Foursquare Curb Appeal Part 2 – Complete Exterior Paint Job

Continuing on our quest for curb appeal, we’ve tackled the next major step in our exterior project list at our “new” house, and I must say, I absolutely LOVE the results!

As we mentioned in our first post in this series when we talked about how we spruced up our flower beds, this summer we’ve also decided to approach improving the curb appeal and address some deferred maintenance items of our American Foursquare home in three distinct phases.

  1. Flower/planting bed beautification
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

Yes, the exterior paint is the next major item on our list of projects, and boy is it needed. As you can see from the following photo, we have several examples where the paint on our siding had been compromised and was simply bubbling and peeling off.

This issue in the photo could been seen on all sides of the home’s exterior. Alex even did a little bit of work last year to address some of the absolute worst sections on the front of the house.

Now, you know us as DIYers to the core, right? Well, we also like to fein that we’re reasonable homeowners from time to time. When dealing with something that’s a large scale project that requires many people to get it done in a timely manner, and would require a lot of work up high on ladders, my preference is to hire it out to the pros. As a result, when it came to painting our home (both now and when we last had our home painted in Alexandria), I look to a dependable painting crew.

But before the crew could get to painting, we had some color selections to make, as well as some prep work we wanted to tackle ourselves.

The prep work included two significant elements. The first dealt with repairing and replacing some significant wood rot on the front porch decking and steps.

Alex worked to repair those when we were working on the garden this Spring, and was able to install new boards where necessary to make the porch whole again.

We also removed the handrails from the front porch because they were a soggy, rotten mess. We may build new ones at some point, but rather than get bogged down for the next several weekends building new ones, we decided to patch the railing and live without them for now to see how we like the look.

The second was the fact that there were many rotten pieces of siding that would need to be replaced when the painters came. But this isn’t siding you can just go pick up at the big box. Oh no! This is 100+ year old siding that is flat, not beveled. It’s 5-1/2″ x 1/2″, so not your standard size that you can go buy. As a result, Alex picked up a bunch of cedar boards that were all 5/8″ thick, and planed them down to 1/2″ to match the old siding profile and reveal.

It was a ton of working running them through the planer (and then pre-priming all sides of the boards with oil-based primer), but it was work that was necessary to make sure the new boards looked appropriate with our existing siding. This, in and of itself, was a full day project, but one that was important to help correct the issues in the right way.

Next up, we had to make our color selections. This is one of those cases where you can often reach project paralysis at a fairly rapid pace. I was sure I wanted the overall color of the exterior of the house to stay white. Rather than dive down the rabbit hole of different shades of white, we kept it simple here and went with our painter’s recommendation of using Sherwin Williams factory mixed bright white. That way if we ever have to touch up sections, we don’t have to worry that the paint might be mixed differently than the color on the house.

The porch floor, porch ceiling, and the metal roof colors all needed more deliberation. We’d already painted our front doors Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue, and I love how that turned out, so I wanted to make sure I chose colors for the porch floor and ceiling that would complement the Wythe Blue. I certainly wanted to stay in the blue family for the porch ceiling, and opted for a shade lighter than the door, which is called Rainwashed by Sherwin Williams. We landed on this color after determining the equivalent Sherwin Williams color to Wythe Blue, and then moving one shade lighter on the chips.

When it came to the porch roof, which was installed with a factory hunter green finish, I wanted to find a shade that wasn’t quite so green. The old paint had failed in places and was beginning to rust, so we wanted to get a coat of paint on it to protect it. This seemed an idea time to change the color to something we liked a little better. At the same time, the shingles on the upper roof are a gray/green/black combination, so I didn’t want the metal roof making the upper roof color stand out. Really, I just wish the shingle roof was gray or black, but we’re not replacing the roof anytime soon so we’ll have to embrace it. My preference for a roof is to always use a dark neutral color when choosing shingles, so you never end up with this situation when you want to change things in the future.

We ended up choosing a very dark gray with the slightest hint of green to work with the upper roof. We used Sherwin Williams Andiron, and I feel like it really nailed the color I was going for. It has just enough of a green undertone that it works for the asphalt shingles, but it also tones down the green tremendously.

While the house, porch ceiling, and metal roof colors all came together pretty seamlessly, the porch floor has been a major saga. What we were looking for was to change the existing brown tone to gray. So we chose Sherwin Williams Chatroom. a gray with a hint of green to work with the roof color, selected off the same chip as the Andiron color for the metal roof. But after Alex repaired the rotten sections of the porch, and we put on the first coat, it ended up looking really green. Far too green for our liking.

At this point, we knew we didn’t like it but the painters hadn’t started yet, so we decided to reserve judgment on the Chatroom color until after the rest of the house was painted (and it actually dried).

As far as the professionals go, our painting crew ended up spending a full week painting the house. They power washed everything, removed loose paint, repaired rotten boards, caulked where necessary, corrected splits and gaps, and generally made our house look 10 times better!

It was amazing to see the house transform from slightly dingy with siding cracks to a clean and crisp historic waterfront home. As far as the porch floor is concerned, we ended up revisiting the color after we realized it wasn’t the look we wanted (even with the new metal roof color). The Chatroom color worked with the roof, but when you’re on the porch, you can’t see the roof, and it just looks a little off. Though we’d already applied our paint to the front porch and steps outside the laundry room, we begrudgingly admitted we made a misstep.

