Christmas 2022

December 30, 2022 1:23 pm

Christmas was on a Sunday and school / work ran through the Thursday before. So we kind of ran into the day. School and work, school and work, then Friday, Saturday--boom--Christmas.

I spent almost the entirety of lead up baking. On the 23rd I made a bûche de Noël using the same recipe as my birthday cake (chocolate cake, vanilla instant-mousse filling, and chocolate buttercream frosting). It's not the traditional French recipe in any form, but it tastes better. I wasn't sure if the cake recipe would take to being rolled, but it worked well enough. I used a half recipe and baked it in a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. I messed up right at the end of preparing the cake and added a full amount of boiling water, but I also messed up and cooked it for the usual length of time. Thankfully those two mistakes seemed to cancel each other out and it came out fine.

On Christmas Eve I spent the day baking fresh baguettes to eat with fondue, and rolls for dinner the next day. I also worked with the girls to make sugar cookies using dough I had prepared the day before. Jess baked a chocolate fudge pie.

The evening rolled in and we ate our now-traditional cheese fondue with a variety of dippings: fresh baguette (so good), vegetables, apples, & crackers. The recipe Jess came up with this year was, by far, the best yet and will likely become the go-to recipe in the future.

Then we each read a story in the living room in front of the faux-fire. I read The Polar Express, Corinne read a booklet Heather wrote last year, titled Christmas Is, about what kinds of things makes Christmas feel special to her (which includes: picking out a special tree, decorating the house, the Christmas chain countdown, driving around town to look at lights, and reading a Christmas Eve story [among others]), Heather read Winter Candle, and Jess read The Night Before Christmas. The cats joined us for the stories and Phoenix even let me get a picture.

The girls each opened presents from each other (novelty socks and slippers!) before leaving out egg nog and cookies and heading to bed. And eventually the house was calm and quiet and the Christmas Magic happened.

Christmas morning started in the dark with Heather waking us up to say she didn't feel well and had a headache. Then waking us up again a bit later to reiterate not feeling well and then she threw up. So it was a rough start. By that point everyone was up and moving and she felt much better after throwing up. We'd chalk it up to over excitement, but she also had a fever, which seem harder to fit into that narrative.

Anyway, she was feeling better so we got the show on the road at about 6:45am.

My Christmas Tree Tells me when it's Thirsty - Redux

8:02 am

Last year, I built a float sensor to tell me when the tree needed water.

This year I found a water sensor that accepts leads and I thought I'd try it out and see if it would work or if being wet would drain the battery. I grabbed an Aqara Zigbee water leak sensor ($15 at time of purchase) and some old wire to use as leads; hooked up the leads and ran them into the tree stand and mounted the sensor on the outside.

I left the float sensor in from last year, but it seems to be getting gummed up and not rising/falling smoothly, so it's not really working anymore. It looks a bit messy, but the tree skirt completely hides it.

I also bought a funnel, spray-painted it green, and stuck a hose on the end. The funnel sits about 4.5 feet up the tree around the back and the hose runs down into the stand. It was like $15 for the funnel, spray-paint, and hose. Well worth it.

So now the tree sends us a notification when it's thirsty and we add water through the funnel until it says it's happy. It's amazingly convenient. One of my best ideas. No more crawling under the tree trying to see how much water is there, finagle a pitcher around the branches, or figure out how much more to add!

My Home Assistant automation is really simple, when the sensor goes dry, send a notification to my tablet and to Jess' phone. Since it's a real water sensor I don't have to muck about telling the system to pretend it is one.

Someone should make a tree-stand water-level sensor that just lines up five sets of leads onto a piece of plastic, then you would get readings for "full", "3/4 full", "1/2 full", "1/4 full", and "dead empty." I'll probably add a 2nd sensor next year so I get "low" and "full" at least.

Ready for Christmas

7:45 am

Pictures from getting ready for Christmas this year. We went and got a tree on the 11th. We like grand firs, but they tend to not last as long, so they're not stocked until a little later in the month. We went to Home Depot to see what they had, but first we had to wait for someone to come out and open the tree pen. While waiting we did see that they had a sign for grand firs, so there was hope.

An employee came out and let us in and they had one bin of grand firs, about 10 trees. So we found the tallest one and called it good. And then the employee gave it to us for free, just because. He said he'd been giving out the first tree each day for free and we were first today. Hard to argue with free tree!

So we brought it home and Corinne and Heather performed the ceremonial "Freeing of the Tree."

I got the lights on and the next day Jess put on ribbon and on the evening of the twelfth we put on the ornaments. London was becoming greatly concerned about all of this. Some time ago Jess bought these little bird decorations at Target. Corinne desperately wanted to use the branches I trimmed off the bottom of the tree for something so we made "nests" for the birds and distributed them throughout the house.

And, finally, the outside decorations. I put the arch in the yard and ran some fishing line from the tree to the house to stabilize it. Our whole street is pretty well decorated, which is fun. The wineries in town run a holiday lights trolley tour which comes down our street 3 or 4 times a night. So we're officially a destination.