Unboxing My Mixed Fungi

My new adventure as a senior blogging. Computers today are becoming more and more frustrating. Upgrades are not always what they are marketed as, and we have lost control of making things work for us. I dislike not owning things anymore. You can still buy a painting but even if you pay for a song it can disappear and software is rented. Most of the time I feel many features are made intentionally difficult to solely encourage upgrades and later versions. Most time these are equally frustrating or even surpass the frustrations of earlier editions. Yet we passively send away more money to get the latest or pay rent money for features we will never use. Often I long for the good ol’ computer days when we could buy a simple version of a program and keep it as long as we wanted. Word is so bloated and complicated now I simply use a few basic features but pay a significant monthly fee. Openoffice but also has its limitation and has its own learning curve.

Today I want to try a blog. I started out with a Vlog and that would be a small movie designed to be published on some other program such as Youtube. With a straightforward Logitech camera (or what should be) and a mic and my tablet I tried to do an unboxing to try things out. Unboxing is when you get a product and record opening it up and getting it up and running. My unboxing was a package of soup I found in the Asian supermarket T&T. I drop in to the Asian market and purchase some little known (for me) item found in a recipe or a bag of fresh noodles I cannot find anywhere else. Often I peruse the aisles, totally absorbed in items I am not familiar with and wonder if it might be ingredients I might use to replicate an exotic meal I found in an ethnic restaurant. I do not buy unknowns often but a few days ago I was giving the packed soups a good look over and one popped out at me as “soup of the week”. It as a cellophane bag with a peek a boo pane exposing an interesting collage of soup suitable items labelled “Soup of Mixed Fungi”. What the heck, the instructions were translated and a minor investment so I grabbed a bag.

Lining up at the cash, the cashier and the couple behind me were both Asian and the cashier asked me if I had tried this before. Saying no, she laughed and said “very healthy”. The couple behind me spoke very little English and I no chinese but they both laughed in approval and said “haha so good” in a very likeable way. I knew I was off to an adventure.
Here I decided to combine my new soup with my new blogging effort and perhaps someone would enjoy learning about how easy or difficult it is to learn to blog and at the same time enjoy the experience of building a soup from another culture.
Before we follow the instructions I thought I might look up the ingredients and discover what might make this soup a medicinal soup as well as supper.
The ingredients: Ganedorma Lacidum and Ganedorma Zheeningense, Wolfberry Fruit, Preserved Dates and Red Dates, Coriolus Versicolor, and Radix Astragali. Inside each ingredient was packaged in smaller individual packages. I did a google on each item and found luck on matching some ingredients but not so sure on others. All items had online information of some sort and I felt comfy with everything. No bats blood or newt products that might require additional anxiety reduction research prior to boiling. Everything seems straightforward.
There are a lot of Ganedorma mushroom species. Some are described as Reishi mushrooms and are a fungus that grow in hot and humid parts of Asia on trees. They look and might be the same as those fungi that grow off of trees in Canada. Mushrooms have so many health beneficial molecules and some are hard to find in other foods. I am intrigued and beginning to look forward to testing my soup. Some health benefits are well tested and others more of a suspicion of positive effects and I will leave that to the health professionals that specialize in fungi. In general these can help white blood cell counts, boost immune systems, reduce inflammation, fight cancers, improve lymphatic systems, reduce fatigue, enhance well being, reduce anxiety and depression, positively affect cholesterol, and control blood sugars. No wonder those people around me at the cash were laughing in support with what I am about to enjoy.

Wild Pink & Spiny Scallops in a Creamy Tomato Fennel Pho Broth with Smoked Albacore Tuna and Black Oyster Mushrooms

This is one of those special moments, a recipe to look forward to. It uses sustainably caught seafood and is a blend of worldly flavors thoughtfully placed together in a memorable fashion.

This recipe was recently sent to us by Mike Levitt, a Skipper Otto member in Vancouver. In Mike’s words, “wow, wow, wow! Those Scallops are simply fantastic! I think this might be my best meal I’ve made with the fish.”

½ box Skipper Otto Scallops

½ can Skipper Otto flaked, smoked Albacore tuna

900 ml pho broth

1 shallot (finely chopped)

5 baby carrots (sliced into small rounds) or 1 carrot (cleaned & medium chop)

1 large garlic clove (minced)

1 inch fresh ginger grated

2 T fennel (same size as the carrots or slice the fennel ‘arms’)

30 g butter

2 T quality tomato paste

handful of Black Oyster Mushrooms (wiped clean and shredded by hand)

2 T sour cream

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan.

