SMART HOME TIPS FROM A POWERHOUSE SEATTLE TECH COUPLE
Matt Thomlinson and Dana Hurley are a powerhouse Seattle couple, and one of our most favorite clients (and friends). We are frequently in awe of their ability to fine tune house management while conducting a busy work and travel schedule. As SVP of Security Engineering at Electronic Arts, Matt has always been at the forefront of cyber security both at EA and previously with Microsoft. Dana, a voice over actor has perfected both a home and portable studio so she can record anywhere in the world. Together they have mastered technology to its best use in their home and daily lives. We asked them to share with us a few of their tips for keeping their busy lives so well managed.
Q: First things first, how do you keep track of all of your passwords?
A: Most security experts will tell you – use a password manager! They have several benefits – not only can you start using longer passwords without forgetting them, you’ll also stop reusing passwords across different internet sites. We both use the same app, and have individual passwords saved but also some that are shared between us (Seattle City Light, Comcast, etc.) which has been a real help. Reputable password managers include Keepass, Lastpass, or 1Password.
Q: You have a newer construction home, what devices did you implement to help manage the house on a daily basis?
A: We built a number of “smart home” systems into our house to automate lights, shades etc. However, some of the best upgrades we made after the fact:
- We added an internet-based doorbell camera, which helps us communicate with workers arriving when we’re not at home or monitor Amazon package drop-offs, all while automatically storing security video footage. Common systems include Nest, Simplisafe, and Ring.
- To control irrigation, we skipped the bulky, seemingly over-expensive Rain Bird type system and went with a smart irrigation system. It is smaller, touchscreen and phone-app controlled, pulls in and changes your program based on weather forecasts, and provides us with usage stats. Plus, the interface is so much easier to understand than the old systems. Some of the nicer systems are RainMachine, GreenIQ, Blossom.
- We installed a whole-house water flow monitor that has a shutoff valve. It has to be plumbed into the main water line, but has the advantage that you don’t have to distribute water sensors throughout the house. This is great peace of mind – not only does it give usage stats, but in the case of excessive usage that looks like a pipe break, it automatically shuts off the water main and calls/texts us. Systems like Flo by Moen, Water Hero, and Phyn.
Q: How do you keep track and coordinate both of your busy travel schedules?
A: Probably the biggest thing is our ‘joint email account’ – we each have personal email accounts but we also share a joint account. That joint account gives us an easy way to communicate externally on house matters, and a single joint calendar we can add appointments to. That part is magical – our phones show us all of the calendars at once so it’s an accurate view of what’s going on, and it syncs immediately if our plans change. That joint account has removed a ton of sync communication that would otherwise be necessary.
We both travel for work and fun, and so we use TripIt to keep those details straight. It’s pretty easy to use – once you buy a plane ticket, hotel booking, or car, you send the email confirmation to TripIt and it automatically builds your trip schedule for you. It’s super easy to coordinate all of our travel there, make sure have the bases covered on complex trips, and we use it on the road to look up all of the original confirmation details.
Q: We know you both love to cook, any tips on apps to help manage recipes and shopping lists?
A: We use a great app called PlanToEat – it holds our recipes and easily imports ones we find on the internet. When we want to cook something, a click automatically creates a shopping list for us. It’s another shared resource, so when Dana adds something to the list it shows up immediately on my phone. Scaling recipes up and down is simple, and when it’s time to cook, the app breaks the recipe into a step-by-step cookbook view that we use in the kitchen.
Q: What new gadget is on your Christmas wish list this year?
A: I work at a video game company, so we’ve already got more Xbox games than we can play, but Dana is quietly lobbying for an Oculus virtual-reality headset to play with. Virtual Reality (VR) is in its early stages, but some of the games look great and seem more accessible because you’ve got physical movement involved vs. playing with a controller.
We are so thankful for the opportunity to work with great clients like Matt and Dana. Their technology skills always keep us on our game!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Jeremey Johnson and Cassie Walker Johnson are managing brokers and real estate agents for Johnson & Walker, based at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle, WA. They specialize in consulting with home buyers and sellers in the greater Seattle area. Thinking about buying or selling in Seattle? Reach out to us and let’s begin the conversation.
It’s Fall y’all, therefore it’s time to plan your great pumpkin adventure. So grab your PSL, check out our Pinterest Board for pumpkin carving ideas, and let’s get to it. Here are our Top 5 Picks to Get Your Pumpkins:
1) FOR THE SLACKER PARENTS:
We totally get it – busy lives, kids, soccer and more. Who wouldn’t want to spend the weekend in traffic only to arrive at the farm in a muddy bog while your toddler is screaming because the stem on their pumpkin broke off and the baby needs a diaper change and everyone is STARVING!
