If you've asked anyone for their opinion on a good video monitoring solution recently, the almost automatic answer seems to be "Get a Dropcam, they're great!"

But the question I've long had is simple, "Is the Dropcam really all it's cracked up to be, or should we look elsewhere for a more effective, flexible, and economical solution?"

We've actually been searching for a good monitoring/security camera for some time now. This search began around the same time Dropcam hit the market and started generating all of its buzz.

Incidentally, at about this same time the copper gutter downspout was stolen from the side of our house, kicking my desire for an improved security surveillance solution into higher gear. So the big question became, "what cameras should I use?"

While closed circuit analog cameras have been the historic standby in the security space, with the "Internet of Things" taking over every aspect of our lives, it seems like a web/network based IP camera is the way to go.

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Comments 11

We hope your holiday and New Year was a relaxing and non-strenuous one, spent with family, friends, and way too much food.

Wendy and I spent time with our parents and Christmas with Wendy's very large extended family, and with good friends for a low key New Years. But before we headed out of Alexandria, we noticed a little holiday magic had returned to our neighborhood.

If you're a long time reader, or you've stumbled through our archives, you may have be familiar with the Old Town Llamas. These two stuffed and fuzzy creatures periodically adorned a neighbor's front window, dressed in an outfit to celebrate an upcoming holiday or event. They've been disappointingly absent for the last few years, causing great sadness among all aware of their existence.

Well, I'm very happy to report that the Llamas have returned for this holiday season, complete with Christmas lights and a shiny red nose. You've not heard of Rudolph the Red Nosed Llama? That's a shame.

Whether they're on a comeback tour or this is their swan song, we're quite happy to see them again.

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Comments 10

Is anyone else in complete denial that tomorrow is the last day of 2014? I can't believe how fast this year has flown by, and in true fashion, I've been so focused on Christmas that I roll into new year's eve feeling generally unprepared and burned out. Even though hosting another party or cooking an extravagant meal is the furthest thing from my mind, I still like to put together a little something special to celebrate the new year. A nice bottle of bubbly and an appetizer or two are just the thing to casually enjoy at home or with a small group of friends in order to mark the passing of another year. 

One of my go to appetizers that looks elegant, tastes great, yet is relatively simple and easy to assemble is this recipe for walnut and goat cheese stuffed endives. It's great for gatherings at any time of year, and can be easily doubled to accommodate larger groups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine walnuts and 1 tablespoon of the honey and spread in an even layer on the baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes, or until the walnuts turn golden brown.

While the walnuts are baking, combine the remaining tablespoon of honey, vinegar, and 3 tablespoons juice from the mandarin cup in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).

Wash the endives and carefully peel the leaves, cutting off and discarding the core. Fill each endive leaf with 1 mandarin orange section. (Note: I've also made these with fresh cut orange sections and freshly squeezed juice. It's a great alternative and tastes better, but it's a lot more time consuming.) Top each section with 1 teaspoon goat cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts; arrange on a plate. 

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Comments 2

Over the past few years Wendy has asked Santa for just one simple thing, yet each year it seems to be the one thing he's failed to bring.

Her wish, though not a pony, Frozen soundtrack, or power tool that's new, would ultimately require a lot of effort and proved to be much harder to do.

While many people may wish for extravagant bobbles, toys, and trinkets, Wendy's wish was far more practical than a pair of Super Bowl tickets.

Wendy's Christmas wish was so simple, in fact, for she merely had dreams of a functional clawfoot tub where she could soak and relax.

Each year she hoped and wished her bath might just appear, but her elves failed to make it happen year after year. They had other projects, blown deadlines, and lots of excuses get in the way, but one thing was consistent, no tub to this day.

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Comments 14

There's little "good information" out there regarding the rehabilitation of a salvaged clawfoot or other cast iron porcelain enamel tub.

Whether it's a tip that is immediately contradicted by another, or simply a complete lack of real photos or high detail before and afters, finding information on how to proceed with this step of our restoration has been hard to come by.

For this reason I've decided to go a bit more in depth about our efforts to first clean, and then restore the interior of our salvaged tub without going the nuclear route.

What's the nuclear route? A complete re-coat spraying of the tub that's more traditionally offered by tub "refinishing" outfits.

It seems like there are overwhelmingly two approaches to tub restoration throughout the internet, and they are:

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Comments 8
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