Servicing DC, MD & VA

Chimney Maintenance

October 8th, 2019 | Comments Off on Chimney Maintenance | Posted in Family Health & Safety
Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:
  • Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to reduce creosote build-up.
  • Make sure your masonry chimney has a flue liner in place to reduce the possibility that the masonry could absorb creosote.
  • Replace cracked or damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.
    • When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
    There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to minimize the dangers in your home.
    • Fireplace inserts (hearth stoves):
      • Vent should be connected to the flue of the chimney.
    • Factory-built metal chimneys:
      • Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.

View more Home Matters tips here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 8th, 2019 | Comments Off on Breast Cancer Awareness Month | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

October Is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States. To help spread awareness of this disease, October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Prevalence of Breast Cancer About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. While there are some breast cancer risk factors that you can’t control, these prevention strategies can help you reduce your risk:
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol or limit intake to one drink per day.
If you’re concerned about your personal risk of developing breast cancer, call or visit your doctor. Breast Cancer Awareness Month and You There are a variety of ways that you can support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here are just a few ideas:
  • Participate in a fundraiser event, like a walk or run, to help raise money for breast cancer research.
  • Donate to a charity that provides support and services to women and families that are affected by breast cancer.
  • Learn about the signs, symptoms, risk factors and screenings for breast cancer.
  • Spread awareness about this disease to help educate friends and family.
For more information on breast cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute’s website.

View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

What’s a HSA?

October 8th, 2019 | Comments Off on What’s a HSA? | Posted in Family Health & Safety


See Fall Colors in the D.C. Area

October 8th, 2019 | Comments Off on See Fall Colors in the D.C. Area | Posted in Spotlight on the Community
Fall colors by a river
Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year in the Washington, D.C. area. As the leaves begin to turn red, orange, and yellow, locals and tourists alike flock to the region to hike in local parks or drive in the mountains to see the full spectrum of colors. The display of leaves usually peaks in mid-to-late October in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The intensity of color each year depends on the amount of rainfall, warm days, and cool nights throughout the season.
Some of the most popular places to enjoy fall foliage in the capital region are destinations that take a few hours to drive to from Washington, D.C., such as Skyline DriveShenandoah National ParkBlue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian TrailGeorge Washington & Jefferson National Forests and Deep Creek Lake. These lovely areas are great if you have a whole weekend for a getaway. However, you don’t have to travel that far to enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage, as some special sites with an abundance of color are within a short distance from Washington, D.C.

Rock Creek Park

Washington, DC, Rock Creek Park.
Lucas Keene/Getty Images 
WashingtonDC 20008USA
 +1 202-895-6000
One of the largest parks in Washington, D.C., and the third-oldest in the nation, Rock Creek Park stretches 30 miles from Montgomery County, Maryland, to downtown D.C. Here, you can enjoy some leaf peeping and a picnic, take a hike, bike, or horseback ride, or attend a park ranger program.
Throughout the year, you can explore the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, the historic Peirce Mill, or Old Stone House. Popular annual fall events include the Rock Creek Park Day in late September and the Heritage Festival in mid-October. Admission to Rock Creek Park and all attractions within the park is free.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
Guillermo Olaizola / Getty Images

Starting in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C & O Canal) National Historical Park spans over 184 miles to Cumberland, Maryland, and offers guests breathtaking vistas and plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, fish, boat, and horseback ride along the towpath.
Access to the park boasting more than 20,000 acres is free, except for the Great Falls Entrance Station, where you can purchase passes near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. Popular events this time of year include the Dulcimer Music at Great Falls series, “A Very Retail Georgetown” historic walking tour, and Scary Stories on the Canal at the Great Falls Tavern.

United States National Arboretum

Japanese maple trees in park, autumn
Connie Coleman / Getty Images 

3501 New York Ave NEWashingtonDC 20002-1958USA
 +1 202-245-2726
The United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., is a living museum that showcases 446 acres of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. You can tour the gardens on your own by foot, car, or bicycle or take the 40-minute tram ride and hear an informative taped narrative about the Arboretum, its history, and the display gardens and collections.
The National Arboretum offers a variety of hikes and public education programs throughout the year, but they typically wind down for the winter season. In October, you can catch the annual Under the Arbor: Chile Pepper Celebration in the National Herb Garden or try some full moon forest bathing in the middle of October.

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
Peter Johansky / Getty Images
3200 Mount Vernon HwyMt VernonVA 22121USA
 +1 703-780-2000
The 500-acre estate of George Washington, located along the shores of the Potomac River in Mount Vernon, Virginia, is especially beautiful during the fall foliage season. You can take a tour of the estate while you’re there, but make sure you spend plenty of time outdoors exploring the gardens and taking in the natural scenery, too. 
Fall Harvest Family Days, Fall Dried Wreath Workshops, and Trick-or-Treating at Mount Vernon are among the most popular annual events on the estate. 

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park
flownaksala / Getty Images
9200 Old Dominion DrMcLeanVA 22102USA
 +1 703-757-3101
Stretching from Great Falls, Virginia, to Potomac, Maryland, Great Falls Park has some of the most spectacular views in the region. At various overlook points spread throughout the 800-acre park, you can witness all of the vibrant fall colors from 50-foot cliffs overlooking the Potomac River. Great Falls also offers hiking and biking trails, and picnic areas. 
Due to flooding during the hurricane season (September through November), some trails and locations may be inaccessible. Swimming and entering the river are prohibited at the park due to deadly currents and flood possibilities, though kayaking with safety measures taken is allowed. Admission costs depend on if you are entering by vehicle or on foot, bike, or horseback, and grant access for seven consecutive days.

Seneca Creek State Park

Seneca Creek State Park
 Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images
11950 Clopper RdGaithersburgMD 20878USA
 +1 301-924-2127
Located in Gaithersburg Maryland, Seneca Creek State Park spans over 6,300 acres alongside 14 miles of Seneca Creek. During the months of October and November, you can spend an entire day hiking through the park snapping pictures of the fall foliage reflected in the water.
The park is also home to the 90-acre Clopper Lake, hiking trails, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a restored 19th-century cabin. You can witness all the brilliant fall foliage from the lake by renting a boat, canoe, or kayak (or bringing your own