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February: American Heart Month

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

heartHeart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, causing about 610,000 deaths annually. Heart disease is also an extremely expensive disease—costing the United States about $207 billion annually in the cost of health care, medications and lost productivity.

Fortunately, heart disease can often be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and properly managing health conditions. American Heart Month, organized by the American Heart Association (AHA), is designed to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it. Some simple self-care and prevention strategies include the following:

  • Visit your primary care physician regularly.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit your sodium intake.
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage your stress levels.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.

The AHA’s website provides a detailed list of risk factors and common symptoms of heart disease. If you are concerned about your risk of developing heart disease or would like to find out more information about the condition, visit the AHA’s site and contact your primary physician.

Independent Insurance Agent?

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Hedda's Hints

Why an Independent Insurance Agent?

shutterstock_398389663When shopping for insurance, most people are unaware that there are different kinds of agents they can work with. Choosing the right one can make a big difference in securing the best combination of price and value.

With a captive insurance agent, you only get the guidance of one company that sells one brand of insurance. With an independent insurance agent, you might get up to eight choices.

This is because an independent insurance agent represents multiple brands, and can compare coverage and prices to find the best possible value for your individual circumstances. Independent agents are usually vested members of your community who are committed to doing business face-to-face and being your advocate in times of need.

They also:

  • Work for you when you have a claim.
  • Are not beholden to any one company. This means you don’t have to change agencies as your insurance and service needs change.
  • Are your consultants, working with you as you determine your needs.
  • Are value-hunters who look after your pocketbook in finding the best combination of price, coverage, and service.
  • Offer one-stop shopping for a full range of products, including home, renters, auto, business, life, health, and retirement plans.
  • Can periodically review your coverage to keep up with your changing insurance needs.
  • Are committed to customer satisfaction-it’s the key to their livelihood
  • Treat you like a person, not a number.
  • Are licensed professionals with strong customer and community ties.

Sudent -Driver Away Discount

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Insurance Discount Strategies

Student-Driver Away Discount – Do You Qualify?

Student-Driver Away Discounts help you save while they learn

shutterstock_84343456Your child is away at school for the year and not using the family car regularly, so you may think it’s time to drop them from your auto insurance policy. That is certainly an option when your child leaves home, but the student-driver away discounts can be a better fit for your family than taking your child off the plan entirely.

Let’s see if you qualify for student-driver away discounts, why the discount is worth it and how much you’ll save.

Who Is a Student-Driver Away Discount For?

Most auto insurance carriers consider you eligible for a student-driver away discount if your child attends boarding school or college at least 100 miles from home and does not have regular access to a vehicle. Some may also require the student to be under 23 years of age.

Why You Should Get a Student-Driver Away Discount

While it sounds tempting to remove your child from your auto insurance plan while they are at school, there are significant reasons to consider the student-driver away discount instead:

  • Driving During Breaks: Your child will likely come home from school to visit, and while they’re back, they might borrow the family car. Having your child on your policy means they are automatically covered in the unlikely event of a car accident.
  • Financial Responsibility: If you still declare your child as a dependent, then you assume financial responsibility for them. This means that, legally, you are their financial provider, no matter how much pocket money they have on the side. This is important because if your uninsured child drives a vehicle and gets into an accident, you are financially responsible for that accident, even though you weren’t involved. Medical and legal costs can be substantially more than paying for a student-driver away discount.
  • Better Future Rates: Auto insurance companies often give discounts to new clients who were previously dependents on their parents’ policy. Other carriers sometimes charge new clients a higher fee for joining as a young driver without that experience. Keeping your student on your auto insurance plan now can give them a foot up later.

How Can You Validate Your Child for a Student-Driver Away Discount?

Most auto insurance carriers will require verification that your child is at school. Providing your carrier with the correct validation for a student-driver away discount can be very easy. Here are some common ways to prove eligibility:

  • School Address: Providing the address of your child’s boarding school or college to your insurance agent is usually enough verification for some carriers.
  • Current Class Schedule: Providing your child’s class schedule shows that your student is currently enrolled in school.

How Much Money Will You Save?

Student-driver away discount rates can depend on which carrier you have. In most cases, you will save between 10 percent and 30 percent on your auto insurance. Though it might seem like a hassle to keep your child on your policy when they do not drive frequently, it may be smart over the long run.

Secure Your Student-Driver Away Discount Today

With a student-driver away discount, you won’t break the bank, and you’ll help your child start on the path to their own insurance policy one day. As your independent auto insurance agent, we take it upon ourselves to make sure that you and your family can drive safely with the peace of mind that you’re getting the best rates possible. Contact us today to find out if you qualify for a student-driver away discount, as well as other auto insurance discounts.