After a lot of back and forth, we eventually landed on Sherwin Wiliams Dorian Gray. It’s more of a true gray, and after applying this color, I’m much happier with its look rather than a greige with green under tones. We still have a good amount of work to do on the porch, but here’s a quick comparison between the Chatroom (lower stairs) and the Dorian Gray (upper stairs).

As much as I hated having to repaint, we forced ourselves to look at it as primer and a failed experiment. Even before the new color was dry, we already liked it better than the old.

We’ll give you more updates on the porch in our next curb appeal post, as it’s still very much a work in progress. But we’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Driving up the driveway is a wonderfully welcoming introduction to our home. The fresh white paint is classic and just looks like it could have looked over 100 years ago. And if you’re seeing our home from the water, we decided to add a little patriotic flair to our facade in celebration of Independence Day.

The new roof color is far more neutral and looks great with the upper roof. While we won’t be changing the relatively new shingle roof, the new dark gray color on the lower roof balances the green and makes the coloring on the shingles far less apparent, which was exactly my goal.

But I think my favorite part of the whole project is probably the porch ceiling. The Rainwashed color we used is exactly how I was hoping it would look. The painting crew sealed it all up and painted/filled any significant cracks. And, at least for the next few weeks, all of the spider webs and bugs that usually collect on the porch ceiling, are all gone.

Our curb appeal’s second step is complete and looking great. We still have a lot of work to do to repair and spruce up our porches, but a freshly painted house is a huge weight off of our shoulders. We’ll be working over the next several weeks to address these larger porch issues. While it won’t move along nearly as quickly as the house painting project with a large crew, I think it will be just as impactful.

Hope you have a wonderful Independence Day if you’re from the States, and happy 150th to our Canadian readers. Have any projects on your list during your days off, or are you using the time for a little bit of relaxation?

Our Thoughts on PAX Unplugged

Penny Arcade has been running their PAX conventions all around the world for years now, but they have always been very broad. They have reached out to all corners of the gaming world and tried to bring them together. This wide net approach is great, but it isn’t a perfect match for the board game community. Board game culture is dominated by massive board game focused conventions like GenCon, Essen Spiel, Origins, and others. So it only makes sense that PAX would eventually expand in that direction. PAX Unplugged was their first attempt at doing so.

The EFG team has had some time to reflect on our experiences there now that we are home, unpacked, and survived the holiday season and I’m happy to report that we had a blast. Unplugged was a great show and it still has room to grow into a major event.

The event took place in the Philadelphia Convention Center. Its a massive facility located in the heart of Philly. It is also right across the street from the Reading Terminal Market for easy access (during the day) to all sorts of awesome food. I was impressed by the facility compared to some of the other convention centers I’ve been to in the past. It was sprawling, but I never felt lost while inside.

There were just too many games for us to cover all of them. We would have driven ourselves mad. Take a look below at our impressions of the games we DID get a chance to see.

Games we came home with

Eleminis

Flying Meeple

Eleminis is a game for 2-8 players ages five and up.  This is a light set collecting game.  In this game you are trying to collect five different elements, but there are limitations to what you can trade and other players can use action cards to thwart you.  This game is reminiscent of Hoagie with building a set and the ability to spoil the other players’ sets.

Gimme Gimme Guinea Pigs

Flying Meeple

This is a very fast paced and simple game for 2-6 players ages 3 and up.  In Gimme Gimme Guinea Pigs you are trying to be the first to collect a set of all the same pet, but you can only hold 7 cards in your hand.  Discarded cards are placed face up for other players to take.  This was super quick and easy to play, and a very simple game for the youngest gamers.

Down Force

Restoration Games 

Downforce is a old game, know under other names which has been given a modern update.  In Downforce players bid on cars and each car the win gives them a power.  The cars are raced around a track using a deck for moving the cars.  There are choke points build in so you can block other cars.  Players also bet on the cars, and the winner is the player with the most money at the end of the game, regardless if you win the race or not.  The board is also double sided with two levels of play.  Suggestions for how to scale the game down to younger players is also included in the rules.

Stop Thief

Restoration Games

Stop Thief is a revival of the game that was originally published in 1979.  In this game player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves to collect the reward money so they can retire.  This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief.  The app provided different levels of difficulty in play as well as a retro mode with vintage sounds.  There is also a cooperative mode in development.  This is a great deductive reasoning game for the whole family.

Indulgence

Restoration Games

Indulgence is a trick taking game similar to Hearts.  In this game, which is set in Renaissance Italy players take turns playing the ruler and putting out three edicts (rules) to follow with which cards to collect or avoid.  One players per round can also decide to play the sinner and do the opposite of the edicts.  The risk is high and the reward great if you accomplish the sin.  The game has beautiful components that play up the opulence of the Renaissance theme.

Duck! Duck! Go!

Ape Games 

Duck! Duck! Go! is a game for 2-4 players for players 8 and up.  Using movement cards you move your ducky around the board so it makes the rounds and touches all three buoys.  The first ducky to do get back to the drain after touching all three buoys wins. The game board is build using two sided tiles so each game has a unique board.

