Tips to Know Before Exploring the Great Outdoors

During this time of year, many of us are spending a good bit of time outside, and summer is particularly enjoyable for hiking and camping.

One real risk you face in spending an increased amount of time outdoors or in wooded areas is encountering what I like to call “problem plants”, such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

While coming into contact with any of the three wouldn’t be any fun, in case you do, knowing the signs of irritation and what to do if affected are very important.

Before heading outdoors, go online and research what each of the plants look like and where they are commonly found. A great resource is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) site https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/identification.html.

If you come in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, the irritated skin will be red, swollen, and itchy. In severe cases, small blisters can crop up, and clear fluid may seep from the skin.

What to do if you get poison ivy, oak, or sumac …

  • Do not scratch or rub the inflamed skin. Compresses of cool, clean water can be soothing. Aspirin and similar pain relievers can reduce pain.
  • Steroid ointments will speed healing. Mild preparations such as hydrocortisone are available over the counter, stronger medications by prescription.
  • Remember that the best treatment is prevention.

Stay away from areas with these problem plants and keep your summer a happy, healthy one.

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4 Fun Water Activities for Kids

Summer vacation is here and that means hot weather and kids with plenty of time on their hands. Heading to the community pool is not always an option. Having a few water games on tap can help keep the kids cool and entertained. While running through a sprinkler is always popular here are a few water fun ideas that are sure to be a hit this summer:  

  • Bubble Pie – This game requires some aluminum pie tins, a hose, two buckets of soapy water, and two empty buckets. Divide the kids into two teams.

    Put the two empty buckets on the opposite end of your yard. When the whistle blows each team leader dunks the pie tin in the soapy bucket and runs to the empty bucket and dumps it in before heading back to pass off the pie tin to the next in line. This continues until everyone has had a turn. The team with the most water in the bucket wins.

  • Water Limbo – Use the water stream from the hose as a limbo stick and see just how low those kids can go. The one who gets the lowest, without falling, is the big winner.

  • Water Balloon Cut-Up – This game will be sure to get the kids wet. Make five long water balloons for each contestant. These will be the hot dogs they have to slice. Give each child a plastic knife and when the whistle blows they will all start “carving“ the water balloons. The first one to pop five balloons is the winner.

  • Squirt Bottle Barber – This super fun game requires squirt bottles, swim goggles that cover the nose, and shaving cream.

    The kids are divided into pairs and one slips on the goggles and covers their face in shaving cream while the other gets a squirt bottle filled with water. When the “go” signal is given the squirt bottle barber, who is standing about five feet away, starts shaving their customer. The goal is to wash away all traces of the shaving cream, the team with a clean face first wins.

We hope you and your family are having a fun, relaxing summer so far!

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6 Tips For Keeping Man’s Best Friend Safe on July 4th

The Fourth of July is just a couple of weeks away and if you are planning a big family gathering it’s important to consider your four-legged furry friends. Pets are always a big part of all our family’s celebrations – most of the time, they’re the life of the party!

While you may want to include Rover or Fido in all of the holiday excitement, the reality is that some Fourth of July events are not exactly pet friendly.

Here are a few tips from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) on how to keep your pet safe over the July 4th holiday:

  • Animals and Booze Do Not Mix – Be sure your guests keep track of their alcoholic drinks and don’t leave them where a pet may be able to lap them up. Alcoholic drinks can poison an animal and even a little alcohol can lead to intoxication or a coma.
  • Animals Don’t Need Sunscreen – Avoid putting sunscreen or bug repellent on your animal unless it is specifically branded for animal use. Dogs or cats could end up licking the sunscreen off. Ingesting these products can lead to diarrhea, vomiting or lethargy.
  • Don’t Feed the Animals Scraps – While your dog may enjoy table scraps, it is never a good idea to share food with them. A change in diet can lead to an upset stomach or indigestion. Foods such as chocolate, coffee and onions can actually be toxic and deadly to dogs.
  • Keep Glow Sticks Away – The luminescent substance in glow sticks or glow jewelry is not toxic to animals or humans but it can cause serious irritation of the gastrointestinal tract and lead to out of control drooling. The plastic bits could also lead to a blockage in the throat or intestines.
  • Fireworks are Not for Pets – If you plan on using fireworks, keep the dogs and cats inside. Even sparklers can be dangerous if a dog picks one up in their mouth or is burned with it. Loud fireworks can affect their hearing and scare them. It is important to pick up all used fireworks; they may contain dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, heavy metals or potassium nitrate.
  • Large Displays Are No Place for Animals – While you might enjoy having Fido with you at your local fireworks display, odds are that your pet will not have any fun. Large crowds combined with loud noises can be scary for your pet and if they manage to get away from you, the odds of finding them are not great. Keep them safe at home in a nice quiet area of the house.

For more tips about animal safety, you can visit ASPCA’s website at www.aspca.org.

From our family to yours, we hope you and yours have a very happy and safe Fourth of July.