Source: Sudent -Driver Away Discount – Do You Qualify?

Protecting Your Home from Fire

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Insurance Discount Strategies

Protecting Your Home from Fire While It’s Under Construction

Building or remodeling a home is an exciting time filled with many decisions. A consideration often overlooked is the importance of fire protection during this time when your home is most susceptible to fire due to construction-related activities.

Luckily there are a number of simple and cost-effective solutions that will significantly reduce the threat fire poses to your home:

  • Install and activate a temporary fire and burglar alarm system reporting to a central station once the home is fully enclosed with roof, doors and windows. Because smoke detectors are susceptible to false activation from construction dust, heat sensors are better suited for temporary fire detection. If permanent power is not yet available, a temporary power source can be used. Cellular communication to the alarm monitoring station will suffice if an active phone line is not yet available.
  • Fire extinguishers should be kept in highly visible locations throughout the jobsite. Multi-purpose extinguishers (Type ABC) of at least 10 lbs. are recommended.
  • Because of the increased threat of arson and vandalism while your home is unoccupied, security fencing should be installed and kept locked on weekends and non-working hours. Motion-activated lighting, video surveillance systems and security guards are additional options that will substantially reduce the risk of unwanted visitors or trespass.
  • no smoking signSmoking should be prohibited with no-smoking signs posted in visible locations throughout the jobsite.
  • Flammable liquids like paints, varnishes and solvents should be stored in an approved flammable storage cabinet. The cabinet should be locked during non-working hours.
  • Oily rags should be disposed of in U.L.-approved fireproof cans due to the risk of spontaneous combustion.
  • Because many commonly used construction materials are highly combustible, the jobsite should be thoroughly cleaned and all extension cords should be disconnected at the end of each work day.
  • If your home is in an area susceptible to wildfire or not serviced by a public fire hydrant, advanced planning should be made with your nearest responding fire department regarding defensible space from flammable vegetation requirements, adequate turn around space for fire crews and equipment, and installation of and/or use of alternative water sources.

It is important to discuss these loss prevention measures with your general contractor before construction begins. These established protocols will help keep your home safe during this critically important time.

Smell Gas? How To Protect …

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Misc

Smell Gas? How To Protect Your Family & Home From Gas Leaks

We hear in the news all too often about a gas explosion in a home or business causing devastating loss to property and even loss of life. An estimated 177 million Americans rely on natural gas in their homes,1and gas leaks are something every household should take seriously.

If you haven’t already done so, get acquainted with your main gas valve location and identify where the shutoff lever is located in case of an emergency. In addition, familiarize yourself with the signs of a gas leak and proper response.

How to detect a gas leak?

Smell: A natural gas leak is described as smelling like a rotten egg or sulfur. This smell is actually added to the natural gas by utility companies to warn customers of a potential leak.

gas burnerHear: You may hear a hiss or a blowing sound, which may indicate a gas leak from an appliance.

See: You may suddenly notice a yellowing or brown patch on landscaping outside your home, which may indicate a leak underground.

Physical: You may suddenly feel light-headed, dizzy and/or nauseous, and going outside in fresh air causes the symptoms to subside.

What to do next?

If the odor is strong and overwhelming, evacuate the house immediately at a safe distance and call 911. When a gas leak is present, it can interact with electrical and fire sources. This could cause an explosion, so it’s very important to immediately leave the area if you smell gas and detect something obviously wrong.

If the odor is light and nothing is obviously wrong, the following are some quick things you can do to protect yourself before evacuating:

  • With an odor of gas present, it is critical to not use light switches, cell phone, lighters, matches, candles, stoves, or anything with an open flame. A flashlight is a safer lighting option to use.
  • Check your gas stove or cooktop to make sure that it was not accidentally left on.
  • Open as many doors and windows as possible to allow air to flow through.
  • Know in advance the location of your main gas shutoff valve, which stops the flow of gas to the entire house. Shutoff valves vary greatly in design and location on a property depending on the age of your house, the local codes and which part of the country you live in.  Turn the gas supply off at the main valve (using a wrench is often necessary).  Do not try to turn the gas back on to your home; call the gas company to do that.

Consider a high-tech warning system

To further protect your family and home, consider installing an explosive gas leak detector in your home. Available at do-it-yourself hardware stores, these systems will set off an alarm if combustible gas is detected. You may also wish to contact your local alarm professional to have an explosive gas leak detector tied to the monitored alarm system in your home.