Games We Played

Bubblee Pop 

Quick Simple Fun Games

Bubblee Pop is an two player strategy game that attempts to mimic game play elements from match-3 puzzle games like Candy Crush and Puzzle Quest. It does remarkably well considering how Video Gamey I thought those mechanics were.

The designer managed to capture an lot of the strategy elements from the two player versions of these types of games and threw it onto an board game. This is interesting because it removes the sometimes frantic nature of the video game version and encourages deeper strategies.

Stuffed Fables

Plaid Hat Games

Stuffled Fables is easily our most anticipated board game right now. We’ve where excited about it since it was announced. Our hype intensified when we interviews Jerry Hawthorne on our podcast. We’re even MORE excited now that we’ve played it.

The theme is adorable. Players take on the roles of a little girl’s stuffed animals as they defend her while she sleeps. The game is played by pulling dice from an bag and rolling them to perform various skill checks. These things are cool, but they aren’t what sets the game apart.

Stuffed Fables is separated from the crowd by its Adventure Book. It’s an spiral bound, choose-your-own adventure style book where each

Shiba Inu House

Renegade Game Studio

In Shiba Inu House you are matching pictures from a card with one two or three Shiba Inus sitting on a colorful dog house.  Using the cards you match the dog image and build a doghouse. The pictures can get mashed up as long as the image is correct of each dog with their house.  The graphics are very bright and colorful

Doggy Go

Renegade Game Studio

Doggy Go is a speed  game for 1-4 player game for ages 6 and up.  Players are trying to complete a pattern on acrobat cards with their doggie tiles and acrobat item cards.  You gain the acrobat cards for correctly completing your pattern first.  The player with the most cards wins.

Castles of Caladale

Renegade Game Studios

Castles of Caladale is a tile laying game for 1-4 players ages 8 and up.  In this game each player is trying to rebuild their castle using the mixed up pieces left from all the castles being destroyed.  The player to build the largest and most complete castle, and scores the most point on their castle wins.

Adapt

Gate Keeper Games

Adapt is a card and dice game for 2-3 players ages 14 and up where you start as a guppy and your fish evolves over the course of the game, and then uses their adaption to battle at the end of the game with the other players.  The game has a reversible mat to simplify the game and make it a game for ages 7 and up.

Kaiju Crush

Fireside Games

Kaiju Crush is a light strategy game for 2-4 players ages 10 and up.  Each player takes their turn as a Kaiju with unique powers and they move to crush a City Tile and fight other kaiju. Players earn victory points and when they run out of movements the player with the most victory points wins.

Dicey Peaks

Calliope Games

Dicey Peaks is a 2-6 player game for ages 8 and up, and is the newest game from Calliope Games.  In this game players are trying to climb a mountain.  They need to manage their Oxygen levels by deciding when to climb and when to rest.  They also need to watch out for the Yeti. The first player to the top of the mountain is the winner.

‘Minecraft’ is a microcosm of Microsoft’s gaming strategy

Helen Chiang has been with Microsoft for 13 years, and the past 11 of those were spent in the Xbox division, managing the Live team and working with developers in the Xbox Live Arcade program. She helped Minecraft get settled on Xbox long before Microsoft’s acquisition, and now she’s in charge of the entire game.

“It’s really important for the overall gaming strategy,” she told Engadget. “What I like to think is that we’re out in front thinking about a lot of different things.”

Chiang says Microsoft can use Minecraft as a proving ground for new ideas and features that might make their way to other Xbox projects. For example, Microsoft recently partnered with NetEase to release a version of Minecraft in China, and Chiang says the game is doing well in the region. This opens the door for other Xbox games to make the international leap. In the coming years, players might also see more Microsoft games coming to a range of devices, just like Minecraft.

“We’re one of the games that’s on all of the platforms outside of just Microsoft platforms,” Chiang says. “When I started at the company, and it’s really evolved over time — that is something that’s changed in our strategy. I’m really excited to work on a game that, really, it doesn’t matter where the players are playing. Part of what’s important to Minecraft is that we make it available to anybody, anywhere they want to play, on any device that they want to play. And that’s something I think we’ll see Microsoft do more of.”

With more games on more platforms, an obvious question looms: What about cross-console play? Currently, Microsoft allows PC and Xbox players to join select games together, including Gears of War 4, but the list is limited. The company is even willing to enable cross-play between Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch — here’s looking at you, Rocket League — and it wants to work out similar deals with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Cross-platform play is possible from a technical standpoint, and both Microsoft and Nintendo have expressed interest in connecting their consoles. However, Sony has historically rebuked these efforts.

Minecraft is an ideal test case here. The Better Together update unifies all versions of Minecraft, from consoles and PC to mobile, allowing players to interact with people on different devices and receive updates at the same time. Better Together is live for Xbox One, Windows 10, mobile and virtual reality versions of Minecraft, and Chiang’s team is working on the Switch version right now. It should be available “shortly,” though there’s no concrete launch date.

Sony, meanwhile, is still playing coy.

“In my role as the new studio head for Minecraft, I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions with Sony about bringing the Bedrock engine over to players on PlayStation,” Chiang says. “I think that is something that is very important to us and I’m looking forward to continuing to have those conversations with Sony.”