Once butter melted, gently fry onions, carrots, and fennel until translucent.

Add garlic and ginger and fry for about a minute – do not brown.

Add tomato paste and blend in well with the other ingredients.

Cook for about a minute to incorporate the tomato paste well.

Add the mushrooms (can use any exotic mushroom instead of oyster).

Then add the Pho Broth.

Once the broth is at a nice bubbling boil, add the frozen scallops and they will start opening after 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove about ½ cup of the broth and mix the sour cream into the cup.

Once well mixed, add back into the broth, mix, and gently simmer for another minute.

Prior to serving, mix the flaked tuna into the broth.

Once dished into bowls, garnish with the fennel fronds.


 the sour cream can be omitted.

Thanks to Tianna Barton of Skipper Otto who inspired the idea of adding the tuna.

chapter 1 -Sleeping at the Switch

Sleep Switch.

There is no doubt in my mind the importance of good sleeps. I can feel devastating results immediately following a night of poor sleep. A few poor sleeps in a row cause physical mayhem. Lots of poor sleeps feels like it is bringing on early death. I think it might be true.

I discussed my difficulties with delayed sleep syndrome with my family doctor and he said, “falling asleep should be the most natural thing in the world”. Perhaps for him it is, but for me it is a struggle crossing decades.

Switches are everywhere. Computers and computer networks are a series of billions or trillions of switches. We enter a room and switch on a light. We switch the TV. We switch on our car. Switches are everywhere and work pretty much without problems. So why is switching our brain from conscious state to unconscious state so elusive for so many. Why is the brain switch so misunderstood? Anesthesiologists can switch off your conscious easily. So do those addictive sedative-hypnotic medications.

There are many downsides of the pharmaceutical approach to sleep. Medication does not just stop at turning on the sleep switch, but it keeps working and interrupts our natural sleep cycles. Using sleep medications ends up with less REM sleep. This in turn reduces the restorative effects of a good sleep. For me the hypnotic sleep aids give me a next day feeling quite like an alcohol induced hangover.
Books written as well as professional advice for sleep disorders concentrates of two distinct directions of treatment. One, the physical approach, involves supplements like melatonin, restricting specific wavelengths of light, darkened rooms, exercise, eating patterns and many, many more suggestions. The other path deals with the mind, using techniques such as relaxation exercises, mindfulness, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, and many, many more. These treatments and recommendations seem to dance around the direct ability of switching between consciousness and sleep and avoid what my doctor refers to as the most natural thing.

I have spent many nights just before falling asleep wanting to remember what was going on just before the switch went off. I would love to replicate those natural phenomena. It should be easy and simple. Why does one cross over into unconsciousness and at the same time not being aware of the actual point of drifting off. It is like I stepped back and was not there for that part. Missing segments of a podcast, TV show or conversation seems to be more common with being a senior. The dangers of falling asleep while driving is documented but misunderstood consistently. Understanding how our sleep switch works continues to be a secret of modern science and so elusive.

Some techniques work towards a positive outcome. I have a library of books written solely on matters of sleep and anxiety. I have been fortunate enough to work my way through two six-month treatments in a sleep center, I have had uptakes into a six-month hospital outpatient clinic for depression and another six month one for anxiety. All good stuff in some ways but none providing the complete answer.

Next, we can talk about more specific solutions.

