Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keep Dreaming

Think back. As far back as you can recall.
What was your dream?
When you were four?
When you were twelve?
When you were nineteen?

What happened to that dream that was seeded in your heart during the first quarter of your life?
What are you doing during your second, third and fourth quarters of your life to bring that dream to fruition?

Maybe working out that dream looks different than you expected it to at four or twelve or nineteen, but these dreams were seeded in your heart in childhood for a reason. It's never too late to pursue these deep-seeded dreams that may be lying dormant within your heart.

The dream hasn't die. It simply needs nurtured in order to grow.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Free WiFi!

Honestly, I don't think that it matters who you are, hearing those words seems to make any person's day. Being a constantly connected society, having access to an Internet connection with any reasonable amount of speed can make most people giddy. It seems that we are getting to the point that most retail establishments offer some type of Internet access while you wait or dine.

On the road, we are constantly looking for an Internet connection so that we may update our apps and software, connect on Facebook and check email, and to write blog posts such as this one. A recent step that we have taken to help out with a more reliable connection and speed while not taxing our cellular data plan is to install a system to extend to existing wifi networks that we normally would not be able to access from our campsite. Thanks to our friends at Full Time Families for their initial write up on this system and to Steve for showing me how his setup works, I went ahead and purchased the hardware that I didn't have on hand and got to work. Below, you will find links to the products at Amazon. I already had the cabling and router on hand, but have included links to those as well.

The installation of the hardware was the easy part for me. I spent some time planning out how I wanted the wiring to be run down into the RV and then began with a Lowe's run to get the last few things that I needed. I planned on mounting the antenna to my TV antenna so that I could raise and lower it easily for travel.
Material to mount the antenna
I needed to create a bracket since the U bolts would not fit around my TV antenna in the down position. I used a piece of 1 inch angled aluminum that I cut two 4 inch pieces off of, then pre-drilled holes to line up with the antenna holes for the U bolts. I didn't want to screw the angled pieces onto my antenna and risk nicking the TV antenna cable or the screws getting loose over time, so I very permanently mounted it with some JB Weld. I used the Kwik Weld, since I am familiar with the product and was ready to move quickly. If you have never used JB Weld before, use gloves and have a lot of disposable surface available (read cardboard or plastic). It is a very permanent bond, with at least a 3000 psi breaking rating.

So my antenna is not going anywhere.

Once I attached the bracket to the antenna, I ran the cat 6 cabling to give the JB Weld time to cure. My TV antenna sits next to my front air conditioning unit, and I was able to find a path for the wire to come down into the RV there. I was unable to fish the wire through the ceiling, so I opted to use some wire mold to conceal and support the wire over to the router.
Clean and polished.
Once that was done, I went back to the roof to finish the installation. I attached the antenna to my bracket, hooked the bullet to the wire, and then connected the bullet to the antenna. A few cable ties to keep things neat, and Voila!

The unit raises and lowers very easily and with little strain. I am happy with how clean the installation ended up being, albeit the fact that I cannot adjust the antenna up or down, but it is 14 feet off of the ground, so I think that reception will be alright.

There really aren't any setup instructions for the software on the bullet, but the company does offer a wiki and support forum for questions and troubleshooting. I was fortunate to have someone familiar with the interface that could field my questions. Being someone who is enough of a techie to be dangerous, I found it simple enough to use. Once the initial settings are taken care of, it is just a matter of logging into the bullet and selecting a wifi network to connect to. I have already noticed a huge difference in power and reception. I am able to 'see' 3 times as many networks as before. The down side is that even though I can 'see' some networks, they are not powerful enough to be able to communicate back and forth enough for me to use them.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

3.14 (a.k.a. Pi Day)

One of the joys of homeschooling is being able to create lessons that are meaningful to where we are, what is around us, and structure lessons around our lives.

Well, today being March 14 (3.14), we celebrated Pi Day with our kids. How did we celebrate? Well, the kids made a pie, of course!

Some of the lessons that we learned, aside from what pi is and how it is used to find the circumference of a circle included:
  • states of matter and how solids melt to become liquids
  • solid and liquid measurement of ingredients in our recipe
  • chemical reactions and how individual ingredients changed as they were mixed together and then also how they changed when exposed to the heat of the oven
  • division and fractions to serve equal parts of the whole pie to each member of the family

Caroline, Lydia and Ian observe the ingredients before mixing them all together.

Eliza takes her turn to mix the pie filling.

The finished product. A Toll House Cookie pie.
The kids made (with a little help from Mama) a Toll House Cookie pie. This is one of my (Stephanie's) signature desserts and I'm always asked for the recipe whenever I share this pie. It's incredibly simple and oh, so good. You might want to double the recipe and make two pies. Yes, it's really that good.

Toll House Cookie Pie

2 eggs
1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1 C. butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Preheat the oven to 325F. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add flour, sugar and brown sugar; beat until well blended. Blend in butter. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 325F for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.