need to spruce up your deck before summer? see how we did it

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This post was originally published early last summer. Things are finally starting to look green here and we can’t wait to start entertaining on our deck. The paint held up well over the long harsh winter. We’ll be getting to work on our front porch soon!

The straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back was when Isadora’s BFF Sophie got a splinter in her foot. This has become a common event in our home due delicate bare little feet and a back yard deck that is past its prime. When it is our own girl, we just grab the tweezers and muscle through the splinter extraction … but with Sophie, that was not an option. The girl wouldn’t sit still to save her life, so we sent her home early, teary-eyed and limping. The next week, Chad started investigating our deck options. At first he thought merely flipping the boards would do the trick. After testing a few, we sadly discovered the underside of the wood was not much smoother than the top surface. Our current budget and life-improvement-plans do not allocate for a brand new deck, so we went for plan B: Lets paint it. We debated using a traditional stain, but wanted something that would literally change the texture of the deck under our feet. After much debate, we went with a product called Behr Deckover. (We considered something called Rust-Oleum Restore but that seemed a bit more heavy duty than we needed.) Soon we began to embrace the fact that our deck would no longer look like wood, and instead decided to embrace its colorful future. We chose a slate grey for the floor and a pale grey for the railing. The resulting effect reminds me of a traditional Cape Cod feel. Chad also mixed in some sand with the paint, which gave it a bit of grit. That way the texture is not slippery, even when wet.

To complete this project, our deck had to be sanded, and then three coats of Behr Deckover were liberally applied. With all the rainy days we had recently, this took about a two weeks to complete. At $35 a gallon, the total project cost us about $280.

We finished it off with a new, vintage-inspired table and chairs from OnWayFurniture.com that we got on sale for $350.

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could you live in a macrohouse? new documentary “Tiny” asks and answers

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We often ponder what it would be like to live in a tiny house, dreaming about having a nice self-sustaining plot of land, a sturdy shelter and no mortgage. Call it our escape plan. Could we really do it? Christopher Smith and his girlfriend Merete ask themselves this same question and document the building of their own itsy dwelling in the new documentary, Tiny: A Story About Living Small. The website offers a bundle of advice and links to sites that sell plans and will help you build your own compact dream home. Check it ou!

TINY: A Story About Living Small (Teaser Trailer) from TINY on Vimeo.

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we tried it: simplisafe home security system

Background: Ever since we have moved out of the city and into a house in ‘burbs, we’ve been thinking about getting a security system. Somehow in the city, where our apartments usually had only one point of entry and the buildings often had doormen or security, we didn’t worry about burglary that much. But out here in our own freestanding house, not only are there three doors, but lots of windows that are easily reachable. We have already taken some measures to securing our home: We have installed exterior “spy” cams we can turn on when we’re away. They’ll alert us every time a UPS man drops a package off on our front door! We also have a dog: despite his adorable looks, our labradoodle Cupcake does emit a rather fierce “warning” bark when strangers approach. Most security systems sound like they will be more trouble than they are worth. They cost hundreds to install, require expensive monthly fees to keep active, and will add an extra layer of complication to our lives. That is what we thought anyway, until reading about SimpliSafe on Apartment Therapy — which highly recommends it for apartment dwellers — we decided to give it a try on our small house.

The Lowdown: The first thing we noticed about SimpliSafe (we ordered the Classic) is that it took longer to unwrap it from the packaging than it took to install the entire system. Ours came with a base station, a wireless keypad, a motion sensor, 3 entry sensors (+ we ordered a couple of extra ones), an extra siren and a smoke detector.

After it arrives, we registered the Base station online. Then, you can either program the system via a web site or by using the provided USB key that you plug into a computer that will walk you through set up. The USB key is basically the size of a small memory stick and also serves as a portable on/off switch if you want to put it on your key chain. (Note: We found it to be slightly on the cheap side and wished they made a smaller, more high end one that wasn’t plastic — perhaps aluminum or a carbon fiber?)  The system is totally customizable so you can decide which sensors are active when you are away or at home. Pressing the Panic Button for two seconds will instantly trigger an alarm. You can also set the panic button to trigger a “Silent Panic” alarm if you want to pretend you work in a bank. If you are subscribed to alarm monitoring, the police will be dispatched. However, you’ll want to use the silent alarm setting with caution, as you will not receive a call from the monitoring center prior to police dispatch.