chapter II – journaling

Chapter II

Now that we have determined the sleep switch is in the metaphysical realm of understanding we understand why no one understands, but anyway we might be finding some solutions that work. I do hear that some adjustments work well for people that experience poor sleep from time to time. When time to time becomes a chronic disorder when I review sleep forums, I see few to no solutions that anyone comments, “wow did that work well for me, and my problems are solved”.
Sometimes I get discouraged when something feels like it might be working but ends up being short lived. I find when I work at solutions that will bring me back to normal sleep it can make things temporarily worse. The fact that I can go for a few weeks with improved sleep and then regress to poor sleep without identifying what happens. From times in therapy, I developed thought processes that desire evaluating your current position. Journaling helps from many different directions. The key area that most therapists work with is the transfer of thoughts from mind to paper so to transition brain activity to paper instead of playing with memory. Rumination is a dreaded default brain thought process for many people. I have not found any positive benefits but instead it is a negative process, certainly as it pertains to sleep disorders. When one goes over the same thoughts, repeatedly, without really getting any resolution, it works to write things down. The brain goes to a mode feeling that the thoughts will not get lost and relaxes the process.
You can also journal by keeping a pad and pencil at bedside and if some nighttime thoughts come to surface during the night, you can eliminate excess mental activity by moving those thoughts from your mind to paper and feel relaxed enough you can return to those thoughts at wake time leisure. Regretfully those thoughts are typically less creative than they felt at the time of awakening, but that is sufficient to realize why it is important to move them from mental memory to written memories. Unlike a computer your brain can only store so many thoughts without experiencing some sort of anxiety.
Sleep logs are a sort of journaling that can be beneficial towards understanding your sleep disorder. The logs are particularly useful when using techniques to change timing of your circadian rhythms. If you have delayed sleep phase disorder as I do, you can move ahead your sleep times a full 24 hours with the hopes of resetting the biological clock by making yourself so tired you fall asleep at preferred time. You can also do the opposite and set an alarm advancing wake up time on a planned basis in hopes that fall asleep time will coincide. While I cannot rule out these methods, I found these were temporary for me and the delayed circadian rhythm returned to night owl cycles. I also found that when attempting these techniques your functionality during the wake times dropped significantly while undergoing the process. For me I do not think it was the solution because it seemed not the problem. I have reason to believe it could have been after most of a decade on rotating shift work, a nightmare on long term health. I have lots of empathy for those that protect or serve us during nighttime and other odd shifts.
Some of the things that intrigue me about journaling and simple unwritten introspection are discovering subtleties of how the brain works. I was training myself to make mental notes of where I was at mentally before falling asleep and how I felt in the morning. In one particular ah moment I noticed when I woke up, my brain felt empty, and my thoughts returned to working fully by adding in three distinct layers of thought. I wish now I had journaled the process but basically it was like establishing where I was first then bang some thoughts as to what I had to do come to a working level and finally my brain seemed to load in some key worrisome issues I had been experiencing lately. This happened quickly but the first time I noticed brain functionality returning to me in distinct layers. I think now, very unscientifically, my brain releases me from anxious thoughts while in sleep phase but because I often wake up with new or resolved ideas the brain is working at a more efficient level. It is those anxiety related thoughts that affect my sleep, at least while trying to enter the off-switch mode, and then it returns later after awakening, but at a distinctively different thinking level. The anxiety returns after brain daytime start up sequence is complete.
This is my own interpretation of what might be going on in my mind that counters what should be the most natural process, my ability to switch to unconscious mode.