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4 Tips to Help You Save on Your Summer Vacation

Are you planning your summer vacation? Most of us these days are happy to get any vacation, 
let alone one we can really enjoy on a budget. Vacations can get expensive quickly!

Here are some smart ways to save while still having a good time:

  • Research your destination thoroughly. The Internet and a good guidebook can help you find inexpensive hotels and restaurants. You may also discover free or inexpensive attractions and discover whether museums, parks, and other attractions offer reduced admission on certain days.
  • Stay outside the city. You may be going to a big city, but you don’t have to sleep there. You’ll find better hotel rates and cheaper restaurants a few miles outside city limits.
  • Go to the grocery store. Avoid the overpriced hotel gift shops for snacks and drinks. You should be able to find a local grocery store where you can buy cheaper (and healthier) supplies for your travels.
  • Drive efficiently. Before an extended trip, check your engine. Oil, air filters, and other components can affect your vehicle’s performance. On the highway, keep your speed between 55 mph and 65 mph for the best fuel efficiency. Don’t use drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants; idling your car while waiting wastes gas and pollutes the air.

Remember, you are on vacation! Make the most of your experience by always trying to just HAVE FUN!

In the case of an accident on your vacation, call our office right away to start the claim process and to find out about getting a rental car for your ride home.

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Father’s Day is 
Sunday, June 20th!

Father’s Day Fun Facts:

  • The first Father’s Day happened on June 17, 1910. 
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, some people campaigned to scrap both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and just have Parents’ Day – that never caught on. 
  • Father’s Day became more popular during World War II when the day was used to honor troops. 
  • The observance became an official national holiday in 1972. By this time Mother’s Day had already been a holiday for 58 years. 
  • Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June in many countries. 
  • Americans spend over $1 billion annually on Father’s Day presents. 
  • According to Retail Spending, Father’s Day is the 3rd biggest card giving holiday in the world.
  • According to the census, there are more than 72 million fathers in America.
  • Popular gift choices for Father’s Day (aside from a tie) include outings (golf, sports, or eating out),
  • electronic gadgets, clothing, gift cards, sporting goods, and music or books.

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The Seven Sides of Leadership

Have you ever read Pat Williams book Leadership Excellence? If not, I highly recommend it. He shares the Seven Sides of Leadership which are:

  1. Vision
  2. Communication
  3. People Skills
  4. Character
  5. Competence
  6. Boldness
  7. Serving Heart

Pat’s book has made a huge impact on the way I lead my team. Since reading the book the first time, I have seen improvements across the board.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Leadership is all about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.

Men and women of vision are people who have trained themselves to look over the horizon, to see what doesn’t yet exist, to see things others can’t see. Visionary leaders see earlier than others, farther than others, and more than others. Then they assemble teams of followers who catch that vision and hammer those dreams into reality.

A visionary leader can take a look at a plot of bare land and see a building already built. A visionary leader can look at an empty street and envision a victory parade. A leader starts with a vision and then works backwards from that vision, figuring out each step it will take to turn that vision into a reality.

Vision has always been a prime ingredient of leadership excellence, and it always will be. General Colin Powell put it this way: “I don’t know that leadership in the twenty-first century will be essentially different from the leadership shown by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and their colleagues two hundred years ago. Leadership will always require people who have a vision of where they wish to take ‘the led’. Leadership will always require people who are able to organize the effort of others to accomplish the objectives that flow from the vision.”

Sam Walton is a prime example of one of the world’s greatest visionaries in retail. In the 1950’s Sam bought a two-passenger plane to fly around the country to scout locations for new discount stores. Sam later wrote in his autobiography, Made in America: “From up in the air we could check out traffic flows, see which way cities and towns were growing, and evaluate the competition – if there was any. I’d get low, turn my plane on its side, and fly right over a town … Until we had 500 stores, or at least 400, I kept up with every real estate deal and got to view most locations (from the air) before we signed any kind of commitment.”

The vision principle of leadership is exactly the same today as it was in the ancient world. No matter what empire you wish to build, you must begin with a vision.

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Stay Safe in the Water This Summer

Sitting by the pool, heading to the beach, or getting the boat into the water are fun summer activities that many of us will be enjoying as the weather continues to warm up.