We got you! Head over to the our very own “in-city” Hunter Farms to let the kids frolic in the manageable sized pumpkin parking lot to their heart’s content. The perfect opportunity to quickly grab your pumpkins and head to your next soccer game in Poulsbo. Enjoy!
PS: while you’re there, consider purchasing a pumpkin to put in the donation box for children to decorate that are receiving services from Ryther Center.
7744 35th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Hours: Open weekends only through 10/27
Fox Hollow Farm has everything you need to get the toddler wiggles out. Animal sanctuary and petting zoo, bouncy castles, hay maze, toddler tractor races, scenic hay rides, hot cider and of course pumpkins! While you’re there, don’t miss the corn bin, a tactile experience that even adults enjoy.
12123 Issaquah Hobart Rd SE
Issaquah Wa 98027
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, opens at 10:00 AM
Admission: $10 (Advance Purchase)
You’re on a mission – round, orange and cheap. We’ve got you covered! Our research team conducted an intensive investigation to find the least expensive jack-o-lantern in Seattle. Here’s what we uncovered:
Walmart – $3.28
Grocery Outlet– $4.99
Safeway – ($0.39 per lb) about $5.50
FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY:
With one of the best corn mazes west of the mountains, Remlinger Farms has enough to entertain the entire family including hay rides, roller coaster, pony rides, pedal go-carts, animals, climbing wall and canoes. And, of course loads of pumpkins!
32610 N.E. 32nd Street
Carnation, WA 98014
Hours: Weekends only through 10/27, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Oxbow Farms offers all shapes and sizes of certified organic pumpkins. Fall festival activities include hay rides, farm tours, arts and crafts, scavenger hunt and the house of hay. While you’re there, stock up on their seasonal vegetables grown right there on the farm.
10819 Carnation-Duvall Rd NE
Carnation, WA 98014
Hours: Weekends only through 10/27, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
PS: Don’t forget to check out our pumpkin carving Pinterest board for some great Pinspiration!
Today is officially the first day of Fall. While letting go of summer in Seattle is indeed challenging, any true Seattleite will be hard pressed to deny how they feel “at home” in Autumn. Curling up on the couch, watching their favorite sitcom, fire set and the rain pouring down outside – all of the elements that concoct the perfect Fall evening.
This year’s Fall season will officially end on Sunday, December 22nd, therefore the prime time to take advantage of all that Autumn has to offer (and get your family portraits scheduled) is October. As the leaves turn, so do the days of our lives, and school, and work . . . and as a result: life gets busy. For that reason, visit a local jaunt to stop and enjoy the leaves, or consider taking a quick day trip. Whether you have 60 minutes or 6 hours, October is the time to stop and enjoy our beautiful and lush city.
Here are our favorite Top 5 Places to See Fall Leaves in Seattle:
1) BEST LOCAL SPOT:
With plentiful Japanese maples igniting a red, orange and purple pallet, this is a beautiful and easily accessible spot to roam.
ADMISSION: $8 for adults, $6 for Seattle residents and $4 for youth. Kids under 5 are free.
PRO TIP: If you are exploring with children, make sure to purchase the food at the ticket booth to feed the Koi. It is great entertainment for the entire family!
2) BEST LOCAL ADVENTURE:
With over 20 acres of foliage, this Japanese/Northwest garden located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood is worth the trek.
3) BEST EASTSIDE SPOT:
While most visit during the holidays with their Garden d’Lights show, consider touring during the day time to see over seven acres of foliage separated into more than 10 different style gardens.
4) BEST DAY TRIP:
Fall is a stunning time to visit Mount Rainier. While a scenic drive is worth the trek, consider packing a picnic and hiking through all that this active volcano has to offer. For an easy stroll with little ones try the Trail of the Shadows at Longmire. For more adventure, consider hiking to Bench & Snow lakes, or one of these 10 Fall Hikes.
ADMISSION: $30 per vehicle, $55 for an annual pass.
PRO TIP: Have a 4th grader? Get a national park pass for free.
5) BEST VIEW FROM THE CAR:
Not in the mood to weather the reain? The Stevens Pass Scenic Byway is a great way to see the leaves from the comfort of your car. Start in Monroe heading east on Highway 2. While there are several roadside burger joints along the way including Vick’s Burger Shack in Sultan, we recommend holding out for lunch in Leavenworth.
