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Visit Old Quebec Tee Shirt

I must tell you that I own VisitOldQuebec.com. I bought that domain a few years back when Yvonne and I used to travel a lot more. We absolutely loved walking around the old city, exploring some of the haunts where my cousins and I used to hang out when I was a teenager. When I started the blog, I created a fan page on Facebook that became very popular. Since that time, I really wanted to have something that could unite all of the people who visit the fan page.

This shirt came about after a lot of searching. I hired an artist to make a nice silhouette of the Chateau Frontenac, one of the most distinguishing landmarks in the world. It is easily recognizable by almost everyone who has ever been to Quebec, and even a lot of people who have not. Yvonne and I wear our shirts everywhere, year round and you would be amazed at how many people tell you about their trip to Quebec when they see it.

So not only is it a great conversation starter, it helps you remember all the fun times and beautiful sights you saw when you were there. Originally, we only had sweatshirts and hoodies, but the tee shirts are the most affordable option and can be worn year round, while the sweats are useful only during the cold months. If you are in Canada, that might be 9 months out of the year, but the rest of us might only wear sweats a few months out of the year.

The Opinion Reaction brand is a clothing line we created a couple years ago, so if you are looking for fun shirts, you can find them all by clicking here. But if you want one of these Visit Old Quebec shirts, we have them in two styles. Light shirts have the standard Visit Old Quebec logo with no background. And the dark shirts have a gradient background behind the Visit Old Quebec logo to highlight all the windows in the Chateau Frontenac!

This is a men’s Visit Old Quebec shirt in cranberry from Opinion Reaction.

This is a ladies’ Visit Old Quebec shirt in baby blue from Opinion Reaction.

Cooking Is No Longer Confined To Your Stovetop!

When I used to rent apartments and houses, my two biggest complaints were always the stove and the refrigerator. Rentals always have the plainest appliances and they often do not work very well. I had one place where the oven would only work on one side, which made my pizzas raw on one side and overdone on the other. Each move, I would have to adjust to the burner temperatures, because they rarely matched from one place to the other. One stove, the burner would go to the setting you first put it on, but should you adjust it later, nothing would happen. Not good when you heat the burner on high and want to turn it down to simmer.

Luckily for me, I found the Nuwave induction cooktop. Actually, my mom found it and she passed it on to me when she passed away. An induction cooktop uses a magnetic resonance in the metal of your pans to heat the pan and not the cooktop. This makes it possible to set it to the exact temperature that you need for proper cooking.

One drawback with induction cooking is that your pans must be stainless steel. I already had a set of Wolfgang Puck cookware and it works perfectly on the Nuwave cooktop. The best way to test your cookware is to use a magnet on the bottom of your pot or pan. If the magnet sticks, the pot will work with the induction cooktop.

My favorite part of the whole Nuwave induction cooktop is that it is portable. You can cook with it anywhere that you can find a power outlet. If you want to cook in the basement, awesome! Your bedroom? Simply unplug the alarm clock and plug this in and you can be sauteing in bed!

Please do not cook in bed! It is not safe!

I have made many a pot of chili with this cooktop, as well as perfect omelettes (until I got the Dash Egg Cooker… then I stopped cooking eggs in pans). It doesn’t get hot, but the food cooks to whatever temperature you set it. Forget low, medium or high settings! Now you can set the precise temperature and the Nuwave will heat it to that temperature!

I am not recommending you get rid of your stove, just yet, but you had better make sure you have enough counter space for all of the cool cooking gadgets out there. I have a kitchen remodel in the works so I can use all of my devices at the same time (probably will need an electrician for a few hundred more outlets, too)! So please use my links above for the purchase of any of the products recommended here, because I need the commissions to help pay for the remodeling!

Static Electricity: Not Good For Your Old Thermostat…

Two nights ago, I went to turn up the thermostat because I was freezing. I forgot to put on my slippers, so I was walking on our carpet with wool socks… and I even expected to lose a finger when I touched the thermostat… because I had done it so many times before. But this time it was different.

