Recent General Posts

Winter Weather Damage

4/5/2017 (Permalink)

Winter and the snow and cold that it brings can do some serious damage to a home’s exterior.

There are several very common problems usually brought on by the winter months, including damage done to roofs, foundations and pipes.


Insurance agents can share this list with their clients to help them check their homes for damage and give them an idea of what the costs will be to remedy these common problems after winter:


1. The roof

Ice dams and winter storms can do a lot of damage to your roof.

An ice dam occurs when snow on the roof melts, runs to the edge and refreezes there, forcing water back up under the roof where it can cause leaks and shingles deterioration.

At the same time, high winds, hail and winter storms can tear off shingles or drive moisture beneath them, causing further damage.

If you’ve found leaks in your roof, you’ll need to repair them to help prevent a complete roof replacement.


The average cost to repair roof leaks on a 10 foot by 10 foot area of asphalt shingles is around $650.

The total costs range from $500 for simply replacing the shingles to $1,750 to repair and apply a sealant.

The costs to repair a tile roof are around $,1500 for damaged steel tiles.

The total costs for this type of repair range from $450 for repairing metal flashing to $8,000 if the underlayment needs replacing.

Money-saving tips

  • Minimize the damage to the roof by tacking a tarp over the damaged area until it can get repaired.
  • Remove ice dams as soon as possible to prevent water from backing up beneath the shingles and causing more damage.
  • Remove the snow on the roof as soon as possible to prevent new ice dams from forming and causing future problems.
  • Look into getting better attic insulation, as this will help to prevent ice dams in the future as well.


2. Gutters

Ice dams can do damage not only to your roof, but to gutters as well.

That’s because the heavy ice building up on the edge can pull gutters away from the roofline.

At the same time, water freezing inside the gutters and downspouts themselves can lead to separations in some areas, which means that they’ll need to be replaced.



The costs of gutter repair range from new downspouts to a complete gutter replacement.

The average cost of installing new downspouts is $160, with a total range of $4 for a do-it-yourself job to $160 for a medium-size house.

The average cost of installing new gutter guards to help prevent damage is $200 for do-it-yourself on 200 feet, with a range up to $3,600 for 200 feet of luxury product installed.

The average cost of replacing your gutters is between $1,050 and $2,400 for 200 feet, with total costs ranging from $625 for a do-it-yourself job to $2,400 for professional installation. Money-saving tips

  • You can help lower costs by cleaning the gutters before winter begins and removing ice dams in a timely way.
  • PVC gutters and downspouts cost less than aluminum or copper, but you should choose what best fits your house’s aesthetic.
  • Heating elements are available that can help melt ice in your gutters all winter long; you may want to invest in these while having repairs done to help prevent problems.
  • Gutter screens are the easiest thing to install do-it-yourself, which can save installation costs in the future as well.


3. House exterior

Cold, snow and hailstones can also take a toll on the outside of a house.


This can result in peeling paint, which if left long enough, could mean that your siding can become susceptible to moisture infiltrating it, which in turn can lead to wood rot and future repairs.

Repainting your exterior in the spring can help prevent these problems.


The average cost to paint a home’s exterior is between $2,500 to $3,000 for a 1,500-square-foot home.

The total costs range from $500 for a do-it-yourself paint job to $4,000 for homes that have a lot of trim and woodwork to paint.

Money-saving tips

  • Using multiple colors on your home can increase its aesthetic, but can also increase the total cost, as can having a lot of different architectural features or trim to paint.
  • Do-it-yourself jobs can save a lot of money. Be sure to scrape the existing surfaces well, then apply a primer and two coats of paint to avoid having to repaint again soon.
  • Aluminum siding and fiber cement can be painted to freshen up their colors and give a home a new look without replacing the siding.


4. Siding

If the paint has peeled enough on the siding of the house, moisture can begin to infiltrate, causing the wood to begin rotting.

In addition, hail stones or fallen tree limbs can damage siding, whether denting aluminum siding or cracking vinyl. Because the siding is a home’s first line of defense against the elements, it needs to be repaired in a timely way.


The average costs to repair siding range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the type of the siding being damaged, and the extent. Vinyl is the least expensive material to repair, as well as one of the easiest to do yourself, while aluminum is among the most expensive to repair with costs ranging from $500 to $900.

