Smart lighting can make your holiday decorating easier. Today on CTV Tech Talk I showed a selection of smart lighting: Continue reading “Top picks for smart lighting”
There are two types of people when it comes to lighting up the house for the holidays; the gung-ho Clark Griswold types, and those for whom the thought of climbing a ladder in the cold inspires dread.
If you’re in the latter camp, know there are easier ways to make your home festive thanks to technology.
Holiday Hack #1: Smart Plugs for Automation
Want to control your Christmas lights from another room, or even another city? Smart plugs like the WeMo Switch allow you to plug in virtually anything, from Christmas lights, to mobiles or animated figurines and turn it off an on with your smartphone or tablet. This works really well for tree lights in particular, since crawling under or behind the tree to pull out the plug is often a pain.
Smart plugs can also be used on automatic timers, coming on at dusk and turning off when you want.
Holiday Hack #2: App-connected string lights
MiPow, makers of Playbulb lights has come out with a smart connected string light for this holiday. These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all automatically. Best of all, these are for indoors or out.
With a kit like this you don’t even need a smart plug. Read my full review of String here.
Holiday Hack #3: Stick-up LED Lights go anywhere
Philips Hue String, Osram Lightify Flex and MiPow Playbulb Comet are just three great examples of lights you can stick anywhere for holiday decor. If you use removable 3M Command adhesive tabs, it makes moving them and removing the tape even easier.
Use these light strips on the inside of a window frame to show your neighbourhood your red, green or icy blue colours. Coil them into frosted glass vases for temporary colourful lamps, wrap them around large mirrors, or stick them under furniture for holiday ambiance.
Want to go to another level? Nanoleaf Aurora is a unique set of flat plastic panels that can be stuck pretty much anywhere; you can use them to create a holiday-themed wall decoration, and adjust the lights to flicker red and green or frosty blue and white.
Holiday Hack #4: Make a light-up Christmas Tree
Feeling creative? Why not use the Aurora to create a flat panel Christmas tree in a small space where a real tree is just not realistic? Simply arrange the triangular shaped panels in a tree shape, configure the panels to turn green (go for a gold on on top, reminiscent of a star!) and you’re holiday ready!
Read my review and all about the Nanoleaf Aurora here.
Table setting is an art, if you ask me. Matching dishes to napkins and selecting florals requires some level of flair which I struggle to achieve. That’s where I pull in smart lamps; I can turn the Mipow Sphere glass globe green to match my good china, or I can set the Philips Hue Go lamp to a cool snowy hue for a winter feast. The Go lamp also works well under the Christmas tree to give it some extra colour pop or by the fireplace.
Holiday Hack #6: Use coloured bulbs for decor
As I’ve written before, smart lights are an easy way to decorate your home for any occasion. Painting your room with light can warm up a room, cool it off, or give it a holiday theme with the touch of an app. Lights like Philips Hue smart bulbs can be set to holiday red or green easily, you can use LIFX’s ‘scenes’ to create a holiday glow, or employ a MiPow Playbulb to provide both a light show AND music from its built-in speaker!
Holiday Hack #6: Use the Internet of Things to automate … ANYTHING
If you haven’t experimented with IFTTT (If This Then That), you’re missing out. IFTTT uses apps and smart devices to create actions that happen automatically. I wrote about how you can use it to turn coloured smart lights blue when snow is in the forecast. But you can also use it for holiday fun. Need a quick lesson on how it all works? Click here.
If you own a smart doorbell and some smart lights you can use an IFTTT ‘recipe’ to play Christmas music on a Sonos speaker when the doorbell is pressed, and to set lights flashing green and red. Read more about how to do that, or to achieve the same effect with a motion sensor, via the Yonomi app here. You can also surf the IFTTT website for holiday light and sound recipes that have already been created and borrow one that suits you.
Do you have a Holiday hack or IFTTT recipe we should try? Post your ideas in comments below!
Christmas lights have been boring for much of modern history. They came in just red, green or white, they all looked the same, and they didn’t do much to incorporate themselves into people’s unique personal styles. That’s different now with the introduction of the PlayBulb String lights.
Playbulb: Smart LED holiday lights
These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all aotomatically.
Playbulb string is easy to use
I’m a fan of the Playbulb line of lighting devices because they’re dead simple to use; plug them in, and check the app. They’re likely already connected and show up in your app, but without all the fidgety set-up and configuration many other ‘smart’ lights require. You could even give these to older parents who aren’t super tech savvy, and they’ll be able to operate them easily — and without crisis phones calls to you for tech support!
These lights come in a string of 10 meters/33 feet, with optional extensions sold separately. It’s worth noting you can only go to a max of 66 feet on any plug/outlet.
Interestingly, I learned Playbulb is doing a Kickstarter campaign to get these lights to market, which I think is a very unique way to gauge customer interest in a new product.
“Our challenge here is to accurately estimate the required materials purchase for the first batch of mass production,” write the Playbulb folks on the campaign’s page, “KICKSTARTER is a perfect platform for us to test the market. We like to know how tech-lovers think about our new products. We need to hear your opinions so that we can keep enhancing our hardware and software. We also need your helps to spread out the message. With the fund we raise on KICKSTARTER, we will make materials purchase planning accordingly.”
Not surprisingly the campaign was over its goal in no time, and many of the kits are sold out (or about to be at the time of writing this).
Playbulb String works indoors or outdoors
After an afternoon of testing, I’m in love; the Playbulb line by Mipow works so well. It’s easy, fun and very versatile since these lights can be use either indoors or outdoors. They’re going to be a hit for upcoming holidays like Halloween (bright orange??) and definitely at Christmas.
