Smart Locks that Work with Google Home: 3 Options

Smart home systems are more than a trend. They are part of life. The next level smart gadget is smart locks. The best part is that you can access them from around the world to let pet sitters in and ensure unwanted people stay out.

What is a smart lock?

Smart locks replace things like bolt locks and less-than-secure key locking mechanism. They are keyless and can connect to WiFi.  Because of its network capability, Google Assistant is accessible in new and exciting ways.

Benefits of a Smart Lock

A smart lock is not only useful to lock and unlock as you come and go, but it also levels up security home security systems.

  • Security at the touch of a button
  • Voice-activated
  • Compatible with other home automation (Google Home, Amazon Alexa)
  • Avoiding lost keys or a stolen stashed spare key
  • Lessens chance of home invasion
  • The ability to change access control to remove permission from unwanted people
  • Access restriction timeliness

Potential Pros and Cons to Consider

Convenience

One of the obvious perks of smart locks is that you can access door locks from vacation and let someone who is checking on your home or pets inside without them having to have a key. But, you can also change the code if you need to withdraw access or suspect someone has the access code.

It is super convenient to touch a button when you want to go in and out of your home. The no key-fumble moments make smart locks worth the investment.

A smart lock’s network connections add a level of must-haveness because it connects to Goggle Assistant and locks the doors. It is as easy as saying it out loud and “making it so.”

Aesthetic

Deadbolt locks and sliding plates not the most attractive accessory on doors. However, with smart locks, entryways gain a sense of modern and visual appeal.

The tech-savvy gadgets come in a variety of colors and finishes:

  • Gold
  • Black Matte
  • Silver
  • Chrome
  • A rainbow of color schemes

A Thing or Two to Think About

You have to be comfortable with technology to benefit from smart locks. No one wants to invest in a home security product without knowing how to use it correctly.

Also, smart locks are tamper-resistant, but they are not tamperproof. Hackers learn every day how to gain access to wirelessly connected devices. A smart lock is not “invisible.”

WiFi goes down. It is part of life. Sometimes because of flickering electricity, sometimes just because of Internet connection drops. It will cause issues when trying to gain entry, and in these instances, physical keys do not rely on technology.

3 Options — Smart Locks That Work With Google Home

The options for smart locks sometimes seem overwhelming. New brands and types come onto the market every day. Let us breakdown the top three, so you can decide which works best for you.

  1. CANDY HOUSE Sesame Smart Lock with Google Home 

The Sesame Smart Lock from Candy House sits atop an existing single turn deadbolt. It means there is no need to remove the traditional mechanisms to install this one — no tools!

Features include:

  • Shared access to remotely lock and unlock doors — It means no keys under the mat while giving family and friends permission.
  • History log — You know who is coming and going. For example, when the kids get home from school and if they go outside before doing their homework, you will know.

Auto-locking and unlocking — You will never have to worry if you remembered to turn the lock, again.

 2. Nest x Yale Lock with Nest Connect Smart Lock 

Nest x Yale’s Smart Lock is not only compatible with Google Home, but it also works with Nest products, too. Everyone’s home automation is different or changes depending on needs. Either way, it is an awesome added layer to any security system.

Features include:

  • Tamperproof and Secure — It replaces a deadbolt lock, and it sets off an alert if someone attempts to disengage it.
  • Backup Battery — If the power goes off, it has a backup 9-volt battery.
  • Shared access to remotely lock and unlock doors — Give family and friends their own unique codes and log their comings and goings.
  • Touchscreen Keypad — A smart device is not the only way to gain an entryway. The Next x Yale has a keypad for passcodes

3. August Home Smart Lock — Silver

August Home’s Smart Lock works in homes that are cross-platforms. Its Google Home ability is top of the line, and the newest home security device is stylish.

Features include:

  • Access from Anywhere — Lock and unlock your door, control keyless access, and keep a log of who comes and goes from just your phone.
  • Works with Traditional Locks — The smart lock attaches to an already existing tumbler.
  • Easy installation — All you need is a screwdriver, and in ten minutes, it is ready set go.

Smart locks are an excellent option if you’re looking to try something new with your home security. They’re secure, customizable, convenient, and sleek. Enticing as they may be, smart locks aren’t perfect. Though smart locks are an effective tool, they aren’t necessarily safer than the classic lock-and-key combo. To best protect your home, use smart locks in conjunction with other security features.

Everyone is different, every home’s needs vary, and the market is full of choices that are hard to narrow down. But, the top three options are at least a start when finding the smart locks that work with Google Home.

Brining Green Olives at Home

There’s a reason why the ancient Greeks served olives with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This delicious little fruit complements countless dishes and makes a great snack all on its own. But eat olives straight off the vine and you’re in for a bitter surprise. The curing process drains uncured olives of their overwhelming taste.  

Brine-curing your own olives is an easy, cost-effective way to restock your pantry. Furthermore, harvesting your own olives is better for your body. Most olives on supermarket shelves are filled with excess sodium. Just a few servings can contain up to 1300 milligrams of salt, or more than half the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Like any healthy snack, it’s easy to overdo it with olives—and all the salt is hard on your kidneys and puts you at risk for high blood pressure. (Plus, no one wants to look bloated after trying to eat clean!)  

The Benefits of Eating Olives  

The olive makes the Mediterranean diet one of the best eating plans for a long, healthy life.  According to nutrition expert Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, olives should be a staple on your shopping list because their compounds

increase nitric oxide production, improving vascular function by promoting blood flow to your tissues. That’s beneficial for both short-term and long-term health, since better circulation enhances everything from sprints at the gym to overall risk of chronic disease. Some types of olives can also provide up to 25% of your iron needs, an important mineral that helps deliver oxygen to your organs.