Money-saving tips

  • The cost to hire a carpenter to repair siding is around $40 to $50 an hour. If you are able to repair it yourself, you can usually save a considerable amount of money.
  • Both aluminum and vinyl are often replaced during repair jobs. Shop around to get a good color match so you don’t need to replace as large a section.
  • Repairing wood siding almost always will require the new section to be painted as well. Painting it yourself can help save on labor costs.

5. Driveway

A little known problem that can occur during the cold winter months is damage to a driveway.

Small cracks that develop naturally over time are the perfect place for water to collect. When that water freezes, it expands, causing what’s known as a frost heave. Frost heaves are responsible for large cracks, as well as potholes in your driveway, making just getting home a bumpy adventure.


Repaving your driveway can correct these issues and help prevent additional damage by eliminating those small cracks as well.


The average cost to pave a driveway in either gravel or asphalt ranges from $800 to $1,990 for a 38-foot by 16-foot driveway.

The total costs range from about $300 for a gravel do-it-yourself job to $14,880 for a driveway laid with brick pavers.

Money-saving tips

  • If you have a lot of curves or grades in your driveway, this can increase costs.
  • Sealing an existing driveway with tar can help prevent potholes and major cracks by filling up the smaller cracks before they have a chance to expand.
  • Gravel is a less expensive way to fill a driveway, but the small stones frequently get scraped away by plows, allowing rainwater to form potholes. Therefore, paving a driveway with asphalt may be a longer term solution, saving money in the long run.

6. The foundation

The same freeze/thaw cycle that causes cracks and potholes in a driveway can also affect a foundation.

Hairline cracks in the concrete of a foundation that develop naturally over time because of a home settling can expand during the winter months, causing major structural issues if they aren’t taken care of in a timely way.

Getting a foundation repaired in the spring can help prevent more problems from developing as time goes by.



The average cost to repair a foundation that has been badly damaged ranges from $5,000 to $7,000.

Costs can be affected by the need for an inspection, how widespread the damage is and what types of repairs that may needed. Small cracks that only require sealing can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while major cracks will require more extensive work.

Money-saving tips

  • If you need extensive work done on the foundation, you may want to get at least three estimates from different repair companies to try to find the best pricing for the job.
  • Remember that landscaping may be affected by foundation work. Nearby shrubs or plants may need to be replaced after the work has been done.
  • Having a trench dug for a well pump at the same the foundation work is done can help prevent problems such as flooding.
  • Always inspect the foundation each spring and seal any minor cracks you find to help prevent more extensive work.

7. Trees

Your home isn’t the only area that can sustain damage during a winter storm. Trees in your yard can also take a hit.

Heavy snow and high winds can knock down tree limbs, taking out power lines, damaging siding, and generally making your landscaping look a mess.

Getting your trees trimmed can help prevent this type of damage, as well as keep your trees healthy and looking great.


The average cost of tree trimming is around $591 per tree, assuming a total of five trees to be trimmed at once.

Costs range from about $227 per tree for a do-it-yourself job to $709 per tree for large trees during peak trimming seasons. All costs should include the equipment necessary to do the job and hauling away the cut limbs.

Money-saving tips

  • If you have a large number of trees on your property, and are considering having some of them removed, you can sometimes get your trimming done for free by allowing the company to remove a certain number of trees for their own use.
  • To ensure that the work is done properly, always hire a company that is registered with the Tree Care Industry Association. Do not allow workers on your property that wear spike-soled shoes, as these can damage the trees.
  • Check with your utility company before hiring someone to do the job, as some companies will trim trees located near power lines at no cost to you.

Take care of your home

Winter damage can become worse over time if you don’t take care of it in a timely way. Always make sure to inspect your home in both the fall and in the spring to repair any damage that could affect your home’s condition. By taking care of minor issues before winter, you can help prevent larger ones, while taking care of any damage after the cold weather has passed can help your home be ready for anything.


How to protect your home from burglaries: Thieves tell all

3/6/2017 (Permalink)

Nicholas Kyriazis estimates he's burglarized at least 100 homes, maybe as many as 150. So who better to explain how to protect your home from burglaries?

TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen went inside the walls of New Jersey State Prison, where Kyriazis is serving a 70-year prison sentence, to get tips on how to keep your home from being a target for people like him:

10 Things a Burglar Doesn't Want You to Know

  • Have a neighbor collect your mail when you're away. Mail in the mailbox signals burglars that no one is home.
  • Leave your car outside. "If there's no cars in the driveway, there's a good chance there is no one home," Kyriazis said.
  • Thieves often strike in the morning. Kyriazis told Rossen he typically did burglaries between 8 a.m. and before 2 p.m. More than half of convicted burglars surveyed by WNBC in New York also said they target homes in the morning.
  • Don't assume an alarm system will protect you. "Alarm system alerts me that the people are not home when the alarm is turned on," Kyriazis said.
  • Don't assume home security cameras will protect you. "People got money for security cameras, they got something in there they're protecting."
  • Have a neighbor watch your house. Kyriazis called neighborhood watch "one of the best things they ever started for burglary prevention."
  • Lock up when you leave. Many people leave doors and windows unlocked, and thieves take advantage. "I've never carried burglary tools," Kyriazis said.
  • Dogs can be a good deterrent. Kyriazis said a barking dog would give him pause.
  • Never engage a burglar. Thieves and experts agree that if you come upon a burglary in progress, the best option is to leave, find a safe place and call 911 immediately

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8 terrible places to be when lightning strikes

3/1/2017 (Permalink)

What’s the worst place to be during a lightning storm?

Standing in a wading pool at the top of the Burj Khalifa while holding a metal rod into the air would probably be the most correct answer to that question, but listed below are some more practical places to avoid when lightning strikes.

Under a tree

When a thunderstorm suddenly hits an open outdoor area, people naturally look for shelter. However welcoming a tall, isolated tree may seem during a downpour, it’s best to stay clear of it if you hear thunder.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning will typically strike the tallest object in a given space, as it requires the shortest distance between a cloud and the object with a positive electrical charge. Trees are also likely to be struck by lightning because the water and sap inside some of them acts as a conductor.

On a sailboat

Cruise ships and well-equipped yachts are no picnic to be aboard during a lightning storm but with a lightning protection system installed, the electricity will mostly be diverted to the water. However, less sophisticated boats like sailboats and rowboats are dangerous to be aboard when a storm hits.

The NOAA warns that when a boat’s masthead is seen glowing red, it’s a sign of an extreme electrical buildup that can attract a lightning bolt in minutes. That phenomenon, called “St. Elmo’s Fire,” is a sign to get below deck or off the water immediately.

Inside, talking on a land-line phone

Being at home or inside a building when a thunderstorm hits is the best place to be but it doesn’t mean immunity from lightning strikes. Weather safety experts recommend staying away from plumbing, walls that may have electrical wires and the telephone when lightning is in the area.

According to the National Weather Service, talking on a land-line phone during a storm is one of the leading causes of lightning-related injuries in the U.S. Using a computer that's plugged into a power source can also lead to injuries.

On open farmland

Any open space is a bad place to be during a lightning storm but farmers seem to be especially susceptible to fatal strikes. Some of the most common activities victims are engaged in include herding livestock and baling hay, according to the NWS.

Outside, a few minutes after a storm passes

Many lightning-related injuries occur once the weather has cleared, as people step back outside. Bolts can strike miles away from a storm and for this reason, it’s recommended to wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going back outside.

On a covered porch

Covered shelters are fine for protection against rain but they don’t protect against lightning strikes. The same goes for open garages or carports, where it’s safer to be inside a car with the windows up. Any shelter that isn’t fully enclosed, with a roof, walls and a floor, isn’t a safe place to be during a lightning storm.

In a tent

Campers have limited options when a lightning storm hits but staying inside a tent is one of the worst options. According to Environment Canada, “Lying on the ground in a tent during a lightning storm would maximize the chances of being hurt.” Experts recommend getting inside a hard-top car with the windows up in one of these situations.

On metal bleachers in central Florida

There’s a reason outdoor sporting events are quickly postponed at the first sign of lightning. Metal bleachers would obviously be a bad place to be during a storm but this goes especially for people in central Florida. The state sees more lightning strikes each year than anywhere else in the United States. In fact, an area from Tampa to Orlando has been dubbed “lightning alley.”


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Skier Goes Off 150-Foot Cliff, Survives Without a Scratch

1/27/2017 (Permalink)

A 25-year-old skier in Utah got the shock of his life when he accidentally went off a 150-foot cliff in a heart-stopping moment that was caught on his helmet cam. 

The harrowing situation occurred last week as Devin Stratton was following another skier’s track on Utah's Mount Timpanogos when he suddenly went over the cliff.