Now carry on to Chapter three

chapter III – the Amygdala

Chapter III
Anxiety and sleep, what the heck is happening? If you delve into philosophical thoughts on evolution and becoming modern day human, one stumbles on different theories of what it must be like living in a cave. What type of diet, how we cooked our food, weapons on hand, warmth and perhaps the most concerning that relates to sleep is when and what carnivores would enter my cave in the middle of the night? I would miss my tempurpedic mattress, the overhead fan, the lock on the front door and the proximity of the flush toilet. For the caveman and cavewoman and cave kids there was no such security and comfort.
An interesting read for me was Jack London’s book Call of the Wild. He was alone in the wilderness keeping a long-term eye on a wolf pack. He had some interesting experiments like watching how the wolves established their trails as theirs by peeing himself in the middle of the trail. He noted the wolf pack went around his markers and developed a new trail and respected his own ownership of that portion. When the wolf pack was ready to have their babies and way before automatic night cameras, he experimented with various techniques to make sure he did not miss the birth. He noted the wolves got up frequently and turned around in their beds and returned to sleep after becoming aware of their surroundings on a frequent basis. He tried it for himself and got up and turned around and went back to sleep but was up on a frequent enough basis he would never miss the births while still getting adequate rest. This might have worked for our cavemen too while protecting their family all night long.
If you are a caveman and feel as comfortable as you can with what you have, establish a way to find, store and cook your food, keep dry and warm, your biggest concern might be restricted to the moment a beast comes into your space and looking hungry. You have sticks and stones and fire to send him off and then you return to whatever cavepeople do day after day. This is where the theory of fight, flight, and freeze relating to anxiety comes from. When under attack the body has one main gland that reacts, the amygdala, and specialized in dealing with your body and fear. A key point is that scientists have discovered that the amygdala does not evaluate the urgency or quality of the fear before it has its response. The fear could be a tiger or something more irrational like a perceived (imaginary) threat and the amygdala reacts the same. Most of your body functions are immediately directed to the amygdala in reaction mode and you might become frozen or have a panic attack.
I have developed difficulty having telephone conversations under certain circumstances and as a result all phone conversations feel more uncomfortable than to most people. Most likely it was a starting out job selling life insurance half a century ago. The training started by the boss asking if you knew a hundred people. Everyone hesitates at that one but with encouragement most people can write down one hundred people they know, typically starting with family and then friends and then moving on to slightly more distant relationships. With a sense of pride, I turned over my list to my boss in my initiation period. Pride turned to horror when I discovered the bosses next statement was to call everyone on the list and try to sell them insurance. After ruining many friendships and family and friends of family you then get a cold call message. You are assigned a room and tossed a phone book, and you start to call one hundred people every working day. You come back in the evening to call those that are more apt to be home then. The company tells you that in 100 calls you should get 10 appointment and if you get one sale from those ten, they you are off to a good start and an average life insurance salesman. They also encourage you to push the more lucrative commission and company results type policies even if they are not the best policy for the person or family member you are pushing them too. I lasted almost a year and for the next fifty years I have suffered on many phone calls. At some point in my different careers, I got pretty good at marketing and felt pretty comfy with my pitches. I had a rare appointment with permission one day to call a CEO of a major company to do an introductory phone call to secure a huge account. It was a high stake, once in a lifetime type opportunity and at the given time I made the dialing. When the CEO answered in a friendly voice, barely got out my name and a hello when my throat swelled up and I could barely talk. It was a terrifying and most horrible experience. Fortunately, I had on the end of the phone a narcissistic CEO that only wanted to talk and talk, and I never needed much to say other than thank you and goodbye. It was a reminder of how powerful anxiety can be and how devastating it is with its entire control over normal body functions. It is suspect key factor now to rationalize how poorly I did on exams at university and later with interviews. Anxiety simmers away and even with awareness and therapy it is extremely difficult to address. Understanding the way, the amygdala has evolved to protect the caveman from life and death survival situations explains why the amygdala is such a powerful influence in our body, an autonomic process and so difficult to improve on by adapting to current requirements.
The key factors for the amygdala:
– Autonomic critical key function of the body
– Responds to stress, danger, or perceived danger
– When activated it responds indiscriminately
– When perceived danger is present the amygdala response does not shut down
– When functioning over long term the amygdala becomes desensitized and flows easily
– One output of the amygdala is cortisone a rather difficult hormone for the body to dissipate
– Cortisone is suspected to be a major contributor in disruption of sleep patterns.
If you are afraid or angry the body tends to react by fighting, or running away or just freezing in place, probably nature’s way of attempting to avoid detection.
The heart races and many anxiety-based body functions kick in. The body behaves poorly, and sleep is not the bodies best form of defense. I went through a period of my life in severe depression, and I slept almost twenty hours a day for weeks but that was avoidance and like running away with no place to go. If you have ever had a panic attack you know how real it feels and if you have been fortunate enough to not have had one, then just let me say at the time a normally normal person has little ability to tell the difference between the effects of anxiety and feeling of immediate terminal medical condition requiring emergency room intervention. Certain ways our bodies function provide little awareness and those autonomic functions that keep our hearts beating and lungs working also run some aspects of our operation that do not always work that well. Modern day stress response is one of them.