Fireplace Safety & Maintenance

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

pexels-photo-59598When the colder temperatures start to set in, many homeowners will turn to their fireplace, wood or pellet stoves as an additional heat source. While fireplaces can provide warmth and comfort, if you are not careful, they can also be a hazard. Keep in mind the following precautions to help ensure a safe winter season.

Keep Your Chimney Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean

  • Have your chimney, fireplace, wood or pellet stove inspected and cleaned by a licensed chimney specialist. They should be maintained annually to help ensure they are functioning safely and efficiently.
  • Be sure to keep the area around the hearth clear of debris, decorations and any other combustible materials.
  • If you have a wood burning, insert or pellet stove, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for additional guidance related to operation and venting.

Keep Fires Burning Safely

  • Be sure the flue is open before lighting your fire to help ensure the fireplace will vent properly. Do not close your damper until you are sure the fire is out.
  • When starting a fire, only use a match or commercial firelighter. Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Glass doors of a fireplace should be kept open while burning a fire. This allows the fire to receive enough air for complete combustion and to help reduce creosote build-up in the chimney.
  • Metal mesh screens should remain closed whenever your fireplace is in use to help keep embers in the fireplace.
  • Only use dry wood in your fireplace. Wet wood can increase creosote buildup, which can lead to chimney fires.
  • Do not burn plastic because it can release toxic chemicals and cause damage to your chimney, fireplace or wood stove.
  • Never burn a Christmas tree in your fireplace as the sparks from the burning needles can increase the risk for a chimney fire. Also, do not burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper or trash in your fireplace.
  • Never leave a fire in a fireplace unattended. Before leaving the house or going to bed, you should make certain to fully extinguish the fire.
  • Allow ashes to cool completely before disposing of them — ashes can take several days to cool completely. Never empty ashes directly into a trash can. Instead, place ashes in a covered metal container located at least 10 feet1 away from your home and any other building.

Keep the Outside of Your Home and Your Chimney Safe

  • Firewood should be stacked at least 30 feet away from your home.2
  • Your roof and chimney should be kept clean of leaves, pine needles and other debris. Prune trees and branches to keep them away from your chimney.
  • Install a chimney cap with spark arrester to help keep debris, leaves, branches and animals out, and to help prevent burning embers or sparks from escaping and creating a fire hazard.

Keep the Inside of Your Home Safe with Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

To help make your winter even safer, we recommend that you take the time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. A smoke detector is the most effective way to detect smoke from a fire and signal an alarm so that you can get you and your family out safely. A carbon monoxide detector can alert you to the buildup of this dangerous odorless and colorless gas. Make sure you test the detectors monthly, and after you change the batteries to ensure they work properly.

Source:
1 National Fire Protection Association. (2015). Wood and Pellet Stove Safety. PDF accessed from http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets.
2 National Fire Protection Association. (2015). Wildland Fire Safety. PDF accessed from http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/safety-tip-sheets.

Tips to Check Tire Tread

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

shutterstock_347564804Tire problems are thought to be a factor in one out of 11 vehicle crashes.1 Blowouts, tread separation, under inflation, and worn treads—the grooves in your tires that offer stability and traction—are some of the tire problems associated with these crashes.

Like a pair of sneakers that get more slippery with use, your tires lose their ability to grip the road as their treads wear down. Checking your tire treads can help keep you safer on the road. It only takes a few minutes, and some spare change.

Putting the Brakes on an Age-Old Debate About When to Replace Tires

Many people think only worn tires need to be replaced. That is certainly true. But old tires are also a concern. As tires age, they become more prone to failure, whether they have been used or not.

Replacing tires when they are between 6 and 10 years old is recommended by some manufacturers.2 That goes for the spare in your trunk, too. You can use the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number (TIN) on the wall of your tire to help determine the age of your tire (e.g., 2613 means the tire was manufactured in the 26th week of 2013).3

But age is not the only factor. Tread matters too. A worn tire can be just as dangerous, or even more so, than one that is simply old. In one study, vehicles with shallower treads (less than 2/32? deep) were 3 times more likely to experience pre-crash tire troubles than those with deeper treads.4

While the minimum safe tire tread depth is 2/32?, consider replacing your tires at the 4/32? mark, especially if you drive in rainy and snowy conditions. A recent Consumer Reports study of tires worn down to half of their original tread depth (about 5/32?) found increased risk of hydroplaning, longer stop time in the rain, and reduced snow traction.5

Luckily, you can test your treads using spare change:

Take a penny and place it in multiple grooves around your tires. If the top of Lincoln’s head is always covered, you have more than 2/32? of tread remaining. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it is time to replace your tires.6

For an added measure of safety, consider replacing your tires at 4/32?. The extra tread can help your tires handle water and snow more effectively. Using a quarter, your tires have more than 4/32? tread if the top of Washington’s head is always covered.

