Saturday, January 14, 2017

Week One Without Home Internet

To Recap – Limitless, our internet provider, went bankrupt.  Windstream, our other option out here, has lines running to the farm that are so old and degraded that the signal barely gets here – the service is barely more than dial up, at High Speed prices.  We’re hopeful that River Valley Internets new tower will reach the farm, but it’s not turned on yet..  so rather than buy into one of the ridiculously overpriced, limited, options like exceed or hughes net (and we aren’t actually sure that either of those would work at the farm anyway…) we’re going to see how hard it is to live without internet at the farm. 

We have 25% of our phone data left, with 13 days left.  However, our daughter heads back to college, where she has constant unlimited wifi, tomorrow, so that will help.  (Our youngest is in air force basic training for 8 weeks – with no access to his phone - that is helping too.)

A quick look at my data usage shows that I’ve used 1.08gb on google chrome, .87gb on facebook, and .46gb with my phone as a mobile hotspot.

So my biggest issue is adjusting to not reading every article google now shows me.  I’ve habitually clicked on the links and read those stories without thinking about data usage, because before I was always on wifi.  Many of them are pure time wasters anyway.  The same goes for facebook – the majority of my usage there is clicking on links and reading stories people posted..  more time wasting that I really should work on eliminating anyway.

Meg has been downloading Netflix shows when we are on wifi, and watching them here at home with no wifi – it’s worked really well for her.  We haven’t tried casting to the big tv yet, she watches tv on her phone while she’s working on other things.  Currently we have so many shows on our dvr, there hasn’t been any need for us to look for more tv options.  But we might download the new lemony snickett movie when out on wifi today, just to see how it works casting to the big tv.

Tips For "Surviving" Without Home Wifi - 

Tips For “Surviving” Without Home Internet

1. Use your phone as a hotspot.  I was impressed by how easy it is to connect my laptop using my phone.  Just remember to plug your phone in, it will drain your battery fairly fast.  On my phone (Samsung Note 5, Verizon Network) I simply chose “Mobile Hotspot” from the drop down menu, and followed the instructions.  After the key was added to my laptop, for future use all I had to do was click on the mobile hotspot button and my laptop automatically connected, as it does to any other saved wifi hotspot. 

2.      2. Know where the local free Wifi is.  For me, in Watsontown PA, I’m finding our local libraries, and The Well (At Christ Wesleyan Church) to be the best options so far.  But my moms house is also an option I took advantage of this week. Panera & Sheetz also have free wifi.  Our local Sheetz (Lewisburg) was sooooooooo slow, I left and went to the library instead.  This map may help, but it did not show our local libraries, so it's not a full list - 

        3. Download Netflix while on wifi.  This is a new option – you can download Netflix shows while on wifi, to watch when you do not have wifi.  This is also going to be great for long flights and while traveling in general… (Link to how to use Netflix on wifi)

             Update to the latest version of Netflix in the iTunes or Google Play app store.
 It needs to be a version that was launched on or after November 30, 2016.

Open Netflix on the device you wish to store content on.

Tap the menu button on the top-left side of the Netflix application.

Tap “Available for Download” in the list on the left side of the screen.
If it’s a movie or TV show, look for the download button.
( It’s a small arrow facing down to a flat line. Tap that.)

Once you have movies and TV shows downloaded, you’ll be able to access and stream them even when you don’t have a connection. 


        4. Keep a to do list for when on Wifi.  When I am on wifi, I don’t want to waste too much time.  So I keep a list of what I need to do.  Updates are pretty automatic, but I do check my phone to make sure I don’t have to authorize any updates before they occur.  I have my phone photos set to back up on google photos when I’m on wifi, so that happens automatically too.  But I need to be reminded to download new books to my phone, check the latest shutterfly deals, upload photos, etc.  I keep an entire folder on my laptop for when I am on wifi.  It has subfolders for blog posts I’ve written and will post when online, for photos I want to upload to facebook, and a notepad to do list of things I want to research and download while online.
      5..Use spotify.  Yes, it costs, but it also saves a lot for our family.  We can download our playlists to play offline.  Our data usage dropped significantly with the family subscription to spotify.