His helmet cam shows the complete fall before he hits the snow-covered ground. Miraculously, he walked away unscathed.

"I didn’t know that it was there and then mid jump and realized, ‘Oh, I am going to be paralyzed,' he told "I thought I was dead for sure. In my head I was praying, and when I landed and was still alive I was pretty stoked."

Stratton, who has been skiing since he was 14, is still in shock.

“I can’t believe it. I was more than lucky, it was definitely a miracle,” he said.

The student from Utah Valley University credited his survival to his sister, Rachel, who he says “died a little over a year ago of cancer,” and “was probably looking out for me.”

The fall lasted 3.08 seconds, the equivalent of falling off a 15-story building.

Stratton, who is also an avid climber, was with his buddy when the accident occurred.

“I first started yelling at my friend, Matt, to watch out because I felt that if he landed on me we would both die,” he recalled.

Stratton said his friend skied around the cliff and was shocked to see his friend alive.

The video, which was posted by his cousins, YouTube stars Brooklyn and Bailey, has gone viral.

Following the accident, Stratton went to the doctor, who at first questioned why he wanted an X-ray since nothing was broken and he was fine.

Stratton said he showed the video to the doctor, who then ordered the X-ray and showed the video to the nurses.

Stratton recalled that the doctor said, “I can’t believe you didn’t get hurt” and, “It is a miracle.”

Following the accident, he had this advice for fellow skiers: “Know where you are going and don’t trust people's tracks.”


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Preventing & Thawing Frozen Pipes

1/10/2017 (Permalink)

Being prepared and informed may help you to avoid the messy and often expensive issue of frozen pipes. The American Red Cross provides information and suggestions around how to prevent water pipes in the home from freezing, and how to thaw them if they do freeze.

Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the "strength" of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break. Pipes that freeze most frequently are those that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, water sprinkler lines, and water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets. Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation are also subject to freezing.
Preventing Frozen Pipes
Before the onset of cold weather, prevent freezing of these water supply lines and pipes by following these recommendations:
  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the basement, crawl space, attic, garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
During Cold Weather, Take Preventative Action
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
To Thaw Frozen Pipes
  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Future Protection
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
  • Pipes can be relocated by a professional if the home is remodeled.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • For more information, please contact a licensed plumber or building professional.


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It’s cold but I can’t bring my pets inside! What do I do!?!

1/10/2017 (Permalink)

Once adopted, pets become members of our families and should be treated as such. This often means letting them come in the house to be with the rest of the family safe from the elements, cars, insects and other perils. However, we understand that every family is dealing with a unique set of circumstances.

For some families (families who do indeed love, care for, and worry about their pets) it is simply not feasible to bring them in the house all the time or even at all. Maybe you have a child who has developed a spontaneous allergy, but you’re also committed to your pet and don’t want to give them up. Or maybe you’re  renting a house and have a strict landlord who will allow pets in the yard but not in the house.  

During the winter, these families go through an intense moral dilemma. Do they leave their pets outside and subject them to the harsh elements? Or do they bring them in and risk eviction from their homes or even a hospital visit if their child’s allergy is bad enough? Whatever your situation, we want to help you care for your pets.

When should I bring my pets in? How cold is too cold?

If it is possible for you to bring your pets inside when it’s absolutely necessary, a good rule of thumb to follow is, “If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them.” All dogs and cats need to be indoors when the temperature drops close to 32 degrees or below. At those temperatures, the risk of hypothermia and frostbite increase significantly. An animal’s fur coat is simply not enough to protect them from these frigid temperatures. Animals more vulnerable to the elements like puppies, kittens, shorthaired animals, and senior animals, need to be brought in when the thermostat drops to 40 degrees.

Look for a middle way.

The best possible solution for those who absolutely cannot bring their pets in is to find some sort of middle ground. Do you have a heated garage or tool shed ??  This way you can protect your pets from the elements, keep them warm, and protect your allergic child and/or your lease. You may also consider purchasing an outdoor rated heating pad. Many stores that sell pet supplies carry heated mats specifically for cats and dogs. You may also find a dog house heater created with cords already protected from chewing animals and automatic shut offs just for your pet.

Take special precautions.