Basic checks like these take just a few minutes and can help save lives. So put that change in your pocket to good use to help keep you safe.

How to check tire tread

Did You Know?

According to the tire industry, the average tread depth of a new tire can range from 10/32? to 11/32?.7
Tires age whether they are driven on or not—be sure to check tires on recreation vehicles, trailers, collector cars, community vehicles and 15-passenger vans, too.8

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends checking your vehicle’s tires at least once a month.9

Sources:
1 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html
2 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html
3 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html
4 http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811617.pdf
5 http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/how-safe-are-worn-tires/index.htm
6 http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/how-safe-are-worn-tires/index.htm
7 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html
8 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html
9 http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/Safety1nNum3ers/june2013/SafteyInNumbersJune2013.html

February 2017 Events in DC

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

shutterstock_167400767The Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information. Please note that most of these events are held each year and the dates are updated as available.

Winter Theater in Washington DC
With dozens of performances around the region, here is the schedule of the top shows for the 2017 season.

Washington Wizards Basketball
See NBA games live at the Verizon Center or enjoy the national broadcasts throughout the season.

Washington Capitals
The NHL Hockey team plays at the Verizon Center. Find information on tickets, schedules and more.

Black History Month
Throughout the month of February, remember the contributions of African Americans in the United States with numerous events and cultural programs.

Summer 2017 Camp Fairs in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
Various dates in February. Do you know what your kids are doing this summer? Attend a camp fair and find out about a variety of day and sleepaway camps in the Washington, DC area.

Chocolate Lovers Festival
February 4-5, 2017. Old Town Fairfax, Virginia. Enjoy a festival of everything chocolate! See the Chocolate Challenge, an arts contest featuring breathtaking art made completely of chocolate, sample chocolates, historic re-enactments, children’s activities, craft show and more.

White House Easter Egg Roll Ticket Lottery
2017 Dates to Be Announced. Free tickets will be distributed via an online lottery. Don’t miss your chance to attend the annual event on Easter Monday on the White House grounds.

Cupid’s Undie Run
February 11, 2017. Run around the city in your Valentine’s themed undies to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Valentine’s Day
Find suggestions for Valentine’s Day in the Washington, DC area, including romantic restaurants, romantic getaways, chocolates, flowers, gift ideas and more.

Washington, DC Independent Film Festival
February 15-20, 2017. See the latest feature, short, animation and documentary films by local, national, and international filmmakers.

Alexandria Restaurant Week
February 17-26, 2017. More than 45 restaurants will be offering special menus and pricing to entice visitors to dine in Alexandria, Virginia, just five miles south of Washington, DC. The restaurants are offering either a three-course pre-fixe dinner or dinner for two, both priced at $35.

Calvert County Restaurant Week
February 17-26, 2017. Enjoy special fixed-price menus at many of the county’s best restaurants.

George Washington’s Birthnight Banquet and Ball
February 18, 2017, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Ballroom of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Alexandria, Virginia. Enjoy an 18th century banquet and English Country Dancing, a dessert collation, toasts, and character re-enactors.

President’s Day in Washington, DC
February 20, 2017. Visit Washington, DC on President’s Day and pay tribute to America’s most famous leaders. Find out about special Presidents’ Day events held throughout the Washington, DC area.

Annapolis Restaurant Week
February 20-26, 2017. Dozens of restaurants in Historic and greater Annapolis will be offering three-course, price fixed meal selections at a cost of $15.95 for lunch and $29.95 for dinner.

Mardi Gras Celebrations in Washington, DC
Celebrate Fat Tuesday at a variety of events including parties, parades, balls and family days.

DC Rollergirls
February 25, 2017. DC Armory, 2001 East Capitol Street, SE Washington, DC. Enjoy watching the region’s all women’s roller derby team compete.

Intersections Arts Festival
February 24-March 5, 2017.  Atlas Performing Arts Center, Washington DC. The event features visual art, film screenings, literary readings and dance, musical and dramatic productions by more than 30 artists and cultural institutions.

Clarendon Mardi Gras Parade
February 28, 2017, 7 p.m. Arlington, VA. The parade celebrates Fat Tuesday bringing the community together for an evening of entertainment.

