I wanted to create content in the kitchen, which is right off the family room and the television noise.
In December 2018, when I setup the Soundbar system discussed in this post, I noticed for the first time the term "Optical Audio" and noticed the cable included in the box, for this type of connection. That said, I used the 3.5mm cable with the 2 RCA plugs to connect the Echo Dot to the soundbar system. To date, none of my Echo devices support the Optical Audio feature.
When I was searching for a solution to quiet the noise from the television,
I checked the back of the Verizon Settop Box and noticed something labeled
"Optical Audio". So I checked Amazon and found headphones I thought
would be perfect.
Then, I remembered testing another older stereo system in the guest bedroom using a pair of old headphones that belonged to my father. I checked to see if the amp in the family room had the jack on the front panel I needed. It did.
Muting the quad speakers via the amp in the family room and plugging in the old headphones is going to work, however I would love to test the more modern Optical Audio jack using the headphones I linked to above. Have you used this type of connection?
Friday, June 16, 2023
My goose down comforter has been shedding for awhile, so I finally decided to order new bedding. Though I tend to keep a comforter on the bed year round, I actually only use it during the winter months.
I wanted to get another down comforter, however opted for a light weight, less costly- "Bedsure Comforter Duvet Insert - Quilted White All Season Down Alternative Queen Size Bedding Comforter with Corner Tabs".
I am pretty pleased with my selection. The photos below show the duvet insert after I let it spin in the dryer for about 20 minutes, along with the "Bedsure Brown Duvet Cover Queen Size - Soft Brushed Microfiber Duvet Cover with Zipper Closure".
Items discussed in this post include:
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
I have not posted as much as I thought I would this spring. I have been distracted with a medical emergency and a number of projects I have been trying to complete.
It appears everything is better than expected and I am trying to complete some of my spring time projects.
Hope to get back on schedule within the month.
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Yesterday, I installed new scones on the garage. Originally, I was a little concerned because I was unsure whether I would get on a ladder to do this.
In late April when I installed the new sconce on the front porch to house the security camera, I was not concerned because I only needed a stepladder. I have a slight fear of heights.
My brother offered to install the new garage door sconces, however, recently while watching a Youtube video- I noticed the guy (Ox in the Shop) taking his father-in-law's advice on how to handle construction on a high ceiling and thought it might work for me.
I placed a painter's ladder behind me so that I could stay on the first rung, use my back to lean on one side of the "V" of the ladder, and reach what I needed to reach. It worked.
If I only needed the first rung, why was it so scary?
Several years ago, I tried to replace the LED bulb in one of the old garage scones. The lantern had to be unscrewed from the top- which was quite high. I had problems getting one of the screws out so I tried to get off the ladder, which was on the incline of the driveway. I lost my balance and hyper extended my knee. It unnerved me so I never changed the bulb.
The following photos show my handy work from yesterday's efforts.
I had several problems, however pretty happy that project is complete. How do I know how to install electrical things like this? Years ago when I bought my first place, my father showed me how to ground a wire and put black with black wires using a twisty and then the white wires. I wanted a dimmer switch in my dining area.
I was so pleased with how all of this turned out that I decided to trim back the boxwoods and azalea bushes in the front of the house. While doing this, I tripped on the arched bricks that edge the garden and skinned up my legs and hit my head. I am okay.
Items discussed in this post...
Monday, October 31, 2022
I am spending more time in online meetings and courses, so I have been trying to find affordable solutions to update the office. The last post showed some of the latest additions and included a photo of the old 13" television used to keep up with breaking news and business headlines.
I have wanted to replace the television for awhile, however could not justify the cost in that I rarely used the office before my real estate course and the onset of the pandemic.
In early October 2022, Verizon required upgrades to all of the set top boxes and the WiFi Gateway because the equipment was obsolete. There were two televisions that were not HDMI ready, so with the upgrade- HDMI channels were now accessible via the new set top boxes. One of the old televisions was in the office.
Allow me to digress for a moment. How is the cost of Verizon FiOS justified? I use FiOS for business and rarely go out for entertainment. The cost of the FiOS service is about $240.00 a month, however includes two land lines, internet, and television (6 set top boxes). There are several discounts applied because of customer loyalty and bundle selection.
Last week when I decided to get a new television for the office, I determined I could spend no more than $200.00. Initially, I selected a 24" Vizio.