6.       6. Use an offline newsreader.  I'm currently trying Pocket - it has an app for android and an extension for chrome

7.       7. Make sure of facebooks “Saved Articles” feature.  Rather than reading every article that sparks your interest, save them for later.  Then when online, open the articles you have saved and save them to an offline newsreader.


My biggest inconvenience so far is my limited access to  I’m not truly limited, I can use my phone as a hotspot – but I feel like I should limit that.  At a time of year when I usually spend a LOT of time on genealogy, this feels like a huge inconvenience, yet it’s probably a blessing in disguise.  I’m planning out trips to genealogy libraries in our area, most of which have free wifi, and I plan to make my rounds.  I can spend a day using both the wifi, and all of the resources in their libraries, for a little gas money and usually a $5 a day fee – and it will get me out to libraries I haven’t visited in awhile, where hopefully I will find more resources.

Timeline - What We Experienced When While Our Son Was At Air Force Basic Training

 Week 0 & Week 1

Our youngest is off at basic training at Lackland Air Force Base.  This is our second son to go through this, but 4 years later, we’re finding this journey just a little bit different..  so if you are reading this a few years later, there many be many more changes.  This is a time line, as we experienced it in 2017.

Our son was set to swear in on January 3rd 2017, so he was required to appear and sign in at the hotel near MEPS by 5pm on January 2nd.  This first week is Week 0 of training.

January 2nd
4:45 drop Matt at Hotel.  He signed in, took his bag to his room, and attended a briefing.  We went to a nearby park and took a walk.

5:45pm – roughly – Matt called to say he was free until 10pm.  We picked him up and went to the mall, where he made a build a bear with his voice recorded in it, for his fiancĂ© for while he is away.  We went out to dinner at Chick Fil A, then went to Applebee’s for dessert, where the guys could watch the football game.

9:40 – we dropped Matt back at the hotel and said our goodbyes, not sure how much we’d be able to see him/hug him the next day.

January 3rd
We arrived at MEPS at 8:30am, as instructed, for Matt to swear in at 9am.  There were sooooooo many people that day, that they ended up splitting the group in half, so Matt actually swore in much later.  We sat for quite awhile before Matt joined us.   The red cross provided snacks and coffee in the cafeteria. This was a long morning of sitting and waiting.  We’d sit with Matt for awhile, then he’d be called to a briefing, he’d come back to us for a minute, then have to leave us again…  finally he swore in:

After he swore in, they had to wait for the van to come back from shuttling the first group to the airport, so we got some more time with him.  We were all kicked out of the cafeteria at lunch time, lunch was served only to those who were enlisting.  Matt was getting on the shuttle immediately after lunch, so he came out to the lobby and said goodbye to us, then went to lunch and we headed out.

Later in the day, when he had a layover between flights, we received a few texts.  When he landed in San Antonio, he sent another text telling us he had no time to call, but that he was there safely.

January 4th
We received a very quick phone call letting us know he arrived safely, and giving his his address.  He was not able to chat, just to give us his address.

I joined the Air Force Wing Moms private group for his flt.

January 6th
I created a basket for our hall with books of stamps, envelopes, return address labels, and labels with Matt’s new address that can be quickly affixed to any envelope.  There are also a stack of self addressed stamped envelopes to add to some of his letters, to make it quicker and easier for him to write home.  I write to Matt every single day, and send a SASE at least once a week.
I also have a folder on my computer labeled “Letters to Matt” where I save random jokes and things from the internet that I think will make him laugh.  I print them off periodically to add to his letters.


January 9th   - Week One
(less than a week after he arrived in Texas)
We received a post card in the mail with his address at BMT

AF Wingmoms list of what Week One may be like for our trainees - 

January 11th - 
In the Wingmoms Group, a moderator posted this schedule of what our sons days may be like - 
So this is how a Typical Day in BMT for your loved ones is going to be for the next 7.5 weeks – there really is no typical day in the Air Force BMT, however here is a breakdown of how a day might proceed.
0445 Reveille 0500 Downstairs in formation. Get ready for PC (Physical Conditioning)/ exercise.
0500 to 0600 PC...This will alternate. One day you run, the next day you do aerobic exercise.
0600 to 0615 Breakfast 
0630 to 0745 Dorm setup
0745 to 0800- formation to march to class
0800 to 1130 Drilling, classes, records checks, shots, uniforms issue, etc.
1130 to 1230 Lunch/ Canteen sanitation/ dorm check
1300 to1700 Classroom/dorm instruction
1700 to1800 Dinner/ Mail call
1900 to 2045 Set up the dorm for night time/ pick up and drop off dry cleaning. Fold laundry and clip strings/ shower and set up night displays/ Dust downs and details
2100 Lights out (bedtime)