Next to chapter IV

chapter IV – solutions

Chapter IV
Still working on my solution to a difficult problem:
– I hope I explained why I think it is difficult to understand scientifically why sleep can be so elusive despite being such a primary way to restore our body.
– Why sleep can be so elusive despite being a natural function
– Why current solutions do not work easily or long term
There is some hope. I read so many forums where people discuss each other’s sleep problems and how they looked at solving the problems, but I also see very little success. I feel bad that in today’s world so many people are having sleep difficulties. It might even explain why many people are making so many poor life choices these days with demonstrations, divorce rates, disrespect in general, doubt, insecurity, and poor political choices. Maybe the world would be a better place if we could just all sleep better.
So, I keep motivated to find a sleep solution. One thing about being a senior with delayed sleep disorder I can change my life to accommodate wake up calls that drift into the daytime. Not all appointments can be made in the afternoon and sometimes it is better with wake with the birds, but if my heart seems to not race so much by getting an extra ninety-minute sleep phase or two while others go about their business, well its easier when older. This not my preferred solution to improved sleep but at least a solution towards improved health as a result more restorative time in bed.
Journaling and simple mood enhancements, such as thinking about five best of the day happenings just before bedtime, does make one feel overall better.
Making positive attempts to understand daytime sadness due to poor sleep is not really about sadness. Exercise and fresh air can do wonders with immediate impact if you understand why, you are feeling sad in an otherwise great or supportive environment.
My current direction with hope for solutions is directed at understanding abnormal cortisone levels because of anxiety. For me it would help if I knew that it really was cortisol levels that was high at sleep time but our current medical plans in Canada do not pay for cortisone testing. My physician tells me any test only spots tests and you body levels cycle to the point where results would be ineffective, and the tests are expensive. My pharmacist was unsure what I meant by cortisol let alone find me a private test. The internet has some tests available. Typically, you send in various samples taken at allocated times in the day and you can average out the results, but these are quite expensive. I must think about whether they are worthwhile. I found an article that told of new testing methods discovered that can determine cortisol levels over time by testing hair samples. I look forward to finding us more about this process as it become more readily available. In the interim I can just assume my levels are high and it might be the problem and I can work at ways to improve and slow down my amygdala production. I am hopeful there.
I read somewhere from what I considered a respected source at the time, that all the solutions like mindfulness and imagery and relaxation take months of practice and routine to make any worthwhile impact. I believe that but my ADHD brain type finds it extremely difficult to keep up the practice long enough to provide beneficial results. With everything I have read and from many respected sources I believe that all the mind-based techniques are the way to go including settling down a distracted brain. I have hope for the future and pleased in the interim I have found ways to minimize the negative impact of poor sleep.

Smart Homes For Seniors

Ever get frustrated with computers?  Do you ever feel it is something others get and you don’t?  If you have ever been frustrated with your computer, why would you ever want to put a frustration from your life into your every day life?   You might even incur a monthly fee to be so frustrated.  There are some solutions that can really assist with your life.  Those are the ones we want in place.


First a disclaimer.  This blog is not about explaining technology or making it simple.  I find it frustrating as heck and annoying.  I want to stay away from technology as much as possible.  Do you ever think about why a television works smoothly and is reliable?  Do you remember when the phone actually worked well.  It was the smart phone technology that made us stupid, and they are not smart at all, at least not for the customer.  They are designed to make the supplier very rich, not you.  A television works well because it has a single purpose.  My own TV has started to become a bit stubborn and not work so well, but this was only after Shaw cable felt if they complicated it up a lot they could make more money off you.  I never had a problem until I started to add features towards being a smart TV.  Stupid me.   I finally bought a new half ton truck and I learned from the dealer that I cannot listen to the radio with the engine off because all the on board computers might drain the battery.  I don’t know what those computers are doing when my engine is turned off but I was told they will drain the truck battery.  I remember my old Chevy pickup I could leave the radio on all day while working on my wood pile and have the radio blasting.


Electronic machines are stupid and they are best left to single task.  Every try to open up more than a few “windows” on your computer?  That’s when things begin to slow down or shut down.  Keep It Simple Stupid, KISS technology, is more relevant than ever, especially to a senior that wants to eliminate frustration in their lives.


Now keep this in mind as we make smart home technology work for us.  A few tips.  Think before you buy a package deal from a company motivated by sales numbers.  To make things work well you need to simplify and only use the smart technologies that are going to be actually useful for you. not for them.  KISS when you choose various sensors that input data to your system.  You might really like an open garage door alarm that you can check and make sure the garage door is closed before you go to bed.  You might learn to hate the light tied to a motion detector that goes on every time your dog walks by.  You might Kiss when you select a network (cloud technologies are often only useful to make a steady stream of monthly income for a service provider and not in the best interests of the customer).  I dropped into my accountants office one day and casually asked if he used cloud technology.  He proudly announced all his client data was automatically in his cloud.  When I asked where his cloud was located he gave me a blank stupid technology look that scared me.  Our sensitive important information is being given away to other countries and other cultures without the professionals giving it a passing thought.  Medical information and taxation and messages are all being stored on a giant hard drive somewhere where all those that pry can access.  Why would anyone use a cloud technology in cases where you do not know where it is going seems silly.  Perhaps you feel that your doorbell video or your alarm information is not important enough to others to rob it from you, but there are other consequences.  Your wifi has to be up and running to communicate. and with that communication comes another word called latency.  Often the cloud service has a lag factor and this can be frustrating when it comes to doorbell communication.   It takes time to go back and forth to a cloud server and sometimes the network can be difficult and take longer than normal therefor not predictable.  Some cloud technologies are important but then the ones that are not should not be grouped in and given away just because it makes sense to the equipment supplier.  Whose friend are they?