After thinking about it, I decided to go with the smallest monitor I could find and use the existing RCA hookups from the set top box to the bookshelf stereo system for the audio. I thought the 24" Vizio, simply too large for the space and I did not want to mount it on the wall. There is a daybed in the room (behind the desk), however the wall is simply too close and would have made watching while sitting at the desk too awkward.
Shown below, the before and after photos of the old television versus the new monitor now being used as an HDMI television.
Below the invoice for the new monitor.
I had to adjust several settings on the monitor and the video sharpness level on the set top box to achieve optimal display results. I am pretty happy with the outcome of this project.
Friday, June 03, 2022
I mentioned in my last post that I would be getting something I have wanted for years. Though the philodendron shown on the right is new, that is not what I referenced. I purchased the philodendron on Wednesday during my weekly visit to the market. The item I ordered arrived yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.
Monday, May 30, 2022
I am getting something I have wanted for years, however could not justify the expense. I am not going to explain further in this post, however will in the near future. Stay tuned.
Shown below, the powerful little Aspiron vacuum with attachments, that replaces a more expensive Kenmore canister vacuum. The Kenmore seems to have a short in the electrical system.
The Kenmore's attachment was motorized providing a two motor system whereas the Aspiron's attachment is not. I like the power and less bulky nature of the Aspiron and I think it is a keeper. The Aspiron is easier to move up and down the stairs for baseboards, upholstery, and the steps, however it is stored upstairs.
For some reason, I will buy a new vacuum. Two that I purchased, the Deik cordless stand-up shown on the left (great price because of a lightning deal, Dec. 2017) and the Fuller Mini Maid Handheld (Oct. 2016) vac for electronics on the right.
The stand-up Dyson vacuum shown below- was a holiday gift from a family member. It is used on the main level where there are both carpeted and hardwood flooring areas.
Do I vacuum? Not as much as I would like, but yes, sometimes.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
My mother's birthday is normally a week before Thanksgiving- so I have had more projects than normal this year.
The following, a list of projects over the last week- in addition to my normal activities.
- Wednesday, November 10, 2021, ordered a new over the range microwave (handle broke on the old)
- Microwave delivered, Friday, November 12, 2021
- Went shopping for holidays, birthday (11/12/21)
- Saturday, November 13, 2021 family emergency health issue.
- November 15, 2021 went by Lowes to sign contract for microwave installation.
- Went by PNC Bank in Odenton to take care of some paperwork. (11/15/21)
- Went to the market for more holiday, birthday items. (11/15/21)
- Tuesday, November 16, 2021, made lemon loaves and buttermilk cake with chocolate butter cream icing.
- Today is Wednesday, November 17th, 2021.
Photos over the last week...
Peak autumn colors in our area over the weekend...
Long day of deliveries, shopping, and taking photos. I look tired.
Yesterday, I started the baking for the upcoming birthday and holidays. The lemon loaf recipe is discussed in this post.
I think I have perfected the recipe for the buttermilk cake and will provide the exact details in a later post.
Are you ready for the holidays?
Update: Nov. 18, 2021. The new microwave was installed today in less than 30 minutes.
For some reason, I thought I would have a difficult time coordinating the purchase, delivery, installation, and haul away for this project. Very pleased with how all of this worked out, especially in that the new microwave was larger than the original and the guys had to install new brackets in the upper cabinet and the wall behind the oven.
Ordered last Wednesday (Nov. 10, 2021), installed and working by the following Thursday, with all of the details handled by Lowes.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
The following interface, is a Java Servlet powered by the CJ Product Search API using GraphQL. The jQuery widget integrated directly within the program- provides the display and navigation of the products.
The jQuery widget was adapted from a CJ supplied interface which uses affiliate specified product selections for showcase. An example is provided in the last post.
The interface demonstrated in this post- allows site visitors to specify the search criteria.
I am currently beta testing the tool. Once complete, the program will be installed in the main site area (qisoftware.com) as a CJ Product Search API demonstration for potential clients.
I am still deciding on user interface issues, e.g., how many rows to display. Leave a comment if you wish to respond or have a program bug report.
Disclosure: I sometimes use affiliate links in content. This will not cost you anything. There is a chance I will receive a fee if my affiliate links are used for purchases. Thanks for your support. Also see the site wide disclosure policy using the link at the bottom of each page, labeled "Disclosure Policy".
Sunday, July 25, 2021
It has been hot in our area with lots of moisture. I have been sticking with easy meals and desserts to prepare.
Shown below, some of the plantings in my gardens. I added a new hosta plant to the front porch and filled the deck planters with marigolds, however have done little more in the way of gardening this year.