If there is absolutely no way for you to bring your pets in at all, there are steps you can take to make sure they are safe in the winter weather. First and most importantly, you need to ensure that they have some type of shelter. You’ll need a dog house, preferably one that is insulated and will protect your pet from being blasted by the wind and soaked by the snow. Bigger is not better when it comes to dog houses. If your dog’s house is too big, it won’t retain your dog’s body heat and keep him warm. If your dog can stand up and turn around in his dog house but not much else, it’s the perfect size for him.

Your dog house needs to be several inches off the ground so snow and rain water do not leak inside. If you cannot find an insulated dog house, stuff yours with hay leaving just enough room for your dog to burrow inside. Do not insulate a dog house with blankets.  If the blankets get wet and freeze, they will only make it worse on your dog. Also make sure to keep the doorway covered with plastic or some type of waterproof canvas to prevent a draft.

Cats also need shelter in the winter. They are just as susceptible to the cold as dogs. You can learn how to make a shelter for outdoor cats out of a simple plastic tote and hay by clicking this tutorial: How to Build a Feral Cat Shelter

Second, fatten them up. Increase the amount you feed your outdoor pets significantly in the winter months. Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food because they deplete much of their energy just trying to stay warm. Gaining a few extra pounds can help protect their insides from the cold weather.  Also make sure your pets have fresh water to drink. Check your pet’s water as often as you can to ensure that it doesn’t freeze. Prevent your pet from knocking over their water by digging a small hole in the ground to place their water bucket in. Also, be sure you are using plastic water buckets and food dishes. In the cold, your pet’s tongue could stick to metal dishes.

Lastly, check on your pets often and look for signs for frostbite and hypothermia. Watch to see if your dog begins:

  • Whining or acting anxious
  • Can’t stop shivering
  • Seems weak
  • Has ice on his body
  • Stops moving or slows down
  • Looks for a warm place to burrow

Also, check your dog’s ears, nose, and paws as these are areas usually not protected by thick fur.

If you notice any of these signs, bring your pet to a warm spot and call your veterinarian immediately.


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Texas couple sues Apple because FaceTime is a distraction to drivers

1/4/2017 (Permalink)

If you clicked on the headline above thinking you were in for a tongue-in-cheek, fake news story, we're sorry to disappoint you, but it's all too real and all too tragic. This is #notTheOnion.

This is how the story goes: on December 24, 2014, Bethany and James Modisette were driving near Dallas in their Toyota Camry with their two daughters, Moriah and Isabella, in the car's back seat. Due to some police activity on the road ahead, traffic had all but stopped.


Behind the Modisettes, however, Garrett Wilhelm failed to notice that the cars around him had slowed. The Modisettes claim that that's because he was FaceTiming with someone on his iPhone. 

Wilhelm's Toyota 4Runner collided with the Modisette's Camry doing 65 miles per hour, causing the sedan to lurch forward and spin 180 degrees. The 4Runner then hit the Camry again, with the SUV driving up and over the length of the driver's side of the car.  

James Modisette, who was driving, and Moriah, who was seated behind him, were both rushed to medical facilities, but sadly, five-year-old Moriah died from her injuries shortly thereafter.

At the scene, Wilhelm told police that he'd been speaking with someone on FaceTime at the time of the crash. When police found the iPhone, FaceTime was still open.

Wilhelm has been free on bail since August, awaiting his trial for manslaughter, which begins on February 27, 2017.

In the meantime, however, the Modisettes have filed suit against Apple in a California state court. The suit argues that Apple had the ability to prevent FaceTime from being used on iPhones when the devices were in cars traveling at high speeds, but the tech company failed to do so. 

Our take

Let's be clear: if reports of the incident are accurate, Wilhelm is responsible for the crash. FaceTime aside, he rear-ended the Modisette's car, which would be a pretty clear indicator of his liability. The fact that Wilhelm was distracted and failed to brake before hitting the Modisettes only makes the effects of his actions that much more severe and tragic.

As for whether Apple can be held liable for the collision--either in whole or in part--that will be up to the court. To the best of our knowledge though, in the case of distracted drivers, the drivers themselves have typically been found responsible for crashes, not the distractions themselves.

That said, it's worth noting that this isn't the only distracted driving case Apple is facing at the moment. A second--also stemming from an incident in Texas--should go to trial soon. Depending on how the two cases go, and depending on how Apple's talks with U.K. regulators proceed, Apple could be forced to roll out some software updates soon.