If everyone decides to play along, Minecraft‘s future will be more connected, communicative and open than ever, and Microsoft’s broader game strategy could follow suit.

“I think games are such a dynamic industry, one that really builds on everything that’s happening in technology,” Chiang says. “So I’m really excited about what we’ve done in games and how much farther we still have to go.”

Save $50 on an Ecobee4 smart thermostat

Aukey Mohawk Drone

 

Street Price: $65; Deal Price: $38 w/ code 5H86P2FT

Use code 5H86P2FT to knock over $25 off the price of the Aukey Mohawk, our sub-$100 drone pick for more experienced pilots. We’ve seen this drone hit $50, then $40, both with similar promo codes, but this is a new low at $38 after the code is applied in cart. This deal is slated to last until 1/31, but there’s no telling if stock will last that long.

The Aukey Mohawk is our experienced pilots pick in our guide to the best sub-$100 drone. Signe Brewster wrote, “If you’ll accept a more difficult learning curve in exchange for faster flying, or if you’re already a capable drone pilot, the Aukey Mohawk might be the right drone for you. In our tests, it responded nimbly to flight controls, performing the best of the larger drones we flew through our obstacle course. It also has a few autonomous features, such as returning to home and flipping.”

Anker PowerDrive 4

Street Price: $16; Deal Price: $12 w/ code ANKER312

Use code ANKER312 to drop the price of this 4-port USB car charger to $12, the lowest price we’ve seen for it in a few years. As this car charger typically goes for $16, this is a nice savings. If you’re tired of running out of USB ports for charging, the PowerDrive 4 may be a nice option for you, especially at this price.

The Anker PowerDrive 4 is our more ports for more gadgets pick in our guide to the best USB car charger. Nick Guy wrote, “It might seem crazy to some people, but if you really need to charge more than two devices at once in the car, the Anker 4-Port USB Car Charger is a great pick. It puts four USB-charging ports that can handle a total of 9.6 amps in a package that’s of course much larger than the PowerDrive 2 and ReVolt, but still impressively compact.”

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

Street Price: $250; Deal Price: $200

At $200 (price reflects in cart), this matches the pricing we saw during the holidays and again in early January for our upgrade smart thermostat, the Ecobee4. While we anticipate the price falling further eventually, right now this is as low as we’ve seen this new generation’s pricing go. This deal is slated to end 1/27.

The Ecobee4 is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best smart thermostat. Grant Clauser wrote, “Thanks to a built-in Alexa, the Ecobee4 can play music, relay the news, and control your home’s smart lights as well as adjusting the heat and air conditioning. Like other Ecobee thermostats, the 4 also works with remote sensors, which is useful if your thermostat isn’t in the best part of your house to measure the temperature: Ecobee4 uses the remote sensors’ readings, along with occupancy detectors, to achieve the target temperature in multiple occupied rooms, rather than just wherever the thermostat is installed. (One sensor comes with the unit, and you can add up to 32 more.) Because it has Alexa built in, you don’t need a separate Echo to control it by voice, and if Alexa isn’t your smart-assistant choice, Ecobee4 also works with Google Assistant and (via Apple’s HomeKit) Siri. However, it doesn’t have the level of intelligence of the Nest Thermostat E for automatically figuring out your schedule, and it’s worth spending the extra money on only if you have real issues with cold spots in your home, or really want an Alexa in your thermostat.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Dress Your Home to Impress

‘Tis the season to decorate your home for the holidays. But you may not know where to start. Furthermore, you may not even know which Christmas decorations to use. No problem. We’re giving you five different Christmas decor ideas that you can easily use. After all, decorating your home for the holidays shouldn’t be stressful. Instead, it can be a great way to spend time with the family. Let’s get started!

Makeover Your Home for Christmas with These Holiday Decoration Ideas

Dress Your Home to Impress with These Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Lighted Tree

Decorating your home for the holidays may be overwhelming and leave you feeling frustrated because you may not know where to start. Keep in mind that your goal should be to create warm and inviting spaces for you, your family, and guests. After all, the holidays are a time to celebrate with the ones you love.

With that said, use our Christmas decor ideas and you’ll transform your home into one that shines with peace, joy, and happiness.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Interior Entryway

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Entryway

Give your holiday guests a warm welcome with a festive interior entryway. For instance, a Christmas topiary that sits in a lighted base with lifelike greenery, gold berries, and natural looking pine cones will dress up your doorway. See how the warm glow of the base instantly brightens the entryway? If you have the room, place the topiary on either side of your door. Otherwise, use only one.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Mantel

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Mantel

To create a religious mantel display, use a lighted Silent Night Christmas wreath with a wood sign that spells out a divine message for all to see. It features 50 warm white LEDs, real pine cones, and red berries to give it a realistic look. Next, drape a lighted natural Christmas mantel swag on top, and place flameless candles on candlesticks on each end. Add two golden trumpeting angels to complete this heavenly look.