Not only was my finger numb for the next 15 minutes, but it soon became warm in the house. We usually keep the thermostat under 70 degrees during the day, but in the evening, when I get a chill, I turn it up to 70. When I went to bed, I was about to turn the thermostat back down to 66 degrees for the night, when I noticed the temperature inside was 73, even though the thermostat was set at 70. This didn’t look right.

Upon further evaluation, it was revealed that the furnace had not shut down in the hour since I had shocked myself… it was stuck in a permanent “on” cycle. Well, that would not do, I need it cool at night to sleep, so I shut the furnace off completely. Then I went to my trusty computer and ordered a Nest E thermostat like I had installed in our Florida home (don’t ask me why we are living in Illinois in February while owning a perfectly nice home in Florida).

Nest Thermostat

I went to install the thermostat the next day (I ordered it rush delivery) and when I opened up the old thermostat, I mistakenly thought I had both an Rh and Rc wire installed (it turned out the previous owner of the house had wired the Rc and Rh wires with a jumper, but had run it under all the other wires and it looked like two separate wires), which is not compatible with the Nest E… so I returned the Nest E and ordered a Nest 3rd Generation Thermostat instead.

The Nest 3rd Generation thermostat is a little more advanced design with the ability to work with almost every furnace and air conditioning unit that operates with 24V thermostats. The Nest E had the limitation where you could not have 2 transformers in your system (when your furnace and your air conditioner are actually using two separate blower systems). Personally, I was irritated at myself for not digging a little deeper into the wiring, because I could have saved about $80 and the time it took me to return one thermostat and get the replacement. If I had only unscrewed the old thermostat’s base from the wall, I would have seen that only 4 wires went into the back of the thermostat, instead of the 5 I had initially believed to be there. But enough about spilled milk… clean it up and go on, right?

The Nest is great! I love setting up a schedule for the furnace and air conditioner for my sleep patterns. I have the furnace set very low from midnight to 5:30AM, for best sleep temperatures, then I have the furnace come on to bring the temperature up to 67 degrees, and then at 7:30AM it goes to 70 degrees for the rest of the day. Well, that is the plan, anyway. During the course of the day, my wife and I will adjust according to how we are feeling, and the cool part is that the thermostat will remember that when the outside temperatures are above freezing, that we don’t need it as warm during the day and when the temperatures are colder, that we might need it to be set a little higher.

Another cool feature of the Nest series of Thermostat is that when you are away, the system knows it and goes into ECO mode – where it keeps the house temperature between the limits that you set for it (although it will not allow you to let it get colder than 45 degrees in the house to protect your pipes) until you get home. This works as long as you have the Nest app on your phone and have registered the thermostat with your app. I have both the Florida home and the Illinois home on my Nest app, so when we make the trip to Florida, the Nest will lower your heating and cooling bills by not running if you are not there. My Florida electric bill has been under $50 each month that we are away, and I really like not having to constantly adjust the thermostat when I get up and go to bed.

Another great feature is the monthly report you get to your email, letting you know your energy usage. This has been a nice reminder that we aren’t heating or cooling an empty house and that there may be other ways to save energy if we notice a significant increase in usage (sometimes a grandchild will open a window, and unless you check the whole house every time they visit, you don’t know about it).

Of course, it would not be truly automated unless you could also control it with Alexa (here we call her ‘she who must not be named’ because when we say her name she answers us with cryptic messages… “hmmm, I don’t know that one!”). The integration is simple enough, although you may have to get creative in naming the device when you have more than one home. Luckily for us, the Florida home has the thermostat in the hallway and the Illinois home has it in the dining room, so it was easier than naming them Fred and Barney. So we ask Alexa to turn up the temperature in the hallway or dining room, depending on where we are. In homes that have multiple thermostats, this gives you an even greater control over you home energy use, as you can set different temperature schedules for each one.

The Good and the Bad

Of course, there is a serious flaw in the logic of having the Nest know where you are. If you are not home, but other family members are home, you need to turn the ECO mode off. Otherwise, you run the risk of freezing out your family members when you leave the house. When ECO mode is on, telling Alexa to fire up the heater will not work if the person with the phone the Nest is following is away. Bummer, honey, can I get you another blanket while I am at the store?

