Applying for TSA PreCheck Will Soon Be as Easy as Heading to Staples

iStock
iStock

TSA PreCheck is about to get a lot easier to access. The program, which allows pre-approved passengers to go through dedicated express lines at airport security, will no longer require hoofing it to an airport or other inconvenient sign-up center to file an application. Instead, you can head to your nearest Staples store, which will soon be offering PreCheck services, according to the frequent flyer blog View From the Wing.

Through PreCheck and Global Entry (its sister program for international flyers), travelers who go through a background check can speed through security lines at the airport without removing their shoes, belts, jackets, liquids, or laptops. After you pay the $85 application fee and get approved, you’re covered for five years. TSA says that most of its PreCheck passengers spend less than five minutes per airport trip waiting in security lines, so it essentially pays for itself as long as you run late for a flight at least once a year (or just really hate waiting in line).

Though the PreCheck program has expanded its locations in the past few years, offering application services in some H&R Block storefronts, DMVs, and other easily accessible public places, it’s still harder than it should be to enroll. From my hometown in California, for instance, the nearest enrollment center is almost 50 miles away. Even in big cities like New York, high demand and few enrollment centers mean you could be stuck waiting weeks for an appointment, depending on the location and time of year.

This summer, Staples will become one of the few national businesses to host PreCheck enrollment centers. The Staples PreCheck application program will be administered by the security agent IdentoGO, which already provides PreCheck application services at places like H&R Block, and will begin in Boston, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The first wave of the program will encompass 50 new centers, but eventually, the company hopes to expand it even further.

The lack of accessibility might be one reason the program initially fell short of its enrollment goals, signing up just 2.7 million members in its first three years. Now it has 6 million people on board, but that’s still a far cry from the 25 million the agency hopes to get enrolled in its trusted traveler programs by 2019.

It looks like you’ll only be able to apply for the domestic PreCheck program at Staples, not the Global Entry program. The latter, while a bit more expensive, comes with domestic PreCheck benefits as well as express service at U.S. customs.

[h/t View From the Wing]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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