PS: Forgot to schedule your fall family portrait session? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Head over to Shannon Garbaccio photography and book your session now!
Today is Earth Day.
For some reason, this year I am more drawn to our planet than before. Perhaps it’s a bit of inspiration from a client who is striving to remodel their house into a passive home. Perhaps it’s watching our 10-year-old daughter become more aware of her own surroundings, and just wanting to do our part to make our world a bit better for her.
However, I find myself overwhelmed with how can one family make a global difference. While I am no expert on climate change, more and more the idea of doing good for mother earth is becoming main stream. In addition to thoughts and perspectives, consumers now have much better ease of access to the materials that can help make a change.
I think we just have to start somewhere, and take baby steps toward longer lasting change. Here are 6 easy ideas that any home can consider:
1) LIGHT BULBS:
This has always been a difficult one for us. For years, switching houses to LED lighting meant buyers toured homes that felt like the last inquisition of bright light. But people, have you checked out the lighting aisle at Home Depot lately? There’s soft light, yellow light, dimmable light, 3 switch light, and everything in between all with LED technology. If nothing else, they last longer so you’re on a ladder much less frequently. Why LED? Simply put, they use 75% less energy than old school incandescent.
2) FURNACE FILTERS:
Change them out every 3 months. Dirty filters require your furnace to work much harder and use more energy.
3) WASHING MACHINES:
Wash clothes in cold water. Not only does it save energy, but it helps clothes (especially with color) last much longer. And it protects our jeans from the dreaded shrink. Most detergents work great even in cold water.
Just because an appliance isn’t on, doesn’t mean its not drawing power. But remembering to unplug after each use can be tedious. We love these GE plugs with on/off switches that can be used throughout the house without the efforts of pulling the plug so to speak.
Consider programming your thermostat for 1 or 2 less degrees than you have been using. Or, replace your current thermostat with a learning product such as Nest. Away on vacation and forgot to turn down the heat? No worries, handle it from the touch of your phone.
6) ELECTRIC CARS:
Ok, we admit it, this was not an easy transition for us. As real estate agents, the perception is that image is everything and your car really counts. But as we continue to rack up the gas bill, we have noticed a shift in mindset, both for ourselves and our community. So, we replaced our large SUV with a Nissan Leaf! Of course, it’s still fully loaded with leather and heated seats, heated steering wheel and a rockin’ Bose sound system. But we were shockingly surprised at how much fun they are to drive, especially right past the gas station. Just as one would plug in their phone every night, we plug the car in for a full charge. We are often asked how much our electricity bill increased, and we find it has averaged about an additional $20 a month. Which is a small price to pay in comparison with the cost of gas. While range anxiety gets the best of you in the beginning, I find I barely ever check the battery status anymore and just go about my day. You seriously should go test drive one today!
We’d love to hear what small changes is your home making to help support change? We’d love to hear from you, share with us in the comments below.
Author: Cassie Walker Johnson
When rumors began to spread in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle that a deli was opening in the former Little Gym kids space, we were both intrigued and skeptical. But one visit to this neighborhood bar and butcher and you understand why The Shambles and their tagline “When Deli Meats Bar” has become the hit of Northeast Seattle, filling tables to the brim, even on a random Tuesday night.
Their mission is:
“To bring the farm to bar experience to the Seattle community with house prepared meats, handcrafted sandwiches, and small plates made from the finest ingredients available.”
But this hardly paints the picture of the The Shambles experience.
Owners Matthew Brady and Joel Klemenhaben, with backgrounds in food service and brewing, brought their concept together by hiring both a head chef and head butcher. The result is a gastronomic success!
Complemented by 32 beers on tap, and one of the best cosmopolitans in town (from the infamous and somewhat surly bartender Robb Sheldon), the home-made meats are truly one of a kind. Concocted into various forms for consumption, one can find their favorite flesh smoked, cured, dried, raw, or transformed into a paté or salami. And now with their new launched meat counter, you can order a selection to enjoy at home as well.
Dining in the restaurant is a great evening get-a-way, but make sure to book a sitter as it’s a 21+ establishment and arrive early as they have a no-reservation policy. Or better yet, join them for weekend brunch. We’d like to tell you what to order from the menu, but we simply can’t, as we have yet to have a poor meal. With a variety of items to pick from, even your vegetarian friends will enjoy their repas.
