Thumbs Up: A Google Street View Surprise

The City Apartment via Google Street View

The last time I looked at the Google Street View of our city apartment, it was a scene from a few years ago. I know this because a car that we used to own, a 1989 Volvo station wagon, was parked in front of our building. Sometimes when I would get lost in regret about selling Beverly, as we called our trusty old wagon, I would pull up our address on Google and stare wistfully at her.

To help guide some relatives who might be staying at our apartment over the Christmas holidays, I once again visited our neighborhood using Google’s satellite technology. It was immediately clear that the Street View car had visited our again quite recently. For one thing, the big old tree that used to live in front of our building is gone in the new Street View images. That tree was cut down this past summer, much to my chagrin, so that was my first tip that the new images are fairly recent. For another, the interminable utility work that has been happening on our block is visible in the Street View images. And for one lucky member of that road construction crew, this was his chance to be immortalized by the Google cameras:

Hi Mom! Getting Snapped by the Google Street View Camera

I can practically hear the worker saying “Hi Mom!” as the Google Street View mobile passed by. I’m a little disappointed he didn’t do something a little more outrageous but he probably didn’t have a lot of time to think of a post before the car passed him by.

If you’ve never seen the Street View mobile in action, it’s a site to behold. The brightly painted car has a big red ball affixed to the top of it. It kind of looks like a lady bug on a stick attached to the car. I’ve seen the car in action a few times but I’ve never been in a position to strike to funny pose. If you’re curious about the Street View car, Google has a site with information about where the car is currently mapping, as well as some background information about how they turn photographs into 365 degree maps.

Google Street View Mobile

Go practice your pose, folks. You might be captured by the Street View camera any day now!

Images: 1-2. This American House. 3. Google.

Christmas Traditions: Candles in the Windows


Christmas is really perfectly timed in the Western Hemisphere. The days are really short (the sun set at 4:30 PM yesterday) and the nights are especially dark. So it’s quite convenient that we deck the halls with festive lights during the month of December.

I’ve always loved the tradition of placing a single candle in each window of a house – especially in older homes with lots of big windows. Ah, classic Christmas.

It’s said that this tradition of placing a single candle in an home’s window dates back to Colonial times. According to an article from the Westlake Bay Village Observer,

The candle was often placed in the window when a member of the family was away. The lit candle was also placed in the window as a sign of good news or as a beacon to weary travelers. Candles also represented friendship and were seen as a sign of welcome to others.

In early America, homes were often miles apart. The sight of a candle in a window from a distance was a sign of “welcome” to those wishing to visit.

While apparently not strictly a Christmas tradition, the practice has been appropriated for the holiday season. But the practice is also rooted in Irish heritage. According to

The candle in the window at Christmas symbolizes many things in Ireland. It’s still a favorite traditional Irish Christmas decoration, harkening back to that ancient Christmas Eve when Mary and Joseph could find no shelter. It is a symbol of Irish hospitality – a way of welcoming Mary and Joseph…and any travelers who might happen to pass by looking for a warm place to stay.

In the days when it was illegal and even dangerous to practice the Catholic faith in Ireland because of the oppressive Penal Laws, the candles seen in the windows of Irish homes at Christmas also signaled traveling priests that this was a home where they would be welcome and where they could safely conduct the traditional Irish Catholic Christmas Mass.

We don’t have windowsills at This American House but we do back at our condo in the city. I came across a big bag of electric candle lights at a thrift store last year so I lugged them back to the city and put them in the windows. The window candle tradition seems to be all about a message of welcoming. I can’t think of a more delightful way to say welcome home.

Image: This American House

Nest Protect: Making Our House a Little Smarter (and Safer)

Nest Protect | This American House

Maybe it’s because I love gadgets or because I grew up watching The Jetsons but I’ve been obsessed with smart home technology for years. One of the first things I did when we moved into our house was install the Nest Thermostat. And we love it. Not only can we monitor the house’s temperature from our phones, we can also turn up the heat when we’re on our way home. Now it’s time to start bringing in some other smart home products. Next up: the Nest Protect smoke detector.

Nest Protect Packaging | This American House

The folks at Nest have definitely taken a cue from Apple when it comes to design and packaging. The Nest Protect is packaged quite handsomely and includes easy to read instructions. I appreciated the fact that there’s a label instructing you to set up the Nest Protect using the app before installing it. I’m totally the kind of person who would get the smoke detector completely installed on the ceiling before realizing that I should have set it up first.

Installing Nest Protect Smoke Detector | This American House

My initial desire for installing Nest Protect is because we’re away quite frequently and I wanted to be able to monitor the house from afar. The fact that Nest is a whole lot more stylish that old yellowed smoke detector that has been attached to the ceiling for what seems like a couple of decades is just a bonus.

Old vs. New Smoke Detector | This American House

Installing Nest Protect was a cinch. Since we had previously installed the Nest Thermostat, we already have the Nest app on our phones. Syncing the new Nest Protect with the Nest app took just a few minutes. Then it was simply a matter of switching out the old smoke detector with the new one.

You know what’s even better than a stylish smoke detector? A smoke detector that talks. And a smoke detector that warns you that it’s about to get loud.

It’s alive! And very friendly. I love the @nest lady’s warning. “The alarm is loud.”

A video posted by Jason Loper (@jasonloper) on


The fact that the Nest Protect has this charming female voice helps me feel like we’ve adopted a robot or something. Although it also makes me worry that she’ll someday go crazy and start to self destruct.

I hope that we never have occasion to use our new smoke detector. I hope she gets to just hang out on the ceiling and occasionally ask to be tested.

Images: This American House

Pic a Day: Leaves, Shadows & Blue Sky
November 11, 2014

Delbert Meier House | This American House

I snapped this photo before the rest of the leaves were gathered and burned. We made a big effort to clean up all the fallen leaves this year. The house sat neglected through much of summer and fall last year and by the time we closed on it at the end of November, there was a layer of snow covering everything. That made for a very labor intensive spring clean up. With the help of our friends Steve and Joan, we got the yard all cleaned up and ready to go for the winter. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready for snow!

Image: This American House

Happy Anniversary to the Delbert Meier House

Delbert Meier

On this date exactly 97 years ago, November 10, 1917, the Meier family moved into their newly constructed American System-Built House. At the time, Delbert Meier was a 37-year-old attorney; his wife, Grace, was 38. Daughter Esther was 12, and her younger sister Martha was 8. What an exciting day that must have been for that young family, moving into their beautiful architectural wonder of a house! As you can see in thew local newspaper clipping above, the Meiers’ move-in date was big news.

The Meier family would go on to occupy the house until the mid-1960’s. Martha and Grace grew up and moved out in the late 1920’s but Delbert and Grace stayed on. Delbert passed away (probably IN the house) in 1959, coincidentally the same year that Frank Lloyd Wright passed on. Grace remained in residence until her death in 1964.

Delbert Meier and Grace Meier, Monona, Iowa | This American House

We stopped by the cemetery yesterday to pay our respects to Mr. and Mrs. Meier and to thank them for building this grand house. We feel like we’ve adopted the family as much as the house.

The Mister and I are coming up on our one year anniversary of living in the house. We haven’t gotten very far in the projects we have planned for the house but we have enjoyed every single second we’ve spent here. Thanks again, Delbert and Grace Meier, for building this gorgeous home.

Images: This American House