This is probably the only negative that I have found so far. The Nest thermostat, in my opinion, has changed the way we keep our home climate the way we like it. Now I only have to worry about getting shocked when I turn the lights on or off… wonder if they make something for that?

Alexa Enabled Orbi Voice Harmon Kardon Speaker With WiFi Range Extender

Get your Orbi Voice system today!

Orbi Voice is the best way to get Alexa enabled music at your command while extending your WiFi throughout your home. Heck, you could probably extend the WiFi all the way to your neighbor’s house with this system.

The price is what you would expect to pay for a WiFi extender, but you get Harmon Kardon sound and Alexa control of your music and anything else you want to control… I happen to like being the boss and ordering my house to do my bidding, and I am sure you will, too!

Orbi Voice with Alexa

Geo Grid Driveway: The Final Chapter

Sorry this took longer to finish than I would have liked, but like all construction jobs, the weather is still the foreman. We had a few days (finally) of rain and then I ordered the remainder of the gravel before beginning the task of setting up the grid.

Final Size For Driveway

We had decided on the last day of digging that we didn’t need to go as far as we had initially planned. It turned out that the extra four feet would not add any benefit since the current length was actually already longer than both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Nissan Altima, so, unless we wanted to go all the way to the fence to be able to park both cars in the driveway, we were done digging up the lawn. We still had a day or two of leveling the inside of the hole so that it was at least 4.5 inches deep from the sidewalk along the right edge of the driveway. That would be our limiting height, since it is easier to bulk up the grass side of the driveway with landscape timbers than it is to make the sidewalk go higher.

Once we had the area leveled, we rolled out the landscape fabric. In hindsight, I would have rolled out two layers of the fabric, and then driven some wooden stakes or something to hold it in place. It only moved a little bit, but it was still irritating when it did. We then unboxed the Geo Grid and the stakes. I had ordered two grids, because my calculations originally called for a lot more than one grid would have been able to cover. But once we decided on the actual size of the driveway, one grid was actually enough to fully cover the driveway.

Unboxing the Geo GridThe Geo Grid was easy enough to manipulate and lightweight enough for one person to lay out, but I was glad my wife was there to help me with it, because I would have been cussing at the landscape fabric as I dragged it all over the place while moving the Geo Grid. I ordered a starter kit of stakes that includes the tool for pounding them into the ground and 2 additional bags. I could not find them on Amazon, so I ordered them directly from the manufacturer. After installation, we had enough stakes left over for the second Geo Grid if we ever decide to make a  driveway for the other car.

Laying out the Geo Grid

Note: the stakes are actually very important for the overall installation. You are better off using more stakes if possible to avoid the grid floating up when you pour the gravel.  I started in one corner and drove a stake every 3 loops along the right and left sides.  If your budget can handle it, I would recommend getting enough stakes to handle every other loop instead. At $1.50 per stake, it adds up.

I was a little confused as to how to use the stake driving tool, but once I messed around with it, I figured out how to use it without losing a finger or breaking a stake.

As you can see in the video above, I almost fell into the hole while driving that particular stake… but it was pretty straightforward.

Adding Gravel To The Geo GridAdding gravel was about as easy as it gets. If you can get a load of gravel from your local quarry, I am sure it is less expensive than the $5 per bag I paid to have delivered from my local home depot. Pea gravel is way better than the larger stuff. The first 10 bags of my order had the half inch sized gravel and I was not really happy with it, then I realized that the rest of the pallet was the pea sized gravel, so I spread the bigger gravel out and covered it with the pea gravel. Overall, I had to use about 140 bags to finish the driveway.

Finished Geo Grid DrivewayAs you can see from the photo, once the gravel was poured and the landscape timbers placed, the driveway looks nice and it is very functional. We already have the Nissan parked there and love the fact that the birds can’t get to it from the power lines anymore.  Now to figure out a way to protect the Jeep…

Geo Grid Driveway