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9 Tips To Get Your Christmas Tree Home Safely Without Damaging Your Vehicle

12/7/2016 (Permalink)

Strapping a Christmas tree to your vehicle can be tricky, and many of us have witnessed some downright dangerous attempts during the holiday season. Not only is safety important, but an auto insurance claim because of scratched paint or a traffic accident may put a damper on your holiday spirit.

Each year, 30 million to 35 million American families celebrate the holiday season with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. One of the main challenges many of these households face is getting their perfect tree home without extra expense, damage to their automobile, physical injury, or leaving unsafe debris on the roadway.


Avoid auto insurance claims and ensure the safety of your passengers, other motorists and pedestrians by following these 9 tips.


1. Take measurements

Make sure you know the size of the tree you can accommodate. Before you leave the house, measure the height of the room where you plan to display the tree; it should be at least a foot taller than the tree you buy. Know the width of the space to help you gauge how much tree you can handle.

Also, make sure to measure your vehicle's interior storage area and roof. It doesn't do much good to know you can fit an 8-foot tree in the living room but can only handle a six footer on your Toyota.


2. Dress properly

Wear jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, jacket or sweatshirt, and don't forget work gloves. The branches, needles and other sharp tree parts can poke you in all the wrong places. And wear comfortable shoes with nonslip soles. 


3. Items to take with you

You'll need a tarp, old blanket or heavy plastic sheets to protect your vehicle. Also, be sure to grab the right materials to secure the tree: good rope, twine, ratchet-style tie downs or bungee cords.

Many lots won't tie the tree on the car for you to avoid an insurance nightmare for the lot if an employee damages your vehicle, so bring a friend to help carry and secure your tree.




4. Wrap the tree

Most trees are sold in netting, which you should leave on so that the branches stay tightly bundled and so that carrying the tree is more manageable.

No net? Shake the tree to rid it of loose needles, then wrap it in a blanket or tarp.



5. Cover your vehicle 

To avoid paint scratches, lay your tarp or blanket out on the roof of your vehicle before placing the tree up there. Spread it out to cover the entire top to also protect from pieces that fly off while driving down the road.

If you’re hauling the tree in the back of your SUV or minivan, lay down a blanket or tarp to protect your interior from sap stains. 




6. Pick the perfect tree (for hauling)

Yes, that 10-foot Evergreen looks amazing on the lot, and it may even fit inside your living room with a bit of trimming, but will it fit on the roof of your SUV? Can you lift it once you get it home?

Be sure that you’re picking out a tree that is not only free of bare spots, but will also realistically fit on top or inside of your vehicle without extending too far past the bumper. 



7. Position the tree in the right direction

To keep your tree stable and avoid wind damage when driving, center the tree and arrange it so that the stump end faces the front of your vehicle. The best way to transport a tree is to cover it completely to keep the wind from drying it out, so if you have a second tarp handy, roll the tree up in it before hauling it onto the roof.



8. Secure the tree to your vehicle

If you have a roof rack, secure the tree from where the branches start to its tip, with bungee cords or rope.

It's not recommended that you put your tree on your car's roof unless it has a roof rack. However, if you do so, first open all their car doors—not the windows—then tie the tree snugly to the roof with rope. 

For trees that extend more beyond your car's bumpers, tie a reflective flag to the end to alert ?other drivers.

If you're hauling your tree in a pickup truck, there could be hot spots in the truck bed—from the exhaust pipe, for example. This can damage the tree's needles, so put something under it, such as an old blanket.

Before you leave the lot, make sure to give the tree a firm tug to ensure that it’s not going anywhere. If it budges, you probably need to pull the ropes tighter.



9. Take it slow and easy

Once you get on road, take it slow and put on your hazard lights. Avoid the highway, especially if you're not used to hauling heavy objects on your car's roof. Highways are not your friend when you have a potential six foot flying, green missile on top of your vehicle. 

Remember, roof cargo affects your vehicle's center of gravity and emergency handling.


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Relatives have invaded your home!! Need help keeping everyone entertained? Read on for a fun Family Game.

12/1/2016 (Permalink)

This game comes with a warning.  You will laugh.  Hard. 