I was rushing around and stressing about the holidays. My husband and I are leaving on a trip later this week, and I was frantically making a list of all the Christmas shopping I needed to do: get travel size bath and beauty items for the trip, pick up gifts for our neighbours and some things to bring as hostess gifts for a few holiday parties we’re invited to, plus I needed to stock up on snacks and treats for when we have guests over.
The longer I spent on the list, the longer it was getting: don’t forget the stocking stuffers (the mall on Christmas Eve last year was a full-on zoo!), pick up a few ready-to-give gift packs when someone gives you something and you forgot to pick up something for them. Plus I needed more wrapping paper…. UGGHHHHHH.
My husband looked at the list and said, “Can’t you get all that at London Drugs? It’s 5 minutes away, and you can avoid the mall.”
He was right, and I wish I’d thought of it first, but London Drugs would indeed have most of the items on my list, which would save me driving all over Santa’s half-acre, fighting parking duels at the mall, and plus, I’d only need to make one trip.
I wanted to high-five myself as I cruised into the London Drugs parking lot, but since that would be weird, I palm-fived the steering wheel; there were plenty of parking spaces, and I’d managed to avoid the traffic nightmare that lurks around most malls.
While the store looked busy, it wasn’t crazy, and there were so many people working. In fact one staff member saw me come in the front door and do that searching double-take people do when they’re trying to figure out which way to go, and came right over and offered directions.
I started off at the top of my list with the travel sized items for the trip. Into the mini-wheeled shopping basket went soap, shaving cream, shampoo and conditioner, and other sundry items. Nearby I snagged sunscreen and again felt smart, since that’s usually the one thing I forget when heading to a tropical destination.
Endless Gift Ideas
From there I started wandering the aisles, hoping some gift ideas would pop out at me; and they did. Slippers for my mother-in-law went into the basket, as did some hair accessories and a pair of flannel PJ’s for my niece, and a scarf for my sister. This was going to be easier than I thought! I was actually surprised at all the really nice gift items that were in stock. I picked up a really cool Stanley Growler-and-cup set for my brother too.
I also found the cutest retro-themed glass Pyrex food storage containers that I couldn’t leave without. I have a collection of retro Pyrex from the 60’s and 70’s that’s the envy of my sisters, so I thought this would be a perfect gift for them.
I couldn’t believe the luck I was having at checking so many items off my shopping list, so I kept going.
Stocking Stuffers Galore
I cruised the cosmetics aisle and picked up a perfume gift set for a coworker, and loaded up on things like Chapstick in several flavours, nail polish, and manicure sets that work perfectly in stockings. I picked up some magazines too, since those are a great Christmas Day afternoon entertainer. I also snagged things like socks and one of my tech must-haves, touchscreen gloves, that round out a stocking nicely.
Thinking I was done with all my stocking stuffer needs, I rounded a corner into what can only be described as Candyland. Every brand of holiday chocolate was stacked floor to ceiling. Not to mention small sized bars perfect for stockings.
Holiday Party Planning Made Easy!
A box of fruit jellies went into the basket for our neighbours, as did some candy canes and other assorted treats. Looking at all the candy reminded me I needed some snack items for when guests came over after we’re back from our trip south. Since we’d be back quite close to Christmas I certainly didn’t want to have to rush to the grocery store right away.
I often forget how well-stocked the food aisles at London Drugs are. Chips, crackers and a few assorted staples were added to the pile. I may need to hit a grocery store eventually, but my list will be significantly shorter.
Tech Toys for Everyone (Including Apple gear! and Smart Home gadgets)
Having had so much success so far, I decided to try my luck with a few more gift items, so I browsed the camera and electronics department. (I think at this point I was shopping for me!) I’ve written before about the fantastic selection of tech gifts London Drugs stocks, and since both my husband and I needed new Apple-branded iPhone charging cables, (but I’ve been dreading having to fight the crowds at the Apple Store) I just decided to grab those on the spot.
I also had a look at the new Fitbit fitness bands, and cruised the selection of cameras. London Drugs has pretty much every electronics gift that’s on anyone’s list including Microsoft’s Surface tablets, flat-screen TVs, as well as a personal favourite of mine; the Belkin WeMo line of smart home devices, which I personally love and have written about before. Right beside the electronics section was the small appliance empire where I could spend an hour!
Having had success with the adult gifts, I found the toy aisle and decided to try my luck. I found quite a good selection of toys, endless games and a tonne of children’s books. I also found what may be my crowning glory this Christmas; a lava lamp for $20 for my tween nephew!
The lava lamps were such a great deal, I decided to pick up a second one for a great initiative at London Drugs this year: the Toys for Teens Campaign.
Help for the Holidays
While underprivileged small children benefit from numerous donation campaigns at Christmas, teens and tweens often get overlooked, so London Drugs partnered with Jack FM Radio for the 8th annual Toys for Teens. The idea is to pick up a gift for a young person aged 10 to 17 and leave it in the donation bin right at the store. All Calgary donations go the Salvation Army Family Christmas Assistance Program. Donations in Airdrie go to the Airdrie Lioness Club Christmas Hamper Program.
While I went for a funky gift option, there were plenty of things like those fun new adult colouring books and pencil crayons, or even phone cables, cases and other cosmetics and beauty items that would go a long way to making a less fortunate tween or teen pretty happy this season. Particularly given the economic climate this year.
With my basket now overfull, it was time to go.
In all, I was in and out of London Drugs in about an hour, but while I was there, I got great friendly service and my bill was more than reasonable for everything I piled into that little wheely basket.
While I was a bit ahead of the game this year, normally I’m not, so I’m going to give you a piece of advice: if you want to avoid the mall, and still get everything on your list, London Drugs is the go-to destination for stocking stuffers, holiday treats, gifts and even all those last minute items you’re going to need.
This blog post has been sponsored by London Drugs.