I like to cook and I really like to grill, so what better excuse then when Chris's mom and brother are coming out to visit? As you can see, I went a little crazy with potatoes. I tried to make steak fries.
Like I usually do when cooking, I made a mess and had to change half way through the process. Then I remembered I had an apron and put it on.

I also managed to set some corn on fire. It was kind of awesome.
We had lunch out on the deck. We got to catch up on what is going on in each other's lives and talk about Scot's job. He's an engineer at Chrysler so he always has cool projects going on that he talks about.

In the shade it wasn't too hot (despite being in the high 80s), but after a few hours we went inside.
We gave Chris's mom a tour of the house then hung out in the living room for awhile.

One of the great things about having the apple TV is the ability to throw videos up on it from youtube, so we went through a nice list of random spoof trailers and short comedies. 

It's been great having our families come out and visit us over the last month or so. I'm glad our families have gotten to see the new house. 

I'm not going to lie - I'm also really excited about that extra four hours of the day from not having to drive to and from metro Detroit.

I love Brick Road Pizza so much. Tasty lunch!

We have two dog dishes that we put outside and fill with bread, corn, or other various treats for wildlife. At our old apartment we'd get quite a few squirrels and the occasional bird. The place I lived before that I'd get all sorts of wildlife, including geese.

So I didn't think anything of setting out the dog dishes and filling them once more. I love providing entertainment for the cat.
And what entertainment we attracted! I haven't seen a raccoon in years and certainly not since I've moved to the Grand Rapids area. Imagine my surprise when I heard the cat furious clawing at the slider one night and came down to see one chowing down on the deck. 
They aren't exactly what I was trying to lure toward the slider for the cat, but they are adorable and they are entertaining him.

We've cut back drastically on putting anything outside now but the cat still camps out every night waiting for them. And they come by almost every night - even no food has been left out. Just in case. 

I purchased a cheap Ethernet shield (essentially its a circuit board that you can plug on top of your arduino - kind of like legos) online awhile back and it came in the mail last Saturday. The ethernet shield lets you get your arduino on the internet. It has a small RJ45 jack on it that you plug the cord into and away you go!

So I've been playing on and off with it all week but I'm not having a whole lot of success. After a few minutes the arduino becomes unresponsive and needs to be reset. My dreams of having an internet enabled thermometer are being stopped by something...

I assumed it was the program I wrote but I'm having the same issue with the sample programs.


I beat Mass Effect 2 yesterday, so that means onto Mass Effect 3 today. One of the best things about being late to a trilogy of great games is that you can play them back to back.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_Effect

It's pretty awesome when you can take a stroll on a path by your house and see deer grazing.

I never saw deer growing up. Ever. Unless you count the bodies on the side of I-75, but I don't.

I'm really enjoying having a grill and nice weather. Dinner on the deck is always fantastic.

The Easttown Bizarre Bazaar is today so we headed out for some music, crafts, and food. We even stopped by some used bookstores, which I always enjoy. 
In the afternoon Chris showed me how to use a rotary tool and a soldering gun. See, a few weeks ago I saw a mason jar solar light at the Artisan Market and decided I was going to try to make one. But the solar light I bought needed some plastic shaved off of it (to fit the jar better) and I broke one of the wires so that needed to be repaired.

So we set up a small work space in the basement and got working.
When it's all said and done, I think it looks nice outside, although I may still try to use modge podge and food color to tint the glass. Plus I need to find a way to more securely attach the lid to the jar. So it's a work in progress.

I also have a much smaller solar light that fits on the top of a jelly jar. I'm not quite sure how I want to fit that together since a lot of the plastic would need to be shaved off of it to make it look nice. 
Later in the evening I started to play with a few things that arrived in the mail today. Among them were a temperature sensor and an LCD keypad shield that plugs directly into an Arduino.

I put together a small sketch (program) to read the temperature and humidity from the sensor and print it to the LCD. This Ladyada sensor tutorial (complete with sensor library) was very helped. My sensor is soldered to a circuit board, but the basics were the same.

I'm exited about it, but I'm not really sure what to do with it yet. David (Aardvarksagus) had a great suggestion to track the readings over time, so I may make some changes to the code (and clean it up) to create a log of the readings.

I'm still plugging away with the Snail Mail notifier too trying to get that to send emails.

Yay for Friday!

Rain was intense for a few minutes at lunch, but the rain left the rest of the day relatively cool in comparison to the last few days. I'm ok with that.
I pulled out an old Zipit z2 wireless messenger Chris bought awhile back. In looking back at my blog, I apparently haven't touched it since he bought it in 2009. Oops.