Here is what you need:


A bowl



And something for everyone to write with

And a stopwatch – we usually use someone’s phone



Cut up the paper into slips and divide them evenly amongst everyone

5-10 slips per person

Then have everyone write down 1 name per slip of paper

They can be dead or alive, fiction or real

You just don’t want to write down a name in which you are the only person in the room who knows who that person is



Here are some examples

Then fold up every piece once and put them in the bowl


Now divide everyone up into 2 groups

Sit in a circle, and sit so you are between members of the other team

There are 3 rounds to this game


Round 1

Give the bowl to 1 person

They have 30 seconds to try and get their team to guess as many names as they can

They pull the names out one at a time and they can say anything to give clues to their team (except the name itself)

Once their team guesses the name, they keep that slip and then they reach in and get another name

Once 30 seconds is up, they throw whatever name they were currently working on back into the bowl, and then they pass the bowl clockwise and the next person (who is on the other team) does the same thing

Each team should keep a pile of the slips they have guessed

When all the names have been guessed, count them up and write down what the round 1 scores are


Round 2

Put the same slips back into the bowl

Start with whatever person would have gone next

Again, they have 30 seconds to get their team to guess, but THIS time they can only say one word


If they say more than one word they have to put it back in the bowl

Choose your one word carefully

Wise players will use a word that was said in round 1

When the bowl is empty, count up the score and add it to the scores from round 1


Round 3

Put the same slips back into the bowl

Start with whatever person would have gone next

And again, they have 30 seconds to get their team to guess – but this time it is Charades – so you act out the name

No Talking!

Again, wise players will act out words used in round 1 and 2

When the bowl is empty, count up the score and add them up for a final winner


And the losing team has to do the dishes.




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11 Unusual Pet Insurance Success Stories

11/4/2016 (Permalink)

Whether it’s purchased individually or acquired through an employer-based plan, pet insurance is still a perk enjoyed by only a tiny fraction of American pet owners.

Out of 174 million cats and dogs in the United States at the end of 2014, only about 1.4 million were covered by an insurance policy, according to a pet insurance trade group. That is nevertheless a significant increase from 2008, when only 680,000 were covered.


About 81 percent pet insurance policyholders are dogs. The majority of the rest are cats, but there is also a small group of people who have purchased plans for other types of pets.

Steady increase in U.S. pet population

Pet health insurance works pretty similar to human health insurance. The policies are priced based on a number of risk factors, including age and breed. Purebreds are often more expensive to insure because, ironically, they are typically anything but pure when it comes to health.


A report last year on pet insurance attributed its growth partially to increasing prices charged by veterinarians as well as the steady increase in the country’s pet population.

On its face, pet insurance may seem to be a product marketed uniquely to the wealthy. But in fact, its greatest appeal may be to middle income people who can’t bear the thought of having to put a beloved pet to sleep if they’re hit by a huge vet bill they can’t pay.

Most unusual pet insurance claims

A recent press release by Nationwide, which says it has nearly 600,000 insured pets, documented the most unusual (and occasionally comical) insurance claims that it processed for pet owners over the past year, nominating them for its annual “Hambone Award.”

The animal hospital that treated the winner of the award will receive $10,000 that it can use to cover the care of pet owners who can’t afford to pay their vet bills. 


Among the claims Nationwide nominated for the award:



A ruff encounter with Ruffles

A cocker spaniel nearly died after getting her head stuck in a bag of potato chips. She required a plasma transfusion and an overnight stay at the animal hospital. Miraculously, the near-suffocation the dog suffered did not leave her with brain damage.

Paying out the nose

A blue heeler mix shattered his snout after jumping into a cement barrier in a park, separating his nasal cavity from his mouth. The surgery called for veterinarians to reattach his snout with the assistance of a specialist and the entire process took hours, no doubt leaving his owners with a bill worth many thousands.

After six weeks of “grueling recovery,” the playful pooch was back at the park, although hopefully with a heightened sense of the risks of jumping off elevated platforms.


Too cozy for comfort

A Cavalier King Charles spaniel slipped between couch cushions while napping and dislocated his hips trying to get out. The dog required two major operations on both hips. Anything short of surgery would have left him unable to walk again.



Game of chairs

A Sphynx cat in Texas was severely injured when a reclining chair closed on her. The hairless feline had been hiding inside a reclining chair and was nearly crushed when her owner, unaware of her presence, put the chair back into the upright position. It turned out her injuries were not serious, although discovering that required X-rays. She was prescribed antibiotics for her bruises and cuts and made a full recovery.