I quickly found out that you do not have a lot of choices when it comes to building a smart home.  I visited several home and garden shows or renovation shows and quickly caught on that the vendors there were making their cash flow from the cloud portion and not the equipment.  If your equipment is for your own safety and convenience then why would you buy from a company that was making money off the service not the equipment.  Several told me they were giving the necessary equipment free.  No thanks.  As I keep telling my son that few things are free in life and you pay for those apps with other transactions of value outside of what they are telling you.  Facebook makes billions from where exactly?  I will look at my payment statements and see the last time I sent them money.  Soooooo I decided I would buy my own equipment and manage my own cloud equivalent.  Not an easy task.  The smart home technology suppliers seem to be set up to make money off you on a monthly fee or are interested in a $100,000 range install in those fancy homes.  I would bravely tackle the alternatives.  Wish me luck!


KISS when you try to combine too many things in one service.


I hate how many remote controls I have on my side table.  The ones I forget what each button does.  I have one controller upstairs that shuts off my TV box that is one the right and the one downstairs is on the left.  Well you can imagine what happens day after day after day.  I decided I needed some advice from my audiophile store manager.  I do buy the occasional item from him but he has never added on a charge for all the free advice he hands out.  When I discovered Harmony controllers were on sale I thought it was time to investigate.  I ended up buying two although if you are hoping for a review of how well they worked for me you will have to wait as they are still in the original packaging at this point.  What he did do for me is to ask a simple question following my inquiry as to the differences between the fancy ones and the basic ones.  I wanted to know if it was worth those exorbitant prices they deluxe models have.    “How many  devices do you want the controller to operate and what are they?” I had no idea and it was time to do an inventory of my toys at home that benefit from a remote controller mechanism.    I went home with paper and a pen and decided to do a walk around the house.  First there were a lot more devices than I remembered.  Add in those remote control curtains I just bought and the list was getting longer all the time.  I sent an email to the curtain manufacturer and asked if they could be operated by a Harmony controller.  They were not I was told.  Darn it was hard to eliminate controllers.  They were like a curse all piled up on my side table ready to confuse me.


When you make the decision to automate you really should do some household inventory lists.  Do you want a glass break at every window or maybe a motion detector pointed at each room would suffice.  What about a camera outside that caught people that should not be there.  Would you still want window entry identified.  You might if you wanted to simply know if you had left a window open before you go to bed.  You need to put some thought into your initial list.  I wanted some leak detectors.  I have some lights and curtains that are harder to reach to turn off and I love remote control for these items.  I love my smart technology that works with me not against me.  I have a remote controlled blind that I no longer have to step into the bathtub to raise or lower it.  I love that technology.  Some things now I cannot imagine life without it.  I also have technology I do not like and is useless for me but might be exciting for you.  It is not an out of the box experience that the home show sales people want you to believe.


Before you get all crazy in picking up sensors and going mad with those simple installations, you have to do a few more things.   If you do not want to incur monthly fees and sending your data out the door, then you need to look at hubs and bridges.  There are some fancy systems and hubs available but quite often the sophisticated technologies need a programmer every time you need a change.  I went to my local discount supplier after looking around for Control IV technology.  I immediately was subjected to a sales pitch as it could only be used by professional installers and additional monthly fees.  I did pay a small consulting fee to have one sales person come out and do a survey of my house.  he had lots of good ideas and I was up front that I would not be buying any equipment from him that I was not personally capable to setting up and operating.  They were good about it but it was a further sales pitch.  The consultant that toured my house told me in confidence he had a small condo with over $70,000 retail pricing product installed, but justified it by employee pricing and needing to test technology out that he was recommending in the field.  somehow I believe I am just as safe in my house as his but he might get a picture of the crook.  I don’t have $70,000 worth of stuff for them to steal from me.