Anyway, I poked around a bit on the internet doing some research on various Linux flavors you can put on it. The Debian port I was originally going to put on it when he first bought it appears to no longer be available (at the very least some of the files aren't easy to obtain and the Debian version isn't supported anymore). So I read through a few different options that are currently supported.

Mozzwald has a pretty cool blog that goes back several years and details his trials and experiences with different linux builds. There was even a nice state of the Zipit post from earlier this year.

Right now I'm leaning toward putting OpenWRT on it but I'm not committed yet.

I've been poking around modifying the Snailmail with Gobetwino and trying to get  GoBetwino  to generate emails when the mail is received. 

The last several days I've messed with it I had some problems in my code that I needed to clear up and then I just assumed it was crashing because  GoBetwino  doesn't support Windows 7.

So I pulled out my old laptop still running Windows XP and tried to run the program from there.

Same problem.

A few hours later I stumbled across a comment on a forum comment that GoBetwino doesn't support SSL, which the email account I was trying to use requires.

So now I'm off to research free SSL-less email accounts! Do those even exist anymore? Chris suggested setting up an email server so maybe I will try that.


It stormed pretty heavily this morning. by noon, however, the skies were clear and water was quickly evaporating.
Monday evening was pretty low key. Everyone did a lot of hanging out and not a whole lot of moving around, the cat included.

It's Father's Day and Chris's dad and brother are on their way over from White Lake. That means it's time to prepare some food.

I've had the bread machine going for awhile making pizza dough for some pepperoni rolls.
I'm also grilling corn on the cob for the first time. I read a few different recipes online, all of which say to soak the corn prior to grilling but some say to rub spices and butter on prior, some say after.

I elected to try rubbing a buttery spice mixture prior to grilling so I had to tie the corn husks shut. Yay for extra yarn!
Luckily the sun came out and the deck dried after this morning's rain, so we were able to eat out and enjoy the weather.

Lots of skewered meats, vegetables, rolls. As usual, I cooked far more food than was necessary for two people. We'll be eating leftovers for days.
With the sun now out we even got to take a long walk through Oriole and Palmer Park. I spent some time talking to Chris's dad about the Arduino, turtles. Heck, we talked about all kinds of stuff. I'm really looking forward to hanging out together at the Maker Faire in Detroit next month.

After that we watched some internet videos, enjoyed the air conditioning, and each other's company. Chris's dad even gave us some tips on how to improve some things around the house. All in all it was an  excellent day!

I actually did a fair amount of things today, but I forgot to take a photo each and every time. I did have a lovely lunch with Lori at The Pita House in Grandville, did some grocery shopping, gaming, cleaning, reading,  and in general relaxing.

But like I said, I kind of forgot to snap a photo of any of it. So instead, you get a shot of Leki enjoying the view from the office.

I may or may not have spent a rather large part of my evening playing Guild Wars.

It's becoming a slight obsession.

I've been brainstorming improvements to the snail mail notifier the last few days and stumbled across GoBetwino. This application will take information from the Arduino and do something the Arduino can't do on the computer. For example, using GoBetwino you can have the Arduino send email, create a file and log data, download files, etc.

So I spent a little bit trying to get GoBetwino configured with the Arduino to send an email notification every time the mail is received. I don't have it working quite yet, but I'm getting there. Hopefully I'll have something working by the end of the weekend.

Now to just build this thing an enclosure to protect it in the mailbox...

Long day...

A nap sounds really good right about now...

It's the last day of a four day weekend and there are still so many things I want to do!

First thing this morning started a batch of DIY bird feeders. I ran across this craft a several months back and now that we have a yard I figured now is the perfect time.

I ended up using a random assortment of large cookie cutters, including a pumpkin and a teddy bear. (FYI - when the recipe says 1 3/4 cups water it really means a single 3/4 cup of water. I used 1 3/4 and ended up with a runny mixture I had to drain).
After we got back from running some errands I settled in for a session of Guild Wars. Having played so much of the Guild Wars 2 beta I started itching to play the original game. I'm so close to finishing the Eyes of the North main questline I can taste it...
Later in the afternoon I cast on some stitches and started in on another Dalek Washcloth. The pattern is really easy and it's a quick knitting project. Since I really shouldn't be knitting because of the strain on my wrists and elbow, I'm going to try to do a row or two a day (no more!) and see if I can get some smaller projects done.  
 After dinner the bird feeders were hard enough that they could be hung. We put one as an experiment off the back of the deck. I suspect it will be gone in the morning.
I even fiddled around with a arduino-controlled RGB lamp.