No matter how we choose to have fun outdoors this summer, safety should come first. There are some things we can do to take precautions and help prevent accidents. In case you will be around the pool, lake, or beach this summer, here are a few tips on how to stay safe:

  • Swim with a Friend – It doesn’t matter if you are in a pool, a lake, or the ocean, always swim with a partner. It is easy to get tired or develop a cramp while swimming, which makes getting out of the water difficult. Swimming with a friend means there is always someone there to assist you, and, if necessary, get help.
  • Swim within Your Limits – Know your limits when you are in the water. It is easy to get caught up in the fun and overdo it. Swimming out too far, especially in a lake or ocean can become a serious issue if you don’t have enough energy to get back to shore. If you are inexperienced or just learning, it is best to stay in water where you can touch the bottom.
  • Stay Close and Alert – When kids are in the pool always stay close and alert. Kids can get into trouble quickly. Be sure to stay close to the pool and always keep an eye on them. This is especially true if the pool is crowded.
  • Stick to Safe Areas – Avoid swimming in areas that are not monitored by lifeguards. Currents and rip tides can be deadly and are prone to change quickly. Always be aware of the area where you are swimming. Remember that swimming in an open body of water is quite different than swimming in a pool. Riptides and currents can quickly drain your energy. Be careful!
  • Wear a Life Jacket – If you are headed out on a boat be sure to have enough U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Children and inexperienced swimmers should have their lifejacket on whenever they are near the water.

Please keep these tips handy and use them to stay safe if you and your family plan on enjoying the water this summer.

Call or come by our office if you have any questions about your summer fun insurance coverage and let us know how we can help!

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4 Changes That Can Affect Your Homeowners Insurance

It’s now that time of year when many homeowners get to work on improving their homes. Many people like to use the warmer summer months to tackle home improvement projects that they’ve been thinking about through the winter. It’s important to remember that if you make improvements or renovations to your home, changes can affect your homeowners insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance is a necessity but one that many homeowners rarely think about until they need to make a claim. According to insurance industry stats, almost 20% of homeowners are currently underinsured. Homeowners insurance should be reviewed and updated whenever there are major changes to the value of your home or its contents.

Here are just a few circumstances that would prompt an update to your homeowner’s policy:

  • Major Renovations – If you have made major renovations to your home or added finished square footage, you should review and update your homeowner’s policy. Finishing a basement, installing a new kitchen, or updating a bathroom is just a few examples of improvements that can increase the value of your home.
  • Increased Liability – While adding a pool can increase the value of your home it will also increase your liability. If you have recently put in a pool or even just a trampoline you should have us review your policy and make sure you are carrying an appropriate amount of liability coverage.
  • High Ticket Belongings – If you are in the market for high-end jewelry, electronics, or artwork you should have a look at your policy. The majority of homeowner policies have a modest coverage limit on luxury items. A review of your policy will determine if you have enough coverage. You may need to up your coverage limits or add a rider to your current policy to make sure your high-end belongings are protected.
  • Security Upgrades – Upgrading your home could result in a discount on your homeowner policy. Adding a burglar alarm, hard-wired smoke detectors, or a sprinkler system can often lower your premium. The same is true of updating heating and cooling systems. If you have recently upgraded your home give us a call to see if any additional discounts can be applied to your policy.

Carrying the correct amount of homeowner’s protection is very important, and sometimes things can affect your insurance policy even if you don’t know it, like the changes above.

If you have made any changes to the value of your home lately please give us a call for a review of your policy. We’re here to help make sure that you and your family are fully protected.

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Recipe of the Month— Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

 

Do you love peanut butter? Do you love chocolate? If so, you will love this No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie!

It is smooth, fluffy, rich and the perfect blend of peanut butter and chocolate with only 4 ingredients.

What You’ll Need

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 (3.9 oz) package of instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 (1.3 oz) package of whipped topping

Directions

  1. Mix and crumble confectioners’ sugar and peanut butter. Put half into bottom of pie shell—reserve the remainder.
  2. Make pudding as directed on package and pour over peanut butter crumbs. Mix cream whip as directed and spread over pudding. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the remaining crumb mix.
  3. Chill and serve

Enjoy!

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Stay Safe on the Water This Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner. Next weekend is one of the most popular throughout the year for having fun on the boat, getting out on the lake or river, and relaxing. If you plan on getting on the water anytime this summer, or year-round, please be cautious and keep safety your top priority.

Boaters face a variety of safety concerns. In addition to watching out for other boaters, docks, and shallow water; boaters need to be on the lookout for submerged items that hover close to the surface due to low water levels.

Whether you own a fishing vessel, runabout, personal watercraft or a pontoon boat, boaters should look at their boat insurance policies to assure proper coverage for property damage and liability. Items on boats that should be covered include GPS tracking systems, fish finders, fishing equipment, life jackets, and other personal property left on the vessel.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Safe Boating Council recommend that boaters:

  • Take a boating education course
  • Wear life jackets as a rule. Most laws require having U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets onboard your vessel for all passengers
  • Do not mix drinking and boating
  • Know the weather and water conditions
  • File a float plan. Give the information to a friend or relative who can call for help if you do not return as scheduled
  • Observe the nautical rules of the water, including speed limits
  • Get a courtesy vessel safety check
  • Do not discharge oil, trash, or sewage into the water
  • Properly insure the boat and make sure it has sufficient coverage

Keep these in mind while on the water this Memorial Day weekend, and all summer long! For more tips, visit http://www.uscgboating.org/.

Need a boat policy or have questions about your current policy, call or come by the agency today. 

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