For ours, we chose not to use the panic button because we could imagine our little girl pressing it just for fun.  If we decide to add it later we can do it via a drop down menu in our account settings. You can also add other elements to the system a la carte style:  They make a water sensor, freeze sensor, and a Carbon Monoxide Sensor. You can even add extra key pads if you would like a second one by a back door or upstairs.

If one of the sensors is opened when the alarm is on, the base station will beep and ask you to enter your code (in effect, telling whoever just entered that there is an alarm system activated). If you don’t enter your code in time (you can determine how long), the system will send a signal to SimpliSafe’s 24/7 alarm monitoring center and a siren goes off. It uses the same cellular technology that’s in your cellphone: a system SIM card that is activated when you subscribe to the alarm monitoring service. You can customize how long you have to enter your passcode and you can also enter up to 5 different passcodes and a separate passcode to use if an intruder is forcing you to turn off your alarm and they will immediately send the police.

The motion sensors are supposed to not be triggered by pet under 50lbs but our small dog triggered it one day when he jumped up on the back of the couch. We just moved the sensor to another location and have not had any problems since.

When you go away from home, you activate the away mode — all sensors are on. You can place the system in the “home mode” if you want to deactivate motion detectors but keep the windows and doors armed. Everything is customizable so you can decide what you want on and off.

The price of the smallest system is $229 and monitoring costs between $15 -$25 a month depending on if you want to control it via a mobile device.– compared to other systems that are similar that cost about $1400 to install and $45 a month for similar services.

The monitoring comes in three different price plans:   “Standard” $14.95 for just monitoring service. “Alert” $19.99 monitoring service with text alerts if sensors are triggered.  “Interactive” $24.99 monitoring service with text alerts if sensors are triggered.  You can also receive secret alert texts which can be set to monitor sensors that are not meant to detect a burglary but meant to keep track of other things, such as a liquor cabinet door or medicine cabinet being opened. Good for houses with teenagers, perhaps? But not for us.

Or you can choose to have no monitoring plan at all and the system will still blast a siren if the sensors are triggered. The burglars won’t know if police are on the way or not but they won’t stay long to find out if the siren is blaring.

Still Curious: For more detailed information, visit SimpliSafe’s website here where you can review all the options and watch some helpful videos. If you have any questions about our experience, leave a comment here and we’ll do our best to respond quickly!

From our partners

could you live in a $25,000 micro home?



We often dream about packing it all in and heading to the hills or treetops to live in a small kit house. From our reseplace, we’ve found they usually require some serious dough in the end, and can end up costing as much as buying an already existing home and sprucing it up. Ian Kent hopes to change all that by introducing Nomad Micro Homes — small, DIY dwellings that only cost $25,000. While not exactly the kind place you could live in all year long (unless perhaps you were a desert dweller), the Micro homes could be great weekend getaways, guest houses or even artist or writer studios. According to the founder, if you can put together Ikea products, you can put together one of these houses in one week. (Though, if you’re like us, your Ikea skills are not so great.) With their minimalist lines and high ceilings, it’d be easy to imagine spending some quality time inside one of them. Visit Nomad Micro Homes for more information.

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the new nest protect is a cool & smart smoke detector — but is it worth the price?

Smoke detectors are a necessary, sometimes life-saving tool that can be, on occasion, annoying. They go off when you’re making brulee for your dinner party, chirp in the middle of the night when their batteries die, and create loud and brutal noises. These occasional blips seem like small things to suffer from when they do the job they are intended to do — a job that hopefully you’ll never need.

Now Nest, the company who is trying to reinvent the way we look at thermostats, has unveiled a new kind of smart smoke detector, Nest Protect. It is armed with an attention-getting yet calm voice that tells you what’s wrong (“There’s smoke in the bedroom,” it may say.), can be shut off with a wave of your arm (as opposed to frantic fanning with newspapers) and sends you an alert on your phone when the battery is low. It can even be set to glow like a nightlight. Oh, did we mention it’s pretty?

After watching the video below, you might think to yourself, yes, I need one of those! But then it hits. The price is $129 — not too bad, until you consider how many a typical house needs. We have seven. That’s nearly thousand bucks! Currently we are using a standard smoke detector that we paid about $30 bucks for. You can buy four of those for the price of one Nest Protect.


So tell us, what do you think: Are you willing to pay more for a better, smarter smoke detector?

P.S. A good rule of thumb is to change your smoke detector’s batteries on daylight savings time night… coming up soon on November 3nd!

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