January 12th
For todays letter, I copied and pasted 5 pages of commentary from a sports website, recapping the play off games and speculating on the outcome of the upcoming play off games.  Next to his family, and his dog, I’m pretty sure football is what he’s missing most.  5 pages is TOO THICK to send –  in my opinion - but with some careful formatting changes, and printing on both sides of the paper, I had it down to 3 pages which made a normal sized letter.  Others from Matt’s flight have received papers about graduation, but we have not received anything since the post card with his address.  Mail is typically about a day slower for us than everyone else – we’re fairly rural in a rural community.  For the first week,  I take Matt’s letters directly to a post office to be mailed, because I know he will get them quicker. 

January 14th 
Another member of the wingmoms group for our sons flight received her first letter today.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Party Games For Large Groups

We love cards and board games, but when our crew gets together, there are just too many of us for most board games, which often only allow 6 players. Before the holidays this year, I went on a search for some games we could play when there are 9, 10, or 15 of us.

Partners In Pen

Items Needed: A bag full of random objects, a paper, a pen and a bunch of friends.

Take the tablet and pen out of  the bag.  Add  random objects from around the house to the bag—you’ll want 2-3 items per a team.

Hand one of the partners the tablet  and a pen and hand the bag full of random objects to the other partner.

Now ask the player with the bag to describe 2-3 objects, one at a time,  without naming them or telling what is it used for while the other partner tries to draw the object. 

Then flip to a new page in the tablet, pass the bag and tablet to the next team, and repeat., with them choosing different items from the bag.

Likes & Dislikes

Items Needed: Index Cards, Pens

Ask everyone to write down 5 of their likes and 5 of their dislikes on index cards. Help the younger ones by writing for them.
At mealtime when everyone is gathered together, read the cards one at a time and have everyone try to guess which relative the information belongs to.


React and Act

Pass out sheets of paper and pens to the players. Have each person write an event. Tell them to be creative! Examples of events can include:

  • Being surprised by a large, aggressive bear in the woods
  • You just won the lottery
  • You have just been proposed for marriage with an engagement ring
  • You just got fired by an incompetent boss
  • Making the game winning pass to win the Superbowl
  • You just fell in love
Once everyone writes an event, fold the paper once and place it into the bag. Divide the group into two teams.

Ask one person on each team to randomly select an event from the bag. Instruct them to react to this event, without explicitly giving away what the event is. Choose a time limit (usually 30 seconds to a minute works well) and when you say “Go!”, have all five people to simultaneously react to their event using exaggerated gestures, facial expressions, and their voice.

For example, the person who has just won the lottery could raise his or her arms and scream excitedly, jumping up and down. The person who has just confronted a bear might make a terrified look, shake in fear, and call for help. And so on. Each of the five actors can interact with each other, but they must stay “in character” and continue reacting and acting based upon what their sheet said.

Saran Wrap Candy Ball Game

Items needed - Saran wrap, tape, candy, two dice.

This is one we've played here, and it was a lot of fun!  It's really great for large groups of teens.  I found the game on this site, when looking for an activity for all of the cousins to play one Christmas.  

She specifies not to use plain saran wrap, but that's what I had, so that is what I used, and it worked great.

The game is simple.  Before hand, wrap candy in saran wrap, one piece at a time, making one large ball with layers of candy in saran wrap.

Have everyone sit in a large circle on the floor. give the first person the ball of candy, and the person to their left two dice.  When you say "go", the person with the ball tries to unwrap as much of it as possible, while the person with the dice rolls until they get doubles.  As soon as they get doubles, the ball moves to them, and the dice to their left, and you repeat around the circle.  You must stop unwrapping as soon as doubles are rolled.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Signing Up For Birthday Freebies

With my birthday coming up in December (along with my husband & daughter in laws birthdays) I thought this would be a good time to make a list of places to sign up for birthday coupons and freebies.  I'll update this after my birthday, with the ones I actually received....  

ACE HardwareSign up for ACE Rewards and get a $5 off coupon on your birthday.

This arrived in my account on the first day of my birthday month.  :-)
Free Auntie Anns Pretzel

 Arby’s: Get a free milkshake on your birthday when you register with Arby’s.  PLUS - When you sign up to get deals through email, we'll give you a coupon for a FREE ROAST BEEF CLASSIC with purchase of a drink.

bareMinerals: Join the Friends and Benefits Program, and they’ll send you a gift on your birthday.

Brusters -  "A Special Birthday Gift"

CVS: Join the CVS BEAUTY CLUB &   and get $3 in ExtraCare Bucks every year on your birthday.

Dunkin’ Donuts: Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

This one costs money to sign up for.  You can add as little as $2. Be sure to google "Dunkin Donuts Perks Code" to make sure there aren't  any extra deals for signing up at the time you join.  You get a free beverage just for joining, another free one for your birthday, and whatever you load on your perks card (as little as $2) you use for any purchase.   You will also receive a free drink every time you earn 200 points.

Friendlys -  As a BFF, you get first dibs on awesome perks in your area plus a ton of tasty sign up benefits (like these). 25% off your next visit and a free scoop, $1 off 2 Friendly’s ice cream cartons, 
Weekly deals and promotions, Free birthday sundaes and cake discounts for you and your children

 Hallmark: Get a free card and a coupon for 20% off one item when you become a Crown Rewards member.  You also receive a coupon for $5 of $10 if you sign up right now.  When I completed the sign up, the screen showed my crown club card, complete with barcode.  I was able to scan the barcode shown on my laptop with the keyring app on my phone, and add it in.  The keyring app is where I store all of my loyalty cards.

Helzberg Diamonds: Request a catalog to receive a birthday surprise.

Jersey Mike’s Subs: Get a free sub and drink when you sign up for the email club.

What is this about a free birthday sub?
Every year on your provided birth date, we will send you a one-time use coupon for a free regular sub and 22oz fountain drink. The offer is valid anytime for the next year. Your Email Club subscription must be confirmed at least 24 hours before your birthday to ensure your receive the offer, otherwise you will receive it the following year.

Moes -  Free Burrito on your birthday.  Want to be in the cooler than cool club? Of course you do, especially since it means you get hooked up with a free cup of queso right out of the gate and a birthday burrito. Plus, you’ll get access to new menu items, crazy contests, sweet deals and inside jokes

Panera - Free pastry on your birthday

Payless - 20%   off  on your birthday

PerkinsJoin and get 20% off. 
Be the first to know about our promotions and get exclusive offers starting with a 20% off coupon just for joining and a special gift for your birthday.  Add your family members ages 12 and under so they can get birthday gifts too! The birthday emails will be sent to your email address. 

Pizza Hut - I'm  unclear what the birthday gift is, but you get free cheese sticks just for signing up .

Qdoba - "The Qdoba Rewards program is getting a facelift. Our rewards site and the in-restaurant program is temporarily under construction from November 21, 2016 through December 4, 2016. But not to worry, we are using this time to move your points and visits over so when you login on December 5th, everything is perfect.

For your troubles, we’ll be adding 100 points to your account for every day we’re offline allowing you to score points without any effort."

Red Robin: Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.  (this  arrived on the first day of my birthday month,  and  is good for the entire month)

Redbox - free movie rental 

Ruby Tuesday: Sign up with Ruby Tuesday, and score a free burger on your birthday.

Starbucks - free drink on your birthday.  Like Dunkin Donuts, this requires a purchase. Add a gift card to the app to get started.  (Earn free starbucks giftcards through swagbucks)

Subway: Sign up for the Subway Rewards Program and the sandwich-making company will add 20 points to your account on your birthday. FYI, 20 points will get you a free 21-ounce fountain drink (20 points), a free bag of chips (15 points) or two free cookies (10 points each).

Swagbacks: Get 50 free Swagbucks on your birthday.

Texas Roadhouse: Sign up for the email club, and get a birthday gift.

Ulta - Free gift for your birthday, changes each quarter.   When I entered my ulta membership number into the keyring app, there was a $3.50 off $15 coupon in the keyring app.  (There are often coupons in the keyring app)

Victoria’s Secret: Sign up for an Angel Card, and get a birthday gift worth $10.