The fats that make olives and olive oil so good for you also fill you up. Eating a small handful of olives every day makes it easier to avoid unhealthy snacking.  

Which Olive Curing Method is Best?

You can make olives at home using a few different techniques. The ideal curing method depends on the type of olives you pick. Common ways to cure olives include:  

  • Dry-curing involves rubbing olives in coarse sea salt for 3-4 weeks. The salt soaks up excess bitterness. This method works best for black olives. After the curing process, the black olives can be immediately eaten as-is or preserved with an olive oil bath.
  • Oil-curing takes dry-curing a step further. This method works best for black olives. After the olives are dried out, they are transported into an airtight container filled with olive oil and spices like rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Oil-curing for 1-2 months gives olives a meaty, soft texture. Black Moroccan olives are typically cured in oil.
  • Brine-curing is the easiest method for beginners and a good choice for all varieties of olives. All you need is a little coarse sea salt, water, and apple cider vinegar to turn your olives into seasonings or delicious snacks. It’s not the fastest way to transfer olives from the vine to your plate, but the wait is well worth it. The fermentation process packs your olives with impeccable flavor. This method makes green olives perfectly salty and a little tangy.

Brine-Curing Green Olives at Home in 7 Steps

Traditionally, olives were brine-cured by being left in large bags on seaside docks. But no matter where you live, you can brine-cure green olives using your choice of salt, spices, and vinegar. It takes around 8 months to completely break down the oleuropein, a bitter compound that makes uncured olives too overwhelming to eat.   

Supplies to concoct your brine   

  • Green, uncured olives  
  • Purified water  
  • Kosher salt
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic, chili peppers, rosemary, and thyme (optional)
  • 1 plastic tub, 5-gallon bucket, a curing crock, or narrow-neck jars

 How to brine-cure your olives

  1. Begin by removing bruised or shriveled olives from your batch. Transfer the olives into a BPA-free container or a curing crock.
  2. For every four cups of water, add 1/4 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Keep adding your water-salt-vinegar mixture until your olives are fully submerged.
  3. To keep the olive from bobbing to the top, place a mesh cloth. Alternatively, line a 5-gallon bucket with a brining bag and tie the bag closed. If you don’t have access to a large container, narrow-neck jars will weigh down your olives.  
  4. Place your containers in a cool place away from sunlight, then cover them with a cloth. Prevent flies from ruining your olives by placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the containers.
  5. Periodically check on the olives. Every few weeks, remove debris off the surface of the brine.
  6. In 12 to 14 weeks, your olives should be ready to transfer into a new brine. Refer to steps two and three.
  7. Repeat the brine transfer every few months until the green olives are sufficiently sweet. Transfer the olives into jars filled with a weaker brine: for every 4 cups of water, add 1/8 cup of kosher salt and ACV. Add your favorite spices and pop them into the fridge.

Brine-cured olives typically expire after 6 to 8 months. The process takes patience and persistence. But the pay-off is in the flavor. Just one bite of a homemade olive will convince you to never go for store-bought again!

How Secure is a Garage Door? 3 Tips to Secure your Garage

If you are a homeowner, and you have a garage attached to your structure, you may have wondered,  “How secure is a garage door?” Can someone get into the home from this location? Will someone try? The garage is usually located in a spot away from bedrooms, making it an easy vantage point for someone who does want to try to gain access. Read on to learn how you can secure your garage, helping to minimize the potential for theft as a result.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  — Benjamin Franklin

Avoid Making It Easy For Entry

One way to help make it harder for a break-in to occur via your garage door area is to keep automatic door openers out of the access of potential thieves. Many people have their garage door openers installed above the visor in their vehicle, so they can simply press a button and get into the garage. What if you decide to park your vehicle outdoors though? What if someone decides to snatch that remote from your vehicle when it is in a parking lot? Your home is at risk. Instead of taking the chance, don’t keep your remote in your vehicle at all. Place it in your purse, briefcase, or a locked glovebox when you are not using it. Bring it into the home or office after you park your vehicle as well. 

Use A Few Deterrents 

If a burglar thinks someone is at home, they will be less likely to try to rob from a structure as there is a greater risk of being caught. Use a radio in your garage to play music when you are not going to be at home. If this is heard from the outside, a thief will not be as apt to try to gain entry to the area. Motion sensor lighting around the garage can be extremely beneficial at thwarting potential theft during the nighttime hours. Make sure to trim bushes and trees near to the garage so there is no readily available hiding spot for thieves to use. 

Use Tools To Keep The Door Shut

There are a few items you can use to keep your garage door shut from the outside. These will slow down a thief as they will not be able to get into the garage from this entry point easily. One is simply using zip ties through the emergency latch loop. A thief can use a coat hanger to release the emergency handle, but when a zip tie is in place, the door cannot be disabled. You also have the option of removing the emergency pull. If you do this, and an emergency does occur, it will take you longer to get out of the garage as you will need to put the pull back in place before you can exit.

If you have a security system installed.  Look to see if you can add a garage door sensor to your system.  These are simple tilt sensors that alert you when the angle of the sensor goes from vertical (closed) to horizontal (open).

Garage doors are also getting smarter. Products like the myQ Smart Garage door opener hooks into your garage to give you real time notifications and convenience from wherever you are.  It also helps answer that nagging question of, “Did I leave the garage door open?” you seem to have on your way to work.