Source: dc.about.com

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day

February 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated For Life

Tracing the lovers, the leaders and the ladies responsible for the pairing of chocolate to Valentine’s Day

shutterstock_469560620

There’s nothing chaste about chocolate. Movies, which capture our inner cravings in freeze-framed moments, have always understood this. From the earliest days of “talkies,” chocolate has been cast as the go-to symbol of seduction. Jean Harlow’s performance in the 1933 film Dinner at Eight forever linked chocolate to decadent indulgence. Draped in satin and sequins, she lounges in bed on a heart-shaped pillow, and—finishing touch—suggestively nibbles her way through a giant box of chocolates.

It turns out that chocolate really has a history as a love food. Passion for chocolate is rooted in Mesoamerican history. It was a highly-prized luxury item among Mayan and Aztec upper class elites, who were known to savor a drink that combined roasted cacao beans with cornmeal, vanilla, honey and chilies. Cacao beans were as valuable a commodity as gold, and were even used to pay taxes levied by Aztec rulers.

By the early 1600s, the vogue for chocolate had swept across Europe. In London, chocolate houses began to rival coffee houses as social gathering spots. One shop opened on Gracechurch Street in 1657 advertising chocolate as “a West Indian drink (which) cures and preserves the body of many diseases.” In France, Madame de Sevigne wrote about enormous chocolate consumption throughout the court at Versailles in 1671; Louis IV drank it daily and Madame du Barry was said to use chocolate mixed with amber to stimulate her lovers.

When Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, she brought her personal chocolate maker to Versailles. The official “Chocolate Maker to the Queen” created such recipes as “chocolate mixed with orchid bulb for strength, chocolate with orange blossom to calm the nerves, or chocolate with sweet almond milk to aid the digestion.”

Chocolate’s connection to Valentine’s Day is a prime example of virtue finding its just reward, although it took centuries for the two essentials elements—the rise of chocolate as a popular food, and the celebration of Valentine’s Day as a holiday—to merge.

The origin of Valentine’s Day is attributed to various early Christian martyrs named Valentine, but it’s linkage to romantic love seems to appear first in Chaucer’s 1382 poem,  Parlement of Foules.  Chaucer here describes the nature of love when “every bird cometh to choose his mate” on “seynt Voantynes day.”

dubarryweb.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_subject_location-520,199_upscaleIn the following centuries, Valentine’s Day blossomed as an increasingly popular late winter-early spring holiday. Songs, poetry and roses celebrated hearts brimming with love, though candy was not yet involved because sugar was still a precious commodity in Europe.

By the time Victoria became Queen in 1837, technology was poised to transform Valentine’s Day into a commercial bonanza. Victorians loved showering their significant others with Cupid-bedecked gifts and cards, but Valentine’s Day was about to get happier.

Richard Cadbury, whose British family manufactured chocolate, was searching for a way to use the pure cocoa butter that was extracted from the process Cadbury had invented to make a more palatable drinking chocolate. His solution was “eating chocolates,” which he packaged in lovely boxes he designed himself. A marketing genius, Cadbury began putting the Cupids and rosebuds on heart-shaped boxes in 1861: even when the chocolates had been eaten, people could use the beautiful boxes to save such mementos as love letters.

The commercialization of Valentine’s Day flourished in America at the turn of the century. Chocolate pioneer Milton Hershey started as a caramel maker, but in 1894 began covering his caramels with sweet chocolate. In 1907, Hershey launched production of tear-dropped shaped “kisses,” so-called because of the smooching noise the chocolate made as it was manufactured. Mass-produced at an affordable cost, the kisses were advertised as “a most nourishing food.”

When it comes to commercial chocolate, no one has outdone Russell Stover. The company began when Clara Stover started wrapping “Bungalow Candies” in her Denver kitchen in 1923. She and her husband moved to Kansas City and opened several factories, selling their Valentine’s chocolates in heart-shaped boxes to department stores across the Midwest. Eventually, Russell Stover bought out Whitman’s, their biggest competitor, and refocused their wholesale business on drugstores and big-box retailers like Walmart and Target.

One of their biggest-sellers is the “Secret Lace Heart,” a chocolate box covered in satin and black lace.  The so-called “lingerie box” is affordable and easily-accessible, stocked on store shelves for easy grab-and-go sales. The strategy works: today, with 3,000 employees and $600 million in annual sales, Russell Stover is the number one boxed-chocolate company in the U.S.

Jean Harlow may have inspired chocolate’s satin-and-lace reputation for decadence, but Lucille Ball found another way to demonstrate how chocolate makes people smile. One of the most celebrated episodes of I Love Lucy featured Lucy and Ethel working on a chocolate factory assembly line. Of course, chaos reigns; the portrait of Lucy’s cheeks bulging as she tries to “hide” chocolates is as screamingly funny today as it was sixty years ago.