Another Christmas mantel decorating idea is to use a frosted Christmas wreath on a distressed window frame as the focal point. You can build around it by adding other Christmas decorations like wood candle holders with faux LED candles and wrapped gifts. For the final touch, hang Christmas stockings with a stocking holder. Your family and holiday guests will appreciate the warm and cozy space you’ve created.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Dining Table Centerpiece

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Centerpiece

Add country charm to your holiday celebration with a rustic sled Christmas candle holder with burgundy metal rails. The wooden platform supports three glass mason jars with a battery-operated candle votive inside. The realistic-looking white pine sprigs, red berries, and real pine cones add the ideal accents. As charming Christmas table decorations go, the rustic sled slides into first place.

Here’s another Christmas decor dining table idea: a trio of pine trees that showcase the look of mercury glass. These beauties will make a sparkling addition to your Christmas table as they represent a favorite tradition of the season. They’re lit with 30 LEDs and come in three different sizes. Place these beautiful trees on a table runner, and they’ll light up your holiday table perfectly.

Finally, you can add a touch of whimsy to your dining table with ice skates featuring iced tips, berries, pine cones, and a delightful red cardinal. They’re lit with 10 warm white LEDs and have a timer function for 6 hrs. on/18 hrs. off. Imagine these cool ice skates decorating your Christmas table. Your guests will look forward to sitting down to a feast that’s one of the season’s best.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Table

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Table

Remember to add holiday cheer to your tables. The first look includes snowman and log cabin snow globe Christmas candleholders. But these are no ordinary Christmas snow globes because each one has 3 warm white LEDs. Top them with red flameless candles and place the candleholders on Christmas greenery. These pretty Christmas decorations will add sparkle to your holiday.

Serve your guests in style with the fold-away buffet table. But don’t forget to add some Christmas decorations to it. For instance, you can place lifelike or live sprigs of holiday greenery on it for a festive look. If you have taper candleholders, you may add them as well. Of course, you could place a lighted Christmas centerpiece with flameless candles on it, too. It’s your choice!

What’s more, you can create a sparkly holiday scene with a few Christmas decorations. First, place batting or a lighted snow blanket on your table. Next, add silver ornaments or twinkling spheres and a gift box. Finally, add a lighted twig Christmas tree. for a simple and elegant Christmas display.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Stair Banister/Railing

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Banister

Trim your stair banister/railing with Christmas swag (secure with garland ties) embellished with pretty bows and bright lights. In the corner, you could add an artificial Christmas tree, elves, and gifts for a complete look.

Another Christmas decor idea is to trim your stair banister/railing with Christmas holiday hydrangea collection that’s embellished with ornaments, real pinecones, hydrangeas, berries, and twigs. In addition to the garland, add Santa bags and Christmas gifts. Joyful.

Add Heartwarming Christmas Décor to Your Home

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Stair Railing

Sit back and imagine that you’ve decorated your home for the holidays using our indoor Christmas decor ideas.

Your interior entryway gives everyone who enters your home a warm welcome feeling. A festive centerpiece sits in the middle of your dining table and adds to your joyful holiday celebration. Your fireplace mantel looks merry and bright. And finally, an embellished garland wraps around your stair banister/railing transforming it into a bold statement piece.

Seem impossible? It’s not!

All you have to do is use our Christmas decor ideas. You may even want to mix in some homemade indoor Christmas decorations to create an eclectic holiday look.

Do you know someone who can use Christmas decor ideas? Share this post with them via email or your favorite social network: Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Potential Risks and Rewards

Nintendo announced their new line of DIY Cardboard STEM toys last night: The Nintendo Labo. Its a collection of kits that include pre-punched cardboard sheets and instructions to turn them into peripherals for the Nintendo Switch. Two kits will launch on April 2oth, 2018. The first is a Variety Kit that will include the components to make a piano, a toy house, a fishing pole, a pair of “remote-control cars,” and a set of handlebars for a motorbike. The second is a backpack harness that lets players control a giant, building-smashing robot a-la the Jaegers from Pacific Rim.

The announcement was met with mixed results last night. I’m willing to throw out some of the concerns though. Single adult men don’t really get to complain that a children’s plaything doesn’t appeal to them. Comedy Writer Mike Drucker said it best in this Tweet:

 

Mike Drucker

@MikeDrucker

NINTENDO: Nintendo Labo is for kids and those that like kid stuff!
ADULT GAMER: Okay, but what if I don’t want it?
NINTENDO: Totally fine. It’s for kids.
ADULT GAMER: Yes, but cardboard? Really? Not in my game room!
NINTENDO: It’s for kids.
ADULT GAMER: But how is it for me?

With that said, I don’t think the kits are without risk. I’ve spent the last day thinking about it and have some thoughts about the risks and the potential rewards of purchasing, and playing with, Nintendo Labo Kits.

The Risks

Durability

The Labo kits are made out of cardboard. All signs are pointing to the cardboard being of the thicker variety, but at the end of the day it is still cardboard. This means that these things have the chance of being very, very flimsy. I can imagine a lot of families will buy these things, build them, and have them broken after a few uses by a rambunctious child or pet. Some of the early previews from places like The Verge have said that the kits seem pretty durable, but we really won’t know how much punishment they can take until they are out in the wild.

The Cost

The Variety Kit and the Robot Kit are $70 and $80 respectively. That is a lot of cash. Now, both of those kits come with a cartridge that includes software, but we have no idea what’s going to be on it. $150 for both kits is a TON of cash in today’s economy and I think that will, unfortunately, leave a lot of families out of the fun. Also, these kinds of toys can’t really be shared so the price will never come down like they do on most video games.