The plantings in my gardens include:
- Marigolds, most flying insects do not like marigolds so these were a great addition, especially with the cicadas this year.
- Variegated Day Lilies (Pink & Yellow)
- Back deck
- Crocosmia Lucifer Spectacular Red Perennial
- Shasta Daisies
- Black Eyed Susans (Maryland's State Flower)
- Hydrangea bush
- Hosta on back deck
Most of the statewide pandemic restrictions in place over the last year have been lifted, and my area is becoming busier everyday.
Live Casino & Hotel along with Arundel Mills probably attracting most of the crowd. Friday, I had an appointment in the area, and was surprised by how many visitors I noted (based on automobiles in the parking lots and coming off major exists to the mall and casino). Seems as though people are trying to get back to normal.
Hope you are having a great summer. Have to say, I am ready for the cooler weather of autumn.
Sunday, May 09, 2021
Happy Mother's Day. I have been working different projects over the last week, in preparation for Mother's Day. I ordered online, however did stop by a garden center on Friday, for a hosta plant and marigolds for the planters on the deck.
In our area it has been a bit overcast over the last 3 or 4 days, including today. The weather? That is another project I have been working. A new interface (Java Servlet) using the WeatherAPI resource.
The illustration below shows a side by side comparison of the Yahoo Weather interface used on WiredPages and the new WeatherAPI interface.
Most of the work for the new weather interface is complete. There are minor cosmetic changes I may implement, however, since I have no plans to install the new interface online, will probably hold off.
Sunday, May 02, 2021
In early April 2020, repairs to the main bathroom on the upper level were an important preoccupation along with the many concerns relating to COVID-19.
A trip to Lowes for fixtures and tools needed for the repair- provided the opportunity to purchase a new plant, the snake plant shown below.
The two illustrations below, show a photo of the plant, taken yesterday and the set of photos taken when I first replanted the Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Snake Plant) in April 2020.
When I left home after college, my parents gave me a snake plant for my first place. I never had a problem. I hate to admit, I almost killed the new plant, over-watering.
With all of the other plants I maintain around the house, I thought I could water as often as I did the others. Big mistake. I am pleased I realized my mistake before it was too late.
Other recent photos...
- Strawberry season, so I buy strawberries... I love strawberry shortcake.
- Love buttermilk pancakes --recipe
- Yellow irises in the backyard are in bloom
- Cascading petunias for the front porch
- Scenes from the den, including the same snake plant photo
- Purple irises on the side of the house not yet in bloom
- Alternanthera Purple Prince - a perennial ground cover
- Hosta plant on the back deck
There were many changes over the past year, however we made it. So did the Dracaena Trifasciata (mother-in-law's tongue).
Friday, April 03, 2020
In early March , I discovered because of corrosion, the faucet in the main upstairs bathroom would have to be replaced. We ordered a new faucet (PARLOS Brushed Nickel) and also decided to use Amazon's Home Services to have the work done.
The plumber who performed the initial work, although installing the new faucet, also explained the corrosion was more extensive than we thought. We would need a new sink as well. So I took measurements and went over to Lowes to get a new sink.
While at Lowes, I also found a Dracaena Trifasciata (mother-in-law's tongue or snake plant, similar Amazon offering) that I decided I had to have. When I left home right after college, my mother gave me one she had had for years, so I was happy to find another at a very reasonable price (under fourteen dollars).
This post was going to be about all of the projects I have been working lately, however the bathroom project was a big one and took a lot of time to complete. The repairs were completed by 11:00 am Wednesday, however the sink was not usable until the following morning to give the epoxy a chance to set up.
Of course, the current situation with COVID-19 a factor in scheduling of repair services--- even with our hustle to purchase the hardware that was needed for the repairs. Just happy to have that sink working again.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
I am baking today, however I wanted to take a moment and tell you about a recent acquisition that I am pretty pleased about.
I imported most of my CDs to iTunes, and have the app installed on several mobile devices. In March of this year, while using an unprotected charging device, I believe I damaged my first bluetooth speaker (no longer accepting a charge), so I caught a sale and picked up this DOSS SoundBox XL 32W Bluetooth Speaker.
In addition to iTunes, I have several Echo devices hooked up to stereo and/or amped standalone speakers, enabling Alexa music requests in most areas of the house. I tested the new speaker with all of these systems and found in most cases the audio was greatly enhanced, however not in the den.
Systems around the house using other Echo devices where the Doss speaker made a significant difference:
If you are looking for a new bluetooth speaker, I think you will find this speaker has surprising output.
P.S. Issue from the last post, cleared up. I am so pleased about this.
Saturday, December 14, 2019
It was a busy week, highlights included:
- Replaced a brake lamp bulb on one of the cars (The internet allows me to think I can repair anything).
- Trip to the market.
- Online shopping & waiting on the deliveries.
- Wrapping presents.
- First holiday gift: Handy Multi-Use Tool - Synchrony
- Putting up the tree and the rest of the holiday decorations.
- Correcting a problem with the Instagram API Demonstration application.
- Fixed the submit button issue with the map tool on the WiredPages Dining & Travel page.
Beautiful moon in our area on December 11th, 2019. The following photos taken with my Canon EOS M50.
Hope your holiday preparations are going well.
Monday, November 11, 2019
My mother's birthday is right around the corner. This year, I decided to get her something she said she needed, however was unable to find. I researched online, offerings of the lampshade replacements she wanted and asked her about certain styles before I ordered.
I am glad I did. The new lampshades arrived today, and though not her birthday, I decided to give them to her a bit early after first ensuring the shades were undamaged. Illustrated below, the etched-like ginger jar lamps and the old versus the new lampshades.
Though the older shades do not look that bad in the photos, some of the pleats had separated from the lower hem of the shade, giving a slightly frayed appearance. She did not see the final gift selection, so I am pleased she likes the new lampshades.
I used to know where lighting stores in my area were located. I love finials, lamps, lampshades. I am not sure now, why it is hard to find things like lampshades and even online- the research was a little more difficult than I anticipated.
Now, what to do about dinner and other birthday activities...
Friday, May 24, 2019
Currently, I set up an office in any room in the house because I am mostly mobile. Even my bedroom has a desk (of sorts) and an old computer. I rarely use the desk and old computer, instead a breakfast tray and wifi wireless devices.
Also in my bedroom, I have a four poster bed, highboy chest, dresser, and two nightstands. The set is all wood (cannot get all wood now for the price I paid then), in a Queen Ann style with a cherry finish, purchased over twenty years ago. I also maintain an office upstairs where I have two of my desktop computers. The photos below, show elements from both rooms.
I would like to update the bedroom set, however it is not a priority at this time. What can I do? Update the desk in the bedroom. I have looked around and found things I would like to add.
The leather wingback chair, is really not an option at this time, however I love this idea (used to have a pink wingback chair in my bedroom-- see link below). Not only is it a little too expensive (for my budget), I really do not have the room. The guest bedroom is larger, however for some reason I did not want to take that room.
The finial is to replace the one on the lamp in the upstairs office. I was moving the stereo equipment and cables around and dropped the lamp. I am happy only the finial was damaged (superglued it). I purchased the lamp years ago from the Tyson's Corner Woodward and Lothrop and would have been very upset if more damage had been done.
Underneath the desk, I have a cardboard box holding paper stock that I want to replace with the rolling wicker file cabinet.
More photos of my office areas...
Saturday, May 18, 2019
We are still creating the new look for the main entry. Late last year, we purchased an espresso console table from Wayfair to replace the Queen Anne Table & Mirror that were damaged.
Last month, we finally hung a mirror that matched the table and are now in the process of adding other pieces to compliment the new look.
A couple of weekends ago, I found the brass pocket change holder in a drawer somewhere, so I cleaned it up with Brasso. The palm tree (purchased specifically for the area) and other knick-knacks found around the house added a new dimension. We are pleased with how this turned out.
Sunday, January 13, 2019
It started snowing yesterday evening around six, and has continued throughout the morning.
The new year brought any number of issues, I was not expecting. That said, pretty pleased I think I have found solutions for most of the problems.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
In late 2016, we ordered new handles for the refrigerator in the kitchen. The handles had turned slightly orange with age. Thursday, I finally decided I would attempt to install the new handles.
What took so long? Even though I found any number of DIY forums that explained how to install the handles, when I first tried to wedge a knife between the trim and the frame I could not get it to budge.
Thursday, I used a flathead screwdriver I found in the kitchen utility drawer which did the trick.
FYI: You are also going to need a special screwdriver that has a tip with six points as shown in the illustration below:
Products discussed in this post:
Are you in the mood for your own DIY projects? Since getting our Alexa Echo [Christmas 2017], I have been researching the many appliances coming out that are "Alexa" enabled and added a few of the more noteworthy items to my store.