While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. These are products and whole ecosystems that help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite technology gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.
While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are some of the more diverse home gadgets we have found, beyond thermostats and security cameras:
GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER
Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.
LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL
More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smart phone into an additional remote.
PETZI TREAT CAM
Missing your pet while you’re away? The Petzi Treat Cam provides a way to connect with them through your smart phone from anywhere. Dispense treats, watch live HD video and speak with your pet using the 2-way audio.
FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER
A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smart phone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR
A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5 inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.
Considering that New Year’s is a pretty hot-ticket holiday, it’d behoove you to let your friends know sooner rather than later that you’ll be hosting a party at your place. Paperless Post is a good alternative for those who don’t want to track down friends’ addresses, go out to buy a roll of stamps, or leave the house. For those on a budget, there are several free invitation designs to choose from.
Hire a carpool so no one has to drive home. This is best done by using a traditional car service that can be scheduled for pick up and home delivery. Other ride share companies like Uber and Lyft offer similar services but they cannot be reserved and on a busy night you might find your friends coming in late and leaving far later than desired.
For a refreshing alternative to Champagne, try Prosecco. For nonalcoholic selection try Twelve, a fizzy blend of fruit and herbal tea. It’s delicious and certainly more elegant than sparkling cider. Pellegrino and Perrier are also very nice to keep people happy and hydrated.
Don’t let people get hungry! Make it easy on yourself and your wallet. Get some fabulous, frozen pre-made appetizers and keep them rolling from the oven. Cheese and cracker, charcuterie and veggie platters that require no cooking and can be made ahead of time are always crowd pleasers. These can even be purchased from your local deli if time is more important than slicing and arranging your own cheese.
We’ve all been eating way too much sugar all December but if you want to do a small dessert and make it look special, dust some edible glitter onto your store bought cookies or cake. Yes, edible glitter is a thing.
Set up Pandora at a volume where you can hear it – but don’t have to raise voices to hear each other. Hipster Cocktail Party is a great one. Don’t let the name turn you off; the music they play is terrific. Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin are some regulars you’ll find on this station.
Print a family cookbook.
Ask everyone to send you a favorite recipe and have them bound into a book to take home.
Craft a DIY photo booth.
No need to rent; just get creative. Hang some frames from a tree or wallpaper a wall with holiday paper and keep a fun prop bin on hand. Then set up a phone on a tripod and snap away.
Make an all-inclusive monogram gift.
Embroider a family inside joke or favorite phrase on t-shirts, hoodies or towels. Great templates and pre-made designs are on www.Zazzle.com
Hand out family photo books.
Collect photos from Facebook (and ask the less than tech-savvy to send in), then have them bound in a beautiful book and make copies for everyone. A great option for this is Shutterfly.
Write Letters To Santa
Help your kids write cute letters to Santa, then mail them off to the North Pole.
Print tote bags embossed with your family tree.
A decidedly useful, interesting and non-hideous freebie.
Encourage family members to bring belongings they no longer want (clothes, furniture etc.) and do a family-style round robin. You just might end up with Aunt Cindy’s beloved tea towels…
Most of us already have our “ways” of doing Thanksgiving — ways our mother did it, ways our extended family did it, ways our neighborhood did it. Thanksgiving doesn’t lend itself well to trying out new traditions, but sometimes the situation calls for it — you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, for example, or you have a family now and want to start traditions of your own. So what can you do to heighten, deepen, and extend Thanksgiving to its most memorable end?
- Start the day with an indulgent, relaxing breakfast.
While some people are firmly in the “no breakfast” camp to save room for the big meal later, we love the idea of starting the day in such a festive, delicious way! Pancakes, waffles, eggs, even pie – it’s all good.
- Take time for yourself before time with family.
As wonderful as Thanksgiving can be, we all know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s such a good idea to deliberately take a little time for yourself during the day to make sure you enjoy the holiday on your terms.
- Remember loved ones who have passed.
Holidays can be bittersweet when beloved family members or friends are missing from the gathering. Look through old photo albums and recall funny, tender or important achievements of those who are gone but not forgotten.
- Write your thanks on a butcher paper tablecloth.
Cover the table with butcher paper. During the meal, distribute pens and ask each family member to write down a few things they’re thankful for on the paper and then take turns reading them out loud. We love the practice during the Thanksgiving meal of naming things you’re thankful for, and this is a unique way to do it – especially since you can tear off and save particularly meaningful memories.
- Let everyone toast!
Another way to make gratitude gushing even more festive is to let everyone make a toast. Raise your glass to the year, to your family, to your friends!
- Have the kids serve dessert.
Let the bigger kids get in on the action of serving to their family. Put them in charge of delivering dessert and coffee after the meal. The oldest can plate and pour while the younger kids can take orders and serve. It keeps them busy after the meal while the adults talk and gives them a broader sense of appreciation for the holiday.
- Have Thanksgiving dinner early.
Planning for a 3 p.m. dinner shifts the momentum of the day. An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed. An earlier dinner also accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.
- Take a long walk together after dinner.
No one is ready for dessert right after dinner anyway, so why not take that time to go on a long walk with your loved ones? Enjoy the cool, crispy (and hopefully dry) autumn weather and get the blood flowing again after all that rich food.
- If it’s just two of you, really treat yourself.
It can be hard to justify making a huge Thanksgiving meal when it’s just two of you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less special, or even any less of a treat. In fact, it should be more so. Make it special by treating yourselves to nicer ingredients and better wine than you would normally use if you were cooking for a large group.
- Stay connected with family members far away.
If you can’t be with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, thankfully you can still be together — just virtually! Do a video call or Google Hangout before dinner, or Facetime family members in for the giving-thanks portion of the evening.