The Games

The fact is that we really have no idea how fun any of the mini-games will be. If the cartridges are filled up with a bunch of trash and tech demos a lot of kids will just bounce off of them and create a LONG line of resentful parents. I don’t really see that as a good look for a company that is just starting to build momentum.

The Potential Rewards

The Joy of Creation

What kid DOESN’T like building things? LEGOs and other building kits have never been more popular so this does seem like a natural success. I can absolutely see a bunch of kids getting hyped to build their own game peripherals. A lot of younger kids learned to play Super Mario Kart using the plastic steering wheels that you put Wii-motes in. These kits give them the change to build stuff that is way cooler.

Discovery/STEM Learning

The piano kit works by using the infa-red sensor on one of the Joy-Cons to detect the movement of silver tabs to play music. The remote controlled cars work by using the precise vibrations from the HD rumble in the Joy-Cons to move themselves. That’s just two of the projects in one of the kits. Kids are going to learning some very interesting engineering tricks that are being used by a company that is used to achieving miracles using relatively simple technology. The learning potential is incredible for kids who are interested in taking advantage of it.

Family Time

The instructions for building the Toy-Con kits are all displayed on the Switch tablet. They are manipulated using touchscreen controls. This makes building the different kids ideal fort a two person team. I expect that a lot of parents will be teaming up to build these toys and play with them. That kind of family time is invaluable.


What do you think? What are you concerned about? What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments!

How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On/Off

 

Here are some problems solvers to keep you warm and dry and inside your house while lighting up the neighborhood.

Digital Timer for Outdoor Christmas Lights

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Outdoor Bluetooth Power Center

Set it and forget it—until the Christmas lights twinkle to life exactly when you want them to. You’ll love the multi-tasking capacity of our Outdoor Bluetooth Power Center. You can light up the whole street, and then some, with this 6 grounded outlets. Thanks to hybrid technology, you can control your devices (within an 80-ft. range) from either your smartphone (iPhone or Android) or tablet (use the user-friendly HyBlu app) or the included wireless handheld remote. Use the timer to set a daily, weekly, countdown, or vacation schedule. It’s that simple!

Protect Outdoor Christmas Decoration Electrical Cords from the Elements

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Extension Cord Safety Seal

The Extension Cord Safety Seal is a smart little dome that locks cords together to prevent shorting and has rubber ends to protect them from moisture. Once you’re connected your outdoor Christmas decorationsto the extension cords, simply snap the protector around the connection and keep out water and snow.

Protect Multiple Outdoor Christmas Decoration Cords from the Elements

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Twist and Seal Cord Dome

If you’ve created a Winter Wonderland in your yard and now you’ve got a lot of cords that need to be joined, here’s a way you can use a power strip outdoors! The Twist and Seal Cord Dome™ takes the place of hazardous wrapped tape or plastic. This dome-shaped cord protector has room for a whole power strip, so once you put it in and screw on the lid, the cords are protected from the elements. There’s even a removable ground stake to get the whole cord protector up off the ground and closer in your reach.


Turn On Your Outdoor Lights from Inside Your House!

Whipping Our Foursquare Home’s Exterior Back Into Shape

Though it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately, we’ve been very hard at work on several ongoing house projects.

The most major of our projects has been our focus on the overall exterior appearance of our Foursquare. As a realtor, I’m keenly aware of curb appeal, and how small differences on the exterior of your home can truly set the tone for how you feel on the interior of your home. But as an owner of a house with wood siding, a large yard, and a lot of plantings around the house, I know what an overwhelming endeavor it can be to stay on top of those items that impact the curb appeal of your home.

In our case, I’m not so concerned about what people driving or walking by our home think. Instead I’m more concerned with how the curb appeal makes me feel, or how it makes our visitors approaching the house feel. I want our home’s exterior to set a tone of relaxation for all of our visitors, and it’s hard to feel relaxed when you approach a yard of long unkempt grass, flower beds full of weeds, and significant sections of cracked or peeling paint on the house. After all, it’s our goal to have more relaxing evenings like this.

This summer we’ve decided to approach the curb appeal and exterior maintenance of our home in three distinct phases.

  1. Flower/planting bed beautification
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

We’re going to put off repairing/rebuilding/repainting our picket fence and some bigger yard projects until next summer, but this list of three items should keep us busy outside for most of the summer. So we kicked things off a few weeks ago with the garden beautification piece of our curb appeal project.

You can see some of the paint/siding issues on the house in the photo above, but we were more focused on the flower beds. We planted a good number of ferns and other items last year, and they were doing well, but we had several bare spots we wanted to fill in. If you saw that we installed a drip irrigation system last year, you can also see it exposed in the photo. The black tubing has bothered me since we installed it, but we installed it all after mulching, so we never went ahead and buried it all last year. That’s another item on our list that we’d like to take care of.

We have a few friends in Alexandria that have an absolutely lovely garden. After they visited us last year they told us we should stop by to split some of the plants they have when it came time to plant this season. So we took them up on the offer.

After a very nice tour of their gardens, we ended up walking way with several bags of plants destined for our garden. In total, we had ourselves a new rose bush, obedients, cone flowers, daisies, and sedum.