I definitely feel like this last day of the long weekend was a productive one for fun projects.

I don't have a lot of experience sewing things. I did some hand sewing as a kid, maybe used my mom's machine once or twice but by in large I don't do much. But we have the day off, and I've had this cat bed project on the back burner for awhile....

So I pulled out my grandmother's insanely heavy sewing machine and decided to get crafting.
Chris did all of the measuring and cutting for the fabric - which is awesome because I don't appear to know how to work scissors. After everything was ready to be stitched together, I ran off to figure out the sewing machine.

After what felt like hours (but was probably only 45 minutes) I managed to get the machine threaded properly and I was on my way to crafting a cat bed.
Later in the evening we both took a break from our respective projects and had a tasty grilled dinner together on the deck.
Then it was back to working on the cat bed again! Now the fabric I used wasn't felt. I found something softer and more to what Leki typically lays on (that is, blankets, fuzzy pillows, etc). Of course, because it isn't felt or a stiffer material, it doesn't really stand up on it own. So I stuffed it a little to give the tube some shape.

As you can see, he isn't really interested. Hopefully that changes, like his interest in his cat tower did.

And that's how we spent our one year wedding anniversary.

The Fulton Street Artisan Market opens up for the season today and it's the first time Chris and I have been over there to see the remodel. The wider pathways and built in roof are a nice touch. Definitely an upgrade from the previous setup.

We strolled up and down the market, checking out the neat local art. I saw a really great solar lantern idea made from a mason jar. They kind of looked like these DIY jars, although a little nicer. I might attempt to make these in the near future.
While we were out, we picked up a can of clear coat, which meant I could finish up the photo coasters I created awhile back. In between quests in the Guild Wars 2 beta I ran outside, applied a few more coats, then ran back in for more gaming.
Guild Wars 2. Man. I can't say enough good things about it. An MMO that is free-to-play that builds off of the existing Guild Wars with a gazillion improvements? What's not to like? I mean, look at that screenshot! There's under water combat, complete with underwater weapons (harpoons, etc), a re-breather that lets you breathe under water.
So I spent a big chunk of the day playing the  Guild Wars 2 beta. Logging bugs, running around joining random group quests, playing solo. It was a fantastic day.

The second Guild Wars 2 beta weekend is this weekend. That means a lot of this: A cat wondering why I'm playing with a "cat" (Charr) on the computer and not him.

He gets jealous easy.
In the afternoon I took a quick break to start in on my first Arduino project: Snail Mail Notifier (Chris had mentioned this as a possible project). Up until now I've just been reading about coding and wiring, making various LEDs blink. But now, it's time to try something else.

This is not a project I designed or coded myself. I got partially through designing it and discovered someone else had already created what I was basically thinking about doing.

What you do is set up two Arduinos, one in the mailbox and one connected to your PC. The mailbox Arduino registers that the mailbox has been opened (via a light sensor). When that happens it sends a message via RF to the PC Arduino. The PC Arduino plugged into the computer then prints a message on your computer saying you have mail.
Obviously the setup isn't the best. First off I'd ideally like to use just one Arduino not two. Second, I'd like to have mail notification via email or text message, not a serial monitor window on my computer. Third, as you can see, I do not have a battery pack hooked up to the receiver in the mailbox or the enclosure sealed against the elements. The local Radio Shack was out so to test this I had to plug a USB cable into a wall adapter inside the house.

Still, this is a start and it's a way to see new libraries and codes in play that I haven't used yet. There's another project that uses a push button and a php server to send notifications via the internet - Snail Mail Push Alert.

I have a few parts on order for that project and a cat toy. What I'd ideally like to do is combine the best of both (wireless + push notifications), but I don't think Chris is sold on this device's usefulness (it's not like you don't check the mail everyday anyway, right?).

Someday I hope to create an automatic curtain opener for no reason other than because.

We went tonight to go see Prometheus. Overall, I liked it. It's not Alien - so if you're expecting a slow place thriller it's not exactly that. But it's not some giant explosion-driven movie with no plot, like say, Transformers.

Of course now after watching this I want to re-watch Alien.

Leaves are in and the grass, though you cant see it, it starting to grow. Summer is just around the corner.

With The Pita House downtown closed, I decided to try another restaurant that serves Mediterranean food.

Lets just say it was no substitute for The Pita House.

On partially sunny days I really enjoy the view one building gives downtown. All the windows are like mirrors.