What do I want then?  Pick a hub out that will work with a wide range of product and is readily available at a reasonable price.  the hub is the brains of your system and most signals will come to your hub and then the hub will warn or inform the person that needs that information.  When you buy a product that is not recognized by your hub for whatever reason.  Perhaps the device is proprietary or talks a different language the hub does not understand.  then you need a bridge.  This functions as a translator so your communication is understood by one hub.  Keep bridges KISS.  The more fixes you introduce the more room for failure or miscommunication are opened up.  When there are no bridges available such as my motorized curtains that are not compatible then you might be better off with two systems rather and avoiding blending these systems together.


That is a busy start to a smart home.  Inventory as to what you already have, listing your needs, finding the sensors and choosing a hub are all time consuming and not simple.  KISS is already in jeopardy by the simple fact it is unlikely you will find one supplier to fill all your needs.  Another factor is the industry is young and it expands and retracts and so many changes.  I chose a supplier that is readily availably and visible and has most of my needs available already.  I chose the Home Depot Wink II.  You might like one of the others and to be quite frank amazon and eBay are excellent ways to buy this stuff and have it delivered right to your door.  I just happen to be more hands on.


There is more to the story and we can continue with another post someday.  We can talk about hub languages and where you set up your equipment.  There are potential problems to avoid and some I have yet to introduce.  There are some serious safety items out there and some unnecessary.  Heat controllers and smoke detectors are all another story for another day.  Be careful so they get you less than you expected and keep in touch to share our stories.  We can live cheaper and more safely as a community but only if you contribute. 🙂

When its time to leave the old job.

My work environment had changed dramatically.  My long-term employer switched from an employee focused company to a shareholder focused one.  Along with that corporate change, my desire to retire accelerated, it was a change where I felt the consequences right away but severely underestimated the extent to my health.  I bet the entire corporate world has underestimated their actions over the last decade or so.

Sixteen years have passed since my experience, and even now, thoughts still stray to retirement some day, but past naïve thoughts have evolved and I look forward to entirely different things and I am busier than ever.  Retirement was not in the cards but a change in attitude certainly was and change in the right direction provides an abundance of satisfying opportunity.

AgingIsMyHobby.com started because of an “aging in place” renovation my wife and I tackled early in 2017.  The planning stages date back much further.  This is how a simple renovation became a small cog of a big mechanism and became part of an intensive journey of freedom in aging, or aging gracefully as some refer to, and like Freedom 55 but vastly different.  My Freedom 55 only meant release from a shareholder based company but became a springboard to a much better life.

Planning is a great mental exercise and dreaming is most rewarding when awake and both great tools against dementia.  In the process mistakes will happen and can be costly.  We have uncovered several shortcuts, learned from so many mistakes and had fun discovering lots of cost savings. Now is the time to share our experiences with others that might have similar dreams. This is a story of our adventure in home renovations, retirement dreams, hurdles and accomplishments all focused on extended quality of life.   We hope you share in this project by adding comments, questions or any other input, then we will all learn and grow and have fun with this as a community.