We took all of the plants to the house and placed them in the locations that would soon be their new homes. Throughout the garden we have about nine different areas where we can plant. I planned it all out based on likely cover, color and height of the plants, and where I felt our existing plantings were just a little thin.

That same weekend, my parents and brother had planned to visit. While I’m sure they wanted to relax a little, they also offered to help us get the garden in order for the season. I can’t tell you how wonderfully welcome it is to have a helping hand when it comes to weeding, mulching, and general garden prep.

While my parents and I worked to rid our beds of as much dead, overgrown, and unwelcome inhabitants from our flower beds, my brother and Alex hit up Lowe’s for all of the mulch and dirt we’d need.

Alex and my brother brought back 30 bags of mulch and three bags of dirt. It’s amazing just how much mulch you need for this garden, which takes up a relatively small part of the yard.

We took a methodical approach to the whole project. First my parents trimmed or cut back the plants and boxwoods. Then my mom and I worked our way through the beds to remove weeds, and I worked with my dad to plant the new plants and flowers in theirs places around the garden. Alex then followed burying the drip irrigation line and running anything new to supply water to the new plants. Finally, my dad, mom, Alex, and I all worked around the whole yard spreading the bags of mulch. (My brother during this time was on the water side trimming our massive hedge.) The whole thing took two days, but when we were done we had the garden looking better than it’s looked since we bought the house in 2014.

I varied the colors of plants from bed to bed to keep it interesting, and with the larger bushes now nicely trimmed back it gave some of the smaller plants a little more room. While the wood borders may not be perfect, they work well with the garden in its current state, and give us a well defined area in each section for plantings.

I’m very hopeful that the drip irrigation system will do wonders to keep everything well fed throughout the summer. And now that the line is fully buried, mid-day waterings won’t end up supplying swelteringly hot water onto our plantings.

One area that I’m particularly excited about is the front of the house. It’s actually the “back” given the orientation of the front towards the water, but this is the view that visitors see when they pull up. The large white metal box houses the geothermal ground loop at the entrance to the house. We planted our new rose bush to the right of the box, and the rose bush from last year is on the left. It’s my hope that these climbing rose bushes will flourish and eventually will camouflage this unsightly feature.

This section of the house is also where our drip irrigation system hose bib sits. It’s in direct sun for the second half of the day and that abuses the hose timers. The first hose timer, which we installed last summer, was solar powered but the solar cell went bad after the first month, leaving our plants without water for a week (and they died). The second hose timer we installed had an LCD panel on it, which ended up going bad. We couldn’t read what it said and we weren’t able to change the program after that. So this summer Alex decided to go the wifi route. He picked up this Melnor Rain Cloud wifi enabled hose time.

It has 4 outlet zones, was extremely easy to setup, has advanced scheduling options, and even has a component that allows the system to monitor soil dampness, only watering when the plants actually need water. Best of all (for Alex’s peace of mind), he can check on the watering status from his phone.

This is one of the parts of the house he wanted to be able to monitor remotely, and now he can.

Right now we’re only using one outlet, so we will just cap off the other three. But we plan to expand this in the future if we ever plant a fruit, veggie, and flower garden in the front yard. Each zone has an independent schedule capability, which is great for something like a vegetable garden that has far different needs for water than a flower bed garden.

All told, we had a pretty solid weekend of work and effort to get this garden looking good. But when we were done we could really see that we made a ton of progress.

It’s amazing how great a few dozen bags of mulch can make a garden look. We used the mulch with weed stop in it this year in the hopes that it might keep some of the weeds we normal get at bay. We’ll see if it actually works, but I’d love to pull fewer weeds this year.

With the garden in shape our attention turned to the next more piece of our curb appeal efforts, taking care of the siding and paint issues that have plagued our house since day one. But that’s another story for another blog post. I can tell you one thing for sure, when this is your scientific method for figuring out the right paint colors, you might be in for a bumpy ride.

Do you have any curb appeal dreams for your home this year? Is your garden the place you go to relax and enjoy, or is it a daunting part of your home that you dread the upkeep on each year? I have a love/tolerate relationship with my garden, and I welcome all advice on how to make it more of a love/enjoy relationship.

A Line of DIY Cardboard STEM Toys

Every time I think Nintendo is going to act predictably I end up looking foolish. They announced this morning that they would be posting a new video tonight that would demonstrate a new “interactive experience” that was “specially crafted” for kids. I assumed that they were just talking about a game. I like to give myself partial credit, so I’ll give myself 1/10th of a point.

Nintendo showed a new video announcing Labo. This is a bizarre line of DIY cardboard kits that let kids (or adults) build attachments for their Joy-Cons and play various mini-games. On a high level, Labo works by providing a set of pre-cut cardboard sheets that you punch out, fold, and connect in order to build different attachments called Toy-Cons (ADORABLE name btw). Once the Toy-Cons are built you can use them to play a set of mini-games either on the Switch Tablet or using the Switch tablet as a controller. There will be two Toy-Con sets at launch on April 20th, 2018, but I am certain that more will be launched over the course of the year.