Check Your Garage For Possible Breach Areas

It is important to perform routine maintenance to make repairs to any area of the home where a burglar could possibly gain entry to the inside. Check door locks to ensure they work properly. Consider swapping out locks, knobs, and latches with newer models if it has been a while since you had an upgrade. Metal or solid wooden doors fare better than other materials when it comes to garage door stability. If your garage door is less than ideal, contact a contractor to price and upgrade. If your garage door has windows, it is best to frost the panes or use tint to make it harder for people to see inside. In addition:

 

 

 

How to Create a Backyard Movie Theater

There’s nothing like watching a movie on the big screen.  Yet, as we get through summer and into fall, it’s hard to find something more enjoyable than a movie under the stars. A backyard movie night can be relatively easy to set up and fun for the whole family – we’re going to show you how. 

While some set ups can be thousands of dollars and permanent fixtures to your backyard, this article is a DIY outdoor movie theater that can be set up in 10-15 minutes and a few hundred dollars. We want to make it as easy as possible to get your movie theater set up in the spur of the moment. So, here are some ideas and go-to ideas to put together your “backyard movie theater kit” and make it easy to set up your outdoor movie night in no time

Backyard Movie Projector

The first big thing and easily the most expensive is going to be your projector.  These range in price and quality, but it is actually surprising how good your movies will look with even cheaper projectors. The set up you want is portable and easy, so we don’t have to worry about a projector that can hold up to the outdoors just one that can be brought in and out when you want.  A simple video projector can last a long time, the one I use is an old indoor projector (Opitoma HD66) from close to 8-10 years ago and it still works great. I have never changed the bulb and have probably watched over 100 movies on it.  So, an indoor projector will work fine as long as you aren’t bringing it out when its raining or muddy (but who is going to watch a movie in the rain?).  

So choosing a projector I say look for brightness, resolution, and size.  I’m not going to get super technical here, because the one I have is 2500 lumens and 720p – It works perfectly for me and looks perfectly clear on our projector screen.  So I feel anything like that or higher should be perfect for your outdoor setup.  Newer LED projectors report specs that are higher than that and are cheaper.  This VIVIMAGE C680 Native 1080p Projector, 6500 Lux Full HD LED Home Theater Movie Projector seems to have more than enough stats for a price-tag of $229. Though if you are looking for cheaper, maybe something like: OHDERII Projector, 1080p Supported Maximum 120″ Display, Compatible with HDMI, VGA and USB for Gaming, Movie for only $99.

While optional, one thing you might want to consider when choosing a projector, is making sure it has a tripod mount – the screw hole on the bottom that tripod will screw into.  When placing outside, you could put your projector on a table, but a tripod will help lift the projector up and stabilize it as well as make it more portable for future outdoor viewing. Both of the projectors above appear to have the ability to attach to a tripod.  

Backyard Movie Screen

One of the key pieces of a movie theater is the screen. You need to projector the image onto something and you have a few different options for this.

Cheap Backyard Movie Screen

The simplest and easiest thing to project onto is an old white sheet.  When I first started projecting movies in my backyard, this is what I used.  It is easy to set up and didn’t cost any extra money.  One tip for this is to try and make it as taut as possible and iron out wrinkles.  A sheet isn’t the best thing to project onto so you will lose a bit of quality and those wrinkles can be seen while you are watching the movie. But for a down and dirty DIY setup, this is the way to go.

Movie Projector Screen

If you are looking for the best quality for your outdoor movie, then you will need to get a movie projector screen.  Luckily these aren’t a huge expensive.  Most screens can be bought for under $100 and are available in a hanging version like this, or with its own stand like this. Both are great options, depending on your outdoor setup.  I personally bought the hanging out and mounted off my outdoor patio under the eaves.  This keeps it protected from the elements and I just leave it out there. The difference between the sheet and a screen is tenfold.  The images are clear and vivid, it’s amazing.

Video Input Devices

Once you have your projector and screen, the next big thing is getting something that will play your movies on.  You can always lug out a blu-ray player or DVD player out with your system. But, if you have a decent wifi signal, I don’t think anything can be easier than an Amazon Fire Stick.  This little device is cheap and tiny.  It plugs straight into your HDMI port and gives you access to all your favorite streaming services like Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Disney +, and more.  It also comes with an Alexa powered remote for easy navigation and voice searching.  

Outdoor Audio

Most projectors have a speaker that can emit the audio from your streaming device, however, that is usually weak and hard to hear.  You can use old computer speakers, but you will have to connect them to the projector through a audio wire.  What I find best is a bluetooth speaker.  I actually use a Sonos Move (not just for this), but any normal bluetooth speaker will do.  The important thing here is your streaming device or projector has to be capable of sending the sound to the speaker.  Again, this is where I find the Amazon Fire stick to be super useful as it does just that.

Setting Up Your Outdoor Movie Experience

Ok now that we have all the pieces together, it’s time to put them together.  I usually run a long, outdoor extension cord to the projector with an extra surge protector I have on it.  This gives me ample power outlets to plug in the Amazon fire stick and projector.  The bluetooth speaker is connected wirelessly and runs off battery and the screen is just pulled down for viewing.

Once it is dark enough, adjust your picture through the projector to make sure it is clear, straight, and the size you want.  This set-up for me takes a whole 5 minutes to set up so I can enjoy a backyard viewing experience whenever I like.  So, pick your favorite movie and enjoy a movie under the stars!

Five Pet Friendly Houseplants for Your Dogs (and other Pets)!

House plants are all the rage these days as they can add a touch of serene green to your home. Whether your cooped up working remotely, looking at long winter months ahead, or simply want to bring some of the outdoors indoors, house plants are a great addition to your home. That’s why we’re going to look at five indoor plants that are safe for dogs and many other pets.

It’s important to note that the wrong plants could be a danger inside your home. As PetMD notes:

Some plants and cut flowers can actually be toxic to dogs, causing symptoms such as swelling of the mouth, vomiting, trembling, loss of coordination, seizures, difficulty breathing, or even death. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever decorate your place with indoor plants or accept a gift of flowers from a friend. Before you bring home a nice flower arrangement or new houseplant, you just need to make sure it’s on the list of flowers and plants that are safe for dogs. 

that said, let’s take a look at 5 great dog-friendly houseplants!

  • African Violet
  • Spider Plant
  • Basil and some other herbs
  • Friendship Plant
  • Christmas Cactus

First Up, The Colorful African Violet

Many pretty flowering plants are actually poisonous for dogs and cats, but not the African violet. This absolutely gorgeous plant is perfectly safe and also offers some exceptionally beautiful blooms. Generally, flowers are pink and purple. Besides being safe for many pets, the African violet doesn’t need a ton of light and is generally easy to care for, making it a great house plant.

African violets can be a bit picky when it comes to water. So make sure you’re careful with the sprinkler. With a bit of proper care, however, these violets can brighten up your home and you won’t have to sweat your dog getting sick if she happens to nibble on the plant.

Spider Plant: A Newbie and Pet-Friendly Houseplant

The Spider Plant may be the toughest, easiest to care for plant on this list. If you’re a green thumb and own dogs, this plant offers an excellent starting point. It’s a pretty plant that is easy to grow and care for. If you forgot to water this plant occasionally or you suffer a long stretch of cloudy days, your spider plant will probably be fine.

The Spider Plant is non-toxic for cats and dogs, making it a great houseplant for pet-filled homes. And if your rambunctious companions damage the plant, it’ll probably be fine.

Basil and Other Dog-Approved Herbs for Your Herb Garden

Herbs are common has house plants in many homes. However, growing toxic herbs in your herb garden could lead to some problems, so you want to choose the right ones. Oregano, chamomile, and mint are bad for your dogs. Although mint is generally only bad for your pets in large amounts. Fortunately, many herbs are pet and dog friendly, including cilantro, basil, thyme, and parsley. The bonus with herbs is you can use them in your own food to enhance flavors.  And if you let them flower, they can produce beautiful, delicate small flowers. They are a perfect addition to a bright window sill.

Pet Friendly Fun with the Friendship Plant

Friendship plants are a common gift and make for a great dog-friendly house plant. The plants are quite hardy and you can separate them to gift to friends and loved ones. They also have lush, soft green quilted leaves that draw the eye. Care-wise, they do prefer humid environments but besides that are relatively easy to care for.

If you got a Friendship plant as a gift or are looking for present ideas for people with dogs and other pets, the Friendship plant is a great pet-friendly houseplant. They are non-toxic and don’t have any thorns that will hurt beloved companions.

Cacti Fun: the Christmas Cactus

Cactuses can be a bit tricky for pet owners as many of them are poisonous. Sharp thorns can also hurt your dog or other pet if she rubs up against or swats the plant. Still, if you want cactuses around the house, you do have some options, including the Christmas Cactus. It’s a nonpoisonous houseplant, and unlike many cacti, it doesn’t have sharp or dangerous thorns.

That said, if your dog eats too much of the plant, it could cause diarrhea or vomiting. The plant’s fibers aren’t meant for carnivores. Generally speaking, however, your pet won’t be at any serious risk but may have an upset stomach for a day or two. If your pet is a nibbler, consider putting the Christmas Cactus in a hard to reach place.

You’ve Got Plenty of Pet Friendly Indoor Plant Options

We covered 5 of the best dog friendly house plants, but rest assured, there are many more. Consider your local climate, how much care you can provide, and other factors when selecting indoor plants. Also, keep light levels in mind. Some plants do perfectly fine with minimal light, others need plenty of time in the sun.

If you happen to receive a plant as a gift or pick one up on the whim, make sure you do some research. Many house plants that are toxic to dogs and other pets will only cause minor discomfort if eaten in a small quantity. Still, some are quite dangerous. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5 Energy Saving Tips To Use While Working From Home

Working from home is often a balancing act between managing a workload and making sure the children haven’t set aflame anything in the living room. Unfortunately, spending more time at home can also sometimes lead to an unexpected increase in your energy bill. Maybe one of your kiddos is insistent upon readjusting the thermostat, or perhaps you’re guilty of forgetting to turn off the television after sipping your morning coffee. Whatever the case may be, we’ve got 5 energy saving tips you can use to save money and live more energy efficiently. 

Ditch Your Incandescent Light Bulbs 

Yes, it’s 2020 and therefore time to toss out your incandescent light bulbs. At least this is the case if you’re looking to reduce your family’s energy consumption. 

Ditching incandescent light bulbs is on our list of energy saving tips because they can’t hold a candle to LED bulbs. Why, might you ask? Because LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. And who wants to work under the lackluster glow of an incandescent bulb when they’re trying to finish a big assignment? Staying focused is much easier with an LED bulb’s sharp stream of light.  

Another benefit to using LED bulbs is that they aren’t nearly as expensive as they once were. While in the past many families might have seen them as the beneficial but unobtainable option, a decrease in price tag makes them more suitable for any family’s budget. They even are starting to come in the Edison bulb format which everyone loves.

Though with each bulb lasting years, it also might be a good idea to check out smart bulbs like the Philips Hue lights to add to your smart home technology. These lights can be adjusted from your smart phone, have very specific timers (like sunset or sun-up), change colors, and integrate with  voice assistants like Alexa.

Unplug What You’re Not Using

More and more Americans are spending time at home, but that doesn’t mean we’re using more appliances. 

So take inventory of what devices you’re not regularly using and unplug them. For even more efficiency, unplug a device whenever you’re finished using it.  This reduces the odds of you forgetting to do so down the line. From toaster ovens and coffee makers to laptop computers and phone chargers, they should each be unplugged from their respectable power source after use.

We also recommend using a smart power strip at your desk for any work-related devices. That way, at the end of your workday, your power strip will switch the power off after noticing a device is on standby or hasn’t been in use for a while. 

Use The Energy Saving Settings On Your Gadgets

The most resourceful energy saving tips don’t have to be in the form of extravagant measures. 

Reducing energy as you work from home can be as simple as utilizing the built-in energy-saving settings on a device you’re likely using right now—a laptop. This limits the number of times you have to resort to charging the device from a wall outlet. 

Devices, like Apple’s MacBook Pro, make it easy to scale back on energy usage by giving users the freedom to dim the screen’s display, put your computer to sleep when you’re not using it, or disconnecting from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. 

If you’re looking for a new laptop to use while working from home, choose one that meets Energy Star’s guidelines and can help cut back on yearly expenses. 

Use Smart Technology

Smart home technology is known for swapping out our daily stresses with comfortable and stress-free living. This is especially useful while we’re working from home and juggling conference calls and projects with childcare and homeschooling. 

One of our favorite smart devices that can help cut back on energy usage is a smart thermostat like the Nest Thermostat.

With a smart thermostat, you never have to worry about the pesky interruptions that come from getting up to readjust the temperature in the middle of your work. Instead, use the device to control and manage when you want the air to adjust as well as the duration for the change. 

Another great thing about smart thermostats is that they take note of the activity happening around your home to adjust accordingly to bring comfort and savings. This includes switching off when you’ve stepped outside to the back patio for a Zoom meeting or to eat your meal during a lunch break. 

For hands-free control, integrate your smart thermostat with a smart speaker to enjoy quicker adjustments from the comforts of wherever you may be sitting.

Invest in Solar Energy

On average, a homeowner can expect to pay $1,300 a year just on their electricity. 

A clear and effective way you can save money and energy throughout your home is with solar energy. This growing trend is rising in popularity in part because it reduces the costly expense that stems from using electricity. Others are in favor of solar energy because it reduces their carbon footprint by up to 80% per year and provides their loved ones with clean energy. 

A simple measure you can take to enjoy the many benefits of solar energy is by installing solar panels on your home. This generates a flow of continuous residential solar energy as you work from home, powering your home’s appliances while using green energy. Certain solar panel systems even give you the freedom to monitor your home’s energy use and solar production. Other systems have solar batteries that make it easy to power your home at night. 

Oh, and because it’s free to capture energy from the sun, you can continue to enjoy saving money and energy from your solar-powered home for many years to come.   

Does Nest Work with Alexa?

Creating a smart home is a lot of fun, and offers you easy convenience in our modern world. Each time you invest in a new smart device, it’s exciting to add it to your smart home network. One of the most popular brands is Google Nest which offers numerous smart devices including cameras, video doorbells, and thermostats. All of these Nest devices are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, allowing you to use voice commands to control your environment and keep yourself and family safe. With voice commands, you can have both your hands full and still work the smart devices.

According to Google,

Google Nest’s support for new technologies like Alexa gives you more ways to control your Nest home while you’re out and when you’re at home. With Alexa, there’s no need to go to your thermostat or find your phone. Just speak one of the phrases listed below to tell Alexa what you want your Nest product to do.

Getting Started with Nest and Alexa

To get started, you need the Alexa app on a smartphone or tablet and an Alexa-enabled device, such as an Amazon Echo speaker. You can use any Amazon app that uses Alexa including the Amazon Shopping App or Amazon Alexa App, to install and use voice controls. Both apps are capable of working with Wi-Fi and LTE. ( LTE is your mobile phone network.) As Google continues to add products to the Nest line, they will most likely continue enabling them for Alexa.

The following Nest devices currently work with Alexa:

  • Nest Thermostat E
  • Nest Cam Outdoor
  • Nest Cam IQ outdoor
  • Nest Cam IQ indoor
  • Nest Cam Indoor
  • Dropcam Pro
  • Dropcam
  • 3rd-gen Nest Thermostat
  • 2nd-gen Nest Thermostat
  • 1st-gen Nest Thermostat

Migrating Your Nest Devices to Google

In order to control your Nest devices with Alexa, you first need to migrate your existing Nest account to Google. This step is for Next users who had their account prior to August 19, 2019. If your account was established after August 19, 2019, then your account is already integrated with Google. If you don’t have a Google account, you can set one up.

Connecting the Alexa App to Your Nest Devices

Using Nest’s Alexa integration, you can control all of your compatible devices from any Alexa speaker. You don’t have to go to each individual device to operate or control it. Just say any supported command and tell Alexa what you want your Nest device to do. Connecting your Nest devices to the Alexa app is the next step.

Enable One or Both Alexa Skills

  • Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet
  • Tap the menu button in the corner
  • Select “Smart Home” from the list
  • Tap “Your Smart Home Skills” at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap “Enable Smart Home Skills”
  • Search for” Nest Thermostat by Nest Labs” and/or “Nest Camera by Nest Labs”
  • Select the skill to enable
  • Tap “Enable”
  • Enter your Nest account credentials linking your account
  • Ask Alexa to discover your Nest devices by saying, “Alexa, discover my devices”

This will only work on your own Nest devices in an individual account. If you share the account using Nest Family Accounts, this process won’t work.

Use the Nest Device Name to Connect

In order to command an individual Nest device, you need to identify the device name. For instance, a command will include “camera (or thermostat) name.” The name is the location you previously assigned to your Nest device in the Nest app. Examples of names are “kitchen, bedroom, living room” or any other room you assigned the device to. You can see the name designations for your Nest devices by opening your Nest app.

In the Nest app, tap the selected thermostat or camera. Select “Settings, and tap “Where.” When giving Alexa a voice command, say the specific name of the Nest device you want to control. If you don’t have the word “camera” or “thermostat” as part of the device name, don’t say it when you command Alexa. Just use the exact name you’ve assigned each device. The device name is the one you gave it when you originally set the device up. You can use this Nest guide for information on device names.

Controlling Nest Devices Using Alexa

You can control all of your compatible Nest devices from your mobile device while you are away from or inside your home using Nest support for Alexa. You don’t need to move towards your Nest device or even pick up your smartphone or tablet. As long as the Nest device is turned on, has power, and connected to Alexa, you can command them within the hearing range of any Alexa-enabled device. Remember that these devices can be connected using LTE as well as Wi-Fi.

Sample Commands for a Nest Thermostat

  • Alexa, what’s the temperature in [thermostat name]?
  • Alexa, set the [thermostat name] temperature to _ degrees
  • Alexa, decrease the [thermostat name] temperature

Note for thermostat commands — If you don’t specify a temperature change, Alexa will change it 2F degrees (1C degree).

Sample Commands for a Nest Camera

  • Alexa, show feed from the [camera name]
  • Alexa, hide feed from the [camera name]
  • Alexa, hide the [camera name] feed

Note for camera commands – You require an Alexa-enabled device with a screen, to view any Nest camera’s feed.

5 Minor Changes That Will Improve Your Health

Health is a universal desire. We all want to be healthier. But it can be difficult to make some of the sacrifices towards a healthier life, and sometimes achieving our overall goals seems like a long shot.

Fortunately, as with all things in life, having better health is simply a matter of better habits. It just takes time, discipline, and practice. With a few minor adjustments to your game plan, you too can be on the road to much better health before you know it. And contrary to health feeling like an insurmountable and broad goal, there are a number of minor changes you can make today that will aid your journey by leaps and bounds.

For Starters

Know that implementing changes won’t always be easy. There may be an initial struggle and resistance, and once initial excitement wears off, you may feel challenged to continue with your changes.

Stick with the path and trust that overtime these new routines will become muscle memory. You’ll do them out of habit and won’t even think of them as changes anymore. Now that you’re equipped with that reminder, let’s take a look at the five minor changes that will drastically improve your health.

1. It All Begins With Exercise

You’ve probably heard the popular saying, “losing weight is subtracting calories in by calories out,” plenty of times, at nauseum. This simple phrase holds a good amount of truth, however. Losing weight—and maintaining a healthy diet in general—begins by burning more calories than you are bringing in. What’s the quickest way to do this? Exercise. Movement. Getting the body accustomed to burning calories and building upon that.

Since we decided to discuss simple changes for better health, this post isn’t meant to dissect how often you should exercise and what sort of regimens you should implement, rather, the goal is to simply start moving.

Set a small goal. Something like moving for five minutes a day, that way you get an easy win. Once you realize the win of five minutes was easy, you can double the goal to ten minutes. Implementation of this strategy can be as simple as walking for ten minutes every day on your lunch break at work. A visual reminder like the completing the rings on the Apple Watch can help make sure you are meeting your goals everyday

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Adding movement to life doesn’t have to be something that takes you far out of your way. Do you take a lot of business calls? Start taking the calls while walking. Simple as that. There’s always an easy solution to adding minutes of exercise to your life.

2. Start Your Mornings With Water

Many of us grab for coffee first thing in the morning. And while suggesting to omit caffeine from a diet completely is unrealistic—and probably not necessary since coffee is healthy in moderation—starting the day with water is a simple and easy change to implement.

Drinking water first thing in the morning will kick start your metabolism and even help to wake you up. You’ll get your body well hydrated and prepared for the dehydrating caffeine that you’ll give your body later in the day. Better yet, add another layer to this change by waiting until your afternoon slump until you have coffee. Fill up a water bottle and bring it with you to work. Challenge yourself to drink the whole bottle over the course of the day.

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Hold off on the coffee until you feel that your body needs a pick me up. Once you realize that you can go longer stretches than you thought you could without caffeine, you’ll realize that caffeine is much simpler to cut out of your diet than you thought.

3. Get Quality Sleep and Be Consistent

Don’t worry, while diet is one of the most important factors for a healthy life, it is not the only facet that we will cover in this post. Another highly important component to feeling healthy is getting sufficient sleep and getting it frequently.

Sporadic sleep or lack of sleep can leave one feeling lethargic throughout the day, like one doesn’t have any energy, and it can make tasks rather difficult to complete. If you’re lacking in sleep, it’s likely that you’ll turn to coffee, which will dehydrate the body and cause caffeine crashes later in the day. This may force you into drinking more and more coffee and repeating a vicious cycle. To combat this, get good sleep!

Establish a pattern and follow common sleep-related rules, like not indulging in screens at least an hour before bed, playing soft music or taking a relaxing bath or shower before bed time, reading, drinking soothing chamomile tea, or partaking in other routines and rituals that will set your mind ready for sleep.

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Once you begin to get enough sleep, you will experience far fewer mood swings throughout the day and you will feel more charged and ready to go.

4. Be In Tune With Your Mental Health

Mental health has been one of the most talked about aspects of modern life in recent years. It’s hard to go a day without hearing or reading a reference about mental health issues or how to improve upon mental health. So it would be an injustice not to mention mental health in a post about overall well-being. Fortunately, everything is intertwined.

The body is holistic device, and what affects one part of the body will affect the rest. Getting more exercise? Sleeping better? Improved diet? All of these changes will improve upon your mental health. When the body feels stronger and healthier, the mind feels better. Having a cleaner diet might mean that you are limiting alcohol, which acts as a depressant, and caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and causes anxiety. Once these are limited, you’ll be feeling much healthier upstairs—in your brain.

Other simple solutions include deep breathing, stretching, meditation, talking to friends or family, or even consulting with a therapist.

Reminder: These are surface level solutions that do improve mental health, but if your issues persist even after major lifestyle changes or you are struggling beyond the scope of what diet, exercise and better sleep can fix, reach out to a mental health professional. Don’t hesitate to do so.

5. Read More Books

This may seem like a strange suggestion to add to a health list, but reading packs a number of benefits for the mind and overall health. Reading is a stress relief, provides comfort, and helps build a larger attention span, creating more focus for both work and life.

Through reading you can explore a topic and learn about an area of life that you are struggling with, you can be entertained with a thrilling story, or you can simply use the activity to wind down and shut off all of the distractions in the world. Reading will strengthen the brain, and add knowledge and insight that can be used to gain a better job or improve on your current work, which are all things that will holistically affect your life.

As we mentioned previously when we talked about mental health, improving one area of your life will improve all of them. Health is a holistic approach, rather than a combination of silos, though targeting unique areas in the beginning is the best way to go.

Make Small Changes, and Add to Them

Improving one’s health often means changing a number of habits. This is a work in progress. Don’t get frustrated by initial hiccups, and realize that improvement will take time.

Begin by succeeding with small changes, and once those changes are made successful, move forward with additional and larger changes. Before you know it, you’ll be implementing health and lifestyle routines that you once imagined you weren’t capable of, and you mean even be coaching friends and family during the process.

How to Safely Get Rid of Aphids and Stop Them From Killing Your Vegetables

Yuck — nothing is worse than heading out to your garden to grab some veggies for dinner and finding that they’ve been devastated by some unseen plague. What on earth?!? 

There’s a good change that you’ve been stricken by aphids: nearly invisible little creatures that can plow quickly through a garden full of veggies and leave you without much left in terms of your garden. They love to eat, and they eat everything from fruit, flowers, roots, stems, buds, leaves and even plant juices — basically, everything they can find! Aphids particularly love sweet new buds and vegetation, which can cause stunted growth in your garden. Learn more about these pests and a homemade aphid treatment that will leave you feeling good about eating the fruits of your labor without worrying about you or your loved ones ingesting dangerous chemicals. 

All About Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied little insects that multiply at a frightening rate, which means you could have several generations of aphids in your home within a single season. The little pests will make you want to spend hours searching for ways to get rid of aphids, but the natural resolution is surprisingly easy. There are many types of aphids, generally named by the type of plant they prefer to attack: green peach aphids, wooly apple aphids, rose aphids, cabbage aphids and potato aphids to name a few. Aphids are so small that they are nearly invisible to the human eye — at less than 1/4 inch long as adults, they can create an outsized problem in your garden. Their pear-shaped bodies and cornicles (short projectiles on their hind end) are how you can differentiate these nasty little beasties. 

Believe it or not, a single aphid could spawn as many as 5 billion aphids each year!

This truly shocking rate of reproduction means that your problem could become worse very quickly. Females may have up to 100 offspring and her reproductive system goes into overdrive in the spring — with as many as 40 different generations of young aphids each year. These little mites are also called "plant lice", because they suck up all the good stuff from your veggies and can leave you with blackened, shriveled plants if you’re not careful.

Signs That You Have Aphids

Do you have these little critters in your garden? Since they’re so tiny and hard to see, here are some tips of determining whether you have aphids or some other problem.

  • You see a sticky, sugary liquid on leaves or stems. This is actually the waste left behind after they eat — Eww!
  • Leaves that are yellow, curled up or misshapen
  • You see small, colored moving spots on your plants (you guessed it — aphids!)

Now that you know what aphids look like and how to spot them on your plants, here are tips for creating your own homemade aphid spray. 

Aphid Treatment: Homemade Aphid Spray

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The good news is that although aphids are a serious pest problem for your veggies, they are relatively easy to kill — and natural methods work quite effectively. Killing aphids with soapy water is quite easy to do, and will not harm your plants at all. While some farmers leave behind a small number of aphids to feed beneficial bugs such as ladybugs, others look for ways to completely eradicate the pests. Simple water or a slightly soapy solution will wash the little buggers down to the dirt, where they will not survive for long.

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If you are looking for a quick and easy commericial solution, they do sell organic pre-mixed solutions.  These make it a bit easier for those that don’t want to make their own homemade solution.

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One other way to remove aphids is with ladybugs! That’s right, those cute red and black bugs love to eat aphids. And the best part is they leave your plants alone.  There are bags of live ladybugs you can buy that when released on your plants will eat up the aphids, mate, and then fly away.  When their babies hatch, they will also come around eating any aphids that might have been missed.

No matter how you slice it, aphids can wreak some serious havoc in your garden. The best option is to safely wash them off and get them out to he way — or release a lot of ladybugs to eat them up!

Smart Money Habits To Implement For Financial Freedom

Just like every area in life, saving money is about building good habits. Once you’ve implemented the right habits, you can move onto the road to financial freedom. You’ll be amazed at how small changes to your spending habits can lead to massive amounts of saving.

No matter where you are on your financial journey, don’t be overwhelmed. Always know that it is possible to not only begin saving, but to turn your financial life around completely. Yes, you can save your credit score! Others have done it before you, and you are just as capable.

All it takes is small steps, small changes, and habits built over time. Once these habits become ingrained, you’ll find yourself in a peculiar situation—financial literacy.

The New Habits to Implement

 

Do You Have a Budget?

It all starts with a budget. If you don’t have an idea of how much money you have and how much money you are spending, you don’t even have a starting point.

There’s easy solutions to implementing a budget, and many smart apps like Acorns and online tools like Mint simplify the process.

Meal Prepping

The fitness world has turned meal prepping into quite the trend, and besides the health benefits of planning ahead with healthy meals, you’ll save a lot of money in the process. Pick up some meal prepping containers and fill them at the beginning of the week so you have all your food planned out and budgeted.

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When you meal prep, you’ll be more conscious to only buy as much food as you need. The other goal of meal prepping is to eliminate eating out, which eliminates unhealthy options and saves money in the process.

Make Your Own Lunch

Pack a lunch for work or school. Very similar to the meal prepping approach, much of the unnecessary funds we spend come from lunch. 

Though you might not be a crowd pleaser with coworkers who eat out, packing a lunch will save you money. Your packed lunch can be a part of your meal prepping, or you can prep separately for the lunchtime hour.

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats like the Nest are modern home automation devices that learn the habits of homeowners. After recognizing patterns, these thermostats adjust the temperature according to a homeowner’s lifestyle.

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Turning down your thermostat by just three degrees will save you nearly 10% on your energy bills. This is a tradeoff that will result in much needed disposable income.

Wait Before You Buy

Quit buying unnecessary products (well, at least wait). It may not be a useful strategy to encourage to quit buying altogether—though the minimalist lifestyle is trendy—but at the very least, before you buy, pause for a few days. Give yourself time to reflect and see if this purchase is a necessary expense.

This is especially useful with large expenses, but even the small things you want to pick up while you’re out and about. Take a second. Pause. Think. Do I really need this or is this an impulse purchase? Many of our impulse purchases are the ones that add up, and $75 of impulse purchases is $75 that could have been better spent at the grocery store or on a gym membership.

Start Thinking Long-Term

For many people, saving money is difficult because they don’t think about the long-term. They don’t consider the expenses they may need money for in the future, and since there isn’t anything pressing now, they assume that spending their money is a fine course of action.

What about the appliances in the home that may be close to breaking? Are you considering graduate school? What about future expenses for your kids?

Looking toward goals, activities or expenses that will arise in the future will help give you the perspective you may need to begin to save money.

Find Free or Low Cost Entertainment

Take advantage of the library or your friends. We all have friends, coworkers, and family members who likely enjoy the same forms of entertainment that we do. Instead of going to purchase a book, film, magazine, or other entertainment sources, consult your friends first and see if you can borrow from them.

The same works with public libraries. Public libraries are a wonderful resource of books, films, CD’s, and other forms of entertainment. You’d be surprised to find that libraries often have new items, but you’ll often find a gem of an old item as well.

Stay In for a Night

A budget can be wrecked on a night out. You often set out with good intentions of only spending a set amount on drinks and food, but before you know it, the night carries you away. You realize you’ve spent the evening purchasing drinks for friends, buying more food than anticipated, and Uber hiked up their rates just as you needed to head home.

These types of nights are fun and they can be budgeted for, but to save money, take a few nights a month to simply stay in. You and your friends can enjoy a house party with games, a potluck meal, and you’ll save money on all of the overpriced drinks from the bar.

Cut the Cable

Cable companies charge a lot of money for a service that is slowly becoming outdated. If you’re still using cable, you should reconsider. Most channels on your cable subscription likely aren’t being used, and the programs you can watch can likely be accessed on other platforms, like Youtube, Apple TV, or other systems. Switching to things like Amazon Prime allow you to access TV shows as well as books at a fraction of the cost

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Not only will you save money by cutting the cord with cable, but you’ll also have more free time if you’re watching less TV. This time that could be used for side hobbies, activities, and other areas of life.

Always Have a Shopping List

Before you go shopping, write a list. We’ve all been at the grocery store with a few items in mind. You know you need milk, eggs, vegetables and a few snacks, but before you know it, you’ve left the grocery store with all of these items that you never planned for. What happened? Well, you were enticed.

Maybe some of that enticing happened while you were checking out and saw all of the snacks that you just knew you needed. Instead of being aimless when you go shopping, before you leave the home, create a list. Make a list of all of the items that you need and only buy those. The important thing with a list is to actually stick to it. If you go to the grocery store and bypass your list, then it will be useless.

Don’t Overspend to Entertain Children

Don’t spend so much money on entertaining your kids. Children can be easily entertained, and healthy hobbies and activities will benefit them in the long-run. Instead of spending large amounts of money on the latest games, entertainment systems or toys, buy your kids books. Play games with them outside. Force them to go outside and play with each other.

Not only will this build the good habit of your children knowing how to entertain themselves without the need of technology, but you can also use this a means for quality family time, and to save money.

Have Things You Don’t Need? Sell Them!

Don’t be a hoarder. There’s no need to hold onto items that are collecting dust and heat in the attic, closet, or cabinets. Whether you have old toys, books, clothes, jewelry, or whatever the case may be, these items are not only taking up space in your home, but they could be turned into extra cash.

Gather these items and collect them to sell in a yard sale, or go to item specific stores that will pay you to sell them. Many stores that buy old items don’t necessarily give the highest prices, but they’ll give you some side cash and spare you from clutter around the home.

Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker, quit! If you’re smoking in the year 2017, there’s no chance that you haven’t been informed of the health risks involved. These health risks won’t only wreak havoc on your body, but your finances as well.

You may be young now, but eventually the health issues from smoking will catch up, and you’ll be acquainted with them in your medical bills. In the interim, smoking is still an extremely costly habit. You may not be able to quit cold-turkey, but weening yourself off slowly with other nicotine products will be cheaper now and in the long-run.

It Takes Time To Build Habits

Remember, even if you have the best intentions, it takes time to build habits. You likely won’t be able to implement all of these strategies in one week, or in one month. Don’t be frustrated if you mess up a few times. Cut yourself some slack.

Do you best to move forward with these money-saving habits, and before you know it, the days of wasteful spending will be long behind you.