He did inhale

A giant schnauzer picked up his owner’s asthma inhaler and made the near-fatal mistake of biting down on it. He inhaled almost the entire dose of asthma medication that had just been loaded, provoking his heart rate to double. Ultimately, after spending a night at the vet, the dog’s condition improved and he was able to return home without undergoing any major interventions.


Terrible taste in jeans

A Great Dane swallowed an entire pair of kid-sized jeans. At first there were no clues besides the sudden disappearance of the pants, but the dog began to vomit uncontrollably later on, prompting his owners to take him to the vet. He received emergency surgery to remove the jeans, which were as good as new after being washed.


A sucky injury

A border collie got her mouth caught inside the suction tool of a vacuum cleaner, breaking off teeth and injuring her mouth in the process. The wound required oral surgery, which ain’t cheap. Luckily the dog made a full recovery and her owners were sure to take precautions to keep her away from the vacuum in the future.


Stuck between a tree and a neck brace

A Tibetan terrier got her head stuck in an opening of a solid oak coffee table. The dog was contorting its body as it attempted to dislodge her head, to the point that her owner thought she was going to break her neck. The owner delivered the dog, still stuck to the table, to an emergency vet clinic, where the vet administered a sedative that relaxed the dog’s body to the point where they were able to squeeze the pooch out of her table.


A heroic dog

A Jack Russell terrier intervened during a home invasion, in which both he and his owner were stabbed by a burglar. Both underwent surgery and survived serious knife wounds. The dog likely saved the life of his owner by attacking and distracting the intruder.


Unsafe for all creatures

After a faulty carbon monoxide detector failed during a leak on a cold winter day, a cat and poodle suffered from major carbon monoxide poisoning, along with their owners. While their human owners were attended to by human physicians, the pets were placed in an oxygen chamber at the veterinary hospital. Both pets recovered the next day.


A pain in the tail

A cat jumped off his “cat tree” and got his tail caught in the blinds of a window. His owners’ frantic attempts to free his tail were successful, but they knew he wasn’t right when they finally got him free. His tail was severely wounded, although happily he did not suffer any nerve damage, something they discovered after taking him through extensive examination and X-rays at the vet.



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photo credit: Bethaney Albright

7 Tips for Raking Leaves Like a Pro

11/4/2016 (Permalink)

Raking is a fall task that, love it or hate it, has to be done.

These tips will help you achieve more efficient raking.


Work With (or Avoid) the Wind

If you have the leisure to choose your raking day, try to pick a calm one so there's no wind to interfere with your work. If you have only one day of the week to rake and it happens to be windy, rake your leaves in the same direction that the wind is blowing. Raking into the wind just helps the breeze pick up your leaves and blow them around.


Clear your pathways and high-traffic areas of leaves on an ongoing basis, but don't bother raking your whole yard until all the leaves are down. It might bother you to sit idly by and let the leaves pile up, but waiting until the branches are bare will save you hours of work. Be patient and get the yard work done when it's necessary, not every week.

Use the Right Tools

That rusty metal fan rake in your shed might seem like an old friend, but perhaps its useful days are over. Some great new raking tools out there, such as the Lee Valley Power Rake, and can save you lots of time on yard work. There are also rake alternatives, including push-power leaf collectors that help take some of the backache out of raking.

Take Care of Your Body

Speaking of backache, be sure to practice proper raking technique before, during, and after your work. Raking is a real workout, and you need to warm up your body by stretching before you start.

While you're raking, be sure to keep a good posture and stand upright. Switch your main (bottom) hand on a regular basis, and always bend at the knees (not the back) when you stoop to pick up a pile.

Also, don't try to do too much at once. Divide your yard into sections and work on them over a period of days. Or, if you have limited time, take breaks in between each section to drink water and rest.

Work Smart

This is the key to efficient raking. Rake your leaves into small piles on top of a tarp or a piece of plastic, then drag that pile to your main pile or compost. Raking all the leaves into a single, big pile takes extra time, and when it's done, you have to move the big pile off your lawn to another location.

Rake When It's Dry

This one is simple but important. Wet leaves are heavier than dry ones, so try to do your raking during a dry stretch of weather. This will not only save you time and energy, but also prevent you from handling a morass of slimy, wet leaves.

Use a Mulching Mower

This is kind of like cheating but is ultimately an effective way to clean up your leaves by turning them into mulch that's bagged by the mower. If you don't like the smell, sound, or environmental impact of gas mowers, there are some great electric mowers out there that have mulching capability.


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