Labo is a STEM toy at its core and represents a huge shift for Nintendo. When the Switch launched last year Nintendo focused on games that appeal to the standard gaming audience. They did a great job releasing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey in one year. But, they definitely played it safe. Labo is different. This brings Nintendo back to where they were with the Wii. They are releasing a product whose core attraction isn’t a traditional game. Instead, Labo focuses on three core experiences.

Make

The experience of punching the cardboard sheets and following on-screen instructions on the Nintendo Switch tablet evokes the same feeling as building a complex LEGO set. Reports from around the web on places like The Verge are telling us that some of the sets can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, but will be best when done by a parent and child working together. This kind of social experience is something that was missing during Link’s solitary adventure last year.

I never would have expected Nintendo to try and capitalize on the growing maker movement among families and in educational circles now, but this is a great way to do it. Our kids are already excited about it and they’ve only seen a 2 minute long promo video.

Play

It wouldn’t really be a Nintendo product if it didn’t include a game. Each of the Toy-Con sets includes a cartridge full of mini-games and other software that will help kids play with their newly built creations. We don’t know many details yet, but I am super hungry to play the robot game if for nothing else because that robot can transform into a car!

Discover

Once kids have built their Toy-Con Accessories, and played their mini-games, they can then use the Discover mode to get information about how the Toy-Cons work. For example, the piano works by using the Joy-Con’s camera. When you plug the Joy-Con into the back of the box it can see the cardboard pieces moving when you press the keys. The software translates that movement into song! This learning component is something that is a perfect fit, too. The market has been flooded in recent years by toys and games that let kids figure out their inner workings, but none of them have the polish of a Nintendo game. This has the chance to be something special.

I will admit that I am very excited to see the Piano included in this set. It reminds me of when Nintendo packaged the music maker alongside the Mario Paint game for SNES. This Piano is going to see a LOT of use. I can’t want to see the cool YouTube videos that kids will create with it.

The Nintendo Labo Announcement Video

The Toy-Con Sets

Toy-Con 01 Variety Kit (MSRP $69.99) includes:

Nintendo Labo Variety Kit box

  • 2 RC Cars
  • 1 Fishing Rod
  • 1 House
  • 1 Motorbike
  • 1 Piano
  • The game cartridge

Toy-Con 02 Robot Kit (MSRP $79.99) includes:

  • The (awesome) robot kit
  • The game cartridge

Toy-Con Customization (MSRP $9.99) set includes:

  • 2 stencil sheets
  • 2 sticker sheets
  • 2 colored tape rolls

Nintendo Labo will be launching on April 20th, 2018 and we can’t be more excited for it. Is this something that your family will be picking up? Sound off in the comments!

The 20-Point Job Search Game Plan

Autumn is football season and as I listen to the TV analysts handicapping each game two words are ubiquitous in their conversation when they discuss what it takes for each of the two teams to win. These words are ‘Game Plan’.

In football, more than in any other sport, regardless of the disparity of talent, a game can be won or lost based on a coaching staff’s game plan designed around their teams’ strengths and the perceived weaknesses of the opposition, with the deciding factor lying in the execution and the coach’s ability to assess and adapt midstream as needed.

This is also true about conducting a job search; however we substitute the phrase Job Search Action Plan for Job Search Game Plan.

For a successful job search you need to define your goals, create a step-by-step Action Plan with defined benchmark and results, and you must commit yourself to execute and adapt the Action Plan to the best of your ability. For executives and professionals at a senior level it is helpful to have coaches and advisors help you throughout the job search process.

Here are 20 basic steps I recommend incorporating into a job search game plan.

1: Define the job/s you’re seeking and the Hire Profile of the ideal candidate employers are seeking to interview and hire.

2: Define, qualify and quantify your qualifications, strengths and weakness based upon the Hire Profile.

3: Identify your relevant achievements and accomplishments based upon the Hire Profile.

4: Investigate how employers for these positions recruit and prefer to receive and process resumes and referrals.

5: Craft a resume(s) with a unique personal brand in the favored style and format based on points 1-4.

6: If you have a DIY resume and LinkedIn profile have it critiqued before (not after) you begin to use it.

7; Prepare all addendum documents you will need for your document portfolio.

8: Craft a generic cover letter that is also adaptable for specific positions.

9: Create a LinkedIn profile with a unique personal brand based on factors 1-4 listed above.

10: Identify existing LinkedIn connections and other people you know who you can reach out to for networking.

11: Set a reconnect and follow up plan for all the existing people you want to network with.

12: Set a goal of acquiring 5-25 new connections each week and define how you will approach them.

13: Identify people who will recommend and endorse you on LinkedIn and how to approach them.

14: Vet your references or have them vetted for you by a trustworthy 3rd party.

15: Identify interview questions you are likely to be asked and prepare brief on point responses.

16: Have people conduct mock Interviews with you as part of the prep process.

17: Research potential employers and how you can get on their radar screens.

18: Make a list of company websites you will check constantly for new postings.

19: Create an Action Plan tracking booklet.

20: Keep focused on working the Action Plan a minimum of 25 to 40 hours each and every week.

These are some of the essentials of a successful Job Search Game Plan, and as in football the desired results are dependent on commitment and the quality of the execution.

As always I am happy to critique resumes and LinkedIn pages and they can be sent to perry@perrynewman.com.

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