The Shambles’s much needed casual gourmet cuisine is a welcome debut in Northeast Seattle.
7777 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98115
Saturday – Sunday 10am-4pm
Monday – Friday 12pm-4pm
Thursday – Saturday 9pm-11pm
For years I have proven to be a tried and true novice green thumb, never able to keep a plant alive. But after successfully keeping our human daughter alive for 10 years so far, I decided it was time to graduate to foliage.
Like any Seattle native, my comfort zone is in grey. Various shades of cool, dreary grey. It has invaded both my wardrobe and our home. So the idea of adding colorful drapes or pillows is just too much of a commitment. One day, as I was reading my BFF Joanna Gaines’ (a girl can only dream) new book Home Body, and I noticed a continual trend that lay in the pages of my new bible.
Plants! Green, lush, large foliage plants. Thoughtfully placed in a corner, or centered at the family table, she casually places the plants to add a natural pop of color. This is how I was introduced with my true obsession – the Fiddle Leaf Fig. It’s statuesque trunk and topiary head have become, to me, the ultimate prize.
Before I could take on such an investment, I needed to prove I could properly care for a plant, and decided to start small. One Saturday I ventured into The Plant Shop. They have two shops in Seattle, both on Capitol Hill, as well as a beautiful interiors store called Homestead (warning: another bank breaker but a girl can swoon right?).
The Plant Shop boutiques are small in stature but their collections are lush and diverse, ranging from 2” succulents to the large 8’ palms, and of course everything in between beautifully styled and fresh for picking.
To accent their vegetation they have created a collection of custom cylinder pots in a varying range of colors and sizes that are simple, sleek, and modern.
The staff at the Plant Shop are incredibly friendly and will coach you through proper care of your first foliage. I knew as soon as I entered the boutique that it was the perfect place to start.
In just a few short months our collection grew, and after 6 months I can proudly report that they’re all still alive! Here are a few novice green thumb winners from our home that work great for a first timers:
Snake Plant (aka Mother in Law’s Tongue): super low maintenance, loves to be tight fitted in their pot, only needs watering twice in the winter and the best part is they absorb carbon dioxide.
Succulents: these sweet and fragile plants are meant for the desert. Meaning if you don’t water it for weeks, they will be happy. I love the simplicity of their look and often use them as a centerpiece for our dining room table.
Chinese Evergreen: Easy to grow and very tolerant. I love the patterned color of the leaves.
Lemon Lime Variegated Dracaena: I love the bright stripes of the leaves and the fullness of the plant.
For more inspiration, check out our Pinterest Board on all things foliage related.
Remember: start small, with just a few to ensure you get the hang of it, and then graduate yourself to larger, broader vegetation. While I’m no where near an expert, feel free to email me with questions on how to get started. I’m now 9 months into my new passion and brought this beauty home for the New Year!
Fannie the Fiddle Leaf Fig:
Whidbey Island has long been the go-to weekend destination for the people of the Pacific Northwest. With a short 30 minute ferry line and bountiful beaches, quite a few Seattleites have established second homes around the island. While most day-trippers stop at the town of Langley, heading north just 25 more miles lands you in the quaint town of Coupeville. Nestled along Penn Cove, this small town village is deep in history as our second oldest town in Washington State. With restaurants, shops, activities and a farmer’s market, this town is prime for adventure and discovery, all in one day trip. So join us in exploring this quaint little town.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DISCOVER IN COUPEVILLE:
1) Start at Bayleaf (Wine & Cheese Shop) to pack a snack to go in case you get hungry on your adventure (kayaking, walking, hiking, etc). They have a beautiful selection of wines to choose from. We recommend ordering the picnic platter because it includes the perfect snack size selection of meats and cheeses.
2) After you have collected your snack and picked up a bottle of wine, next walk down the long dock at the waterfront to the Coupeville Wharf and stop for coffee at the Salty Mug.
3) Next, consider renting a kayak from Harbor Gift and Kayak to explore Penn Cove and the harbor seals.
4) When it’s time to rest your arm, walk through town and browse the gift shops including our favorite Collections Boutique.
5) Lastly, when your belly is ready to replenish consider enjoying dinner at The Oystercatcher, where they feature fresh local food including oysters, of course.
If you’re having too much fun and decide to stay for the night, check out our favorite AirBnb spots including Coupeville by the Cove and Beach Front Living:
Or better yet, consider exploring the second homes to purchase Whidbey Island such as these:
With only a 2 hour jaunt over, a day trip to Coupeville is well worth the adventure!