What Problems?: Hurdles and Strengths

Needing A Plan
After years of fundraising for children in the Dominican Republic, a Dominican born Canadian friend talked me into visiting the DR to see the five schools we had built. We took a month and rented a car and toured all the nooks and crannies of the DR. I fell in love with the country and after a few return trips I moved with the intention of retiring in a sub tropical location. Paradise! Eventually my wife and I purchased a hilltop villa and planned an extended stay. The plan included selling our Calgary house and using the proceeds to build a smaller one level house in Nova Scotia. A decision had been made. Shortly following Freedom 55 career departure, I set up a 4X8 sheet on top of two Ikea horses. I had a large map of Nova Scotia laid out and began a study of the province in detail. The First thing I did was to research the hospital facilities and mark them on the map with little red sticky circles I found at Staples. Not a lot of circles but I had a comforting layout of where medical assistance could be found across Nova Scotia. I then filled in each circle with the number of beds each facility had. After discovering the provincial hospital board was either closing some smaller hospitals or reducing emergency hours in places like Digby, I took the position that this trend could continue and reduced my selection to only a few hospitals. Each one had a penciled circle showing a one hour driving radius of each hospital. I was feeling smug that I had easily and responsibly reduced my “area to search for suitable housing” to a much smaller area. I liked this method. I then eliminated some that were a bit far from everything, such as Yarmouth and Economy and northern Cape Breton. Now that I was committed to winters in the Caribbean I needed to be close to the international airport. JetBlue was initiating regular flight to the new international airport in the DR. Perfect. The flights also luckily avoided touch downs on American soil that also required border security checks. I had nothing to hide but the attitude of so many of the customs officers was a nice to avoid if possible. All this left and area much smaller than what I had started with. I talked to my sister who lives in Halifax and eliminated a few more areas due to lots of seasonal bugs or more snow or other such obvious (only to the locals) reasons to choose somewhere else to settle. I settled on the south shore and Blomidon areas for reasons I can discuss elsewhere. If you choose a nice spot in say Canning or Margarete’s Bay, the best choices are not so many and quite pricey if a view is added in. We added in an acreage, slightly more remote from health care, but with an incredible view to build on and an affordable price. Now that some responsible choices were made from a Calgary basement location, it was time to pay my sister a visit and actually tour around these retirement locations.
After a local tour, I quickly decided it would be much better to use some local construction trades and build a perfect residence from scratch. I planned to build a large garage and begin to store material I will find at sale prices and make this project quite affordable. I talked to a family of carpenters that also had a lot of heavy equipment suitable for clearing and foundation work and I also talked to a small manufacturer of post and beam woodworking. It was starting to come together. I visited some map stores and a community development office. I learned that it was not allowed to build a garage prior to completing the house. This practically eliminated my potential to save expenses with an on site storage idea. I had brought my first utility trailer load of goods across Canada and now rented a garage to store my “stuff”. I even included some Alberta rocks so I could set up roots in a new garden while not forgetting the past.

Is expanding an empty nester house a silly idea?

This was not an easy decision, to invest limited retirement funds into a house that we once considered way too large for the two of us.  Our family home in Calgary was 2450 square feet over two levels plus an insulated but basically unfinished basement.  During my working years I had set up an office in the basement trying to do what I could to separate working and personal life.  There were moments when it was cold to work but outside of that there was some heat and lots of space, so it was a favored place to work and store “stuff”.

I cannot say exactly when and where our too big house would become a retirement project but there was a long list of considerations that shortened and expanded over time and at some point we decided to keep this as our last and final home.  There was a lot of discussion and idea tossing over a few years but I do remember the final straw factor just before we began to commit to financial investment.  We were needing a break, drained and not only cold from winter but using social media to track our snowbird friends from the far north.  I came up with idea first, “let’s find a spa location and go to a place to be pampered for a few weeks,  Perhaps California.”  In reflection I somehow felt I had needed an ashram here and there over the years.  When I watched Tom Hanks shipwrecked I thought to myself, what a wonderful opportunity to lose some weight and get in shape and eliminate toxins.  I was longing for my own deserted island, drinking coconut water, eating fresh fruit with no chemicals, no TV, radio commercials or energy draining distractions.  Hard work maybe but good hard work and related to survival only not ongoing fight or flight anxiety.  In other words being saved eventually but mostly from myself.   I saw Eat Pray Love on the bookshelves. I was curious but I could not bring myself to buy and read the book as I was wanting the adventure myself, not just to read about it.  I was the book research guy not the book read type.  I secretly dreamed of an ashram where I could detoxify and relax while working towards enlightenment.  Perhaps a two week stay at a California spa would suffice.

It did not take any significant research to determine there were many California spas eagerly waiting to take our money.  I remember jokingly saying to my wife, “we could build our own spa to use forever for what we would spend on a two week trip.”  Just when that became a bit less of a joke and more of a project I am not sure, but shortly after our basement became my aging is my hobby’ first project to actually  get past the drafting table.  The project not only became fun but draining, time consuming but speeding up time, a passion as well as a frustration.  It was not at all what I had planned but instead much more than anticipated, surprises from nowhere, a satisfying journey and it all turned out to become a passion covering all facets of aging in place.

For some inexplicable reason, one is mindful of those steps to avoid articles, but one goes ahead and does it anyway.  Here is my top ten list to consider before you decide this also might be for you:


  1. you can do most of it yourself
  2. I can save a lot of money by buying loads of stuff on sale
  3. you can limp by without a detailed plan
  4. I can just top up the budget for unexpected costs and it will work out
  5. I will not buy those things that will put me over budget
  6. it will not take up too much of my time
  7. it will not be too much of an inconvenience during the renos
  8. lots of people will be on board and love to help out
  9. project management or general contracting is easy for a small project
  10. this will stay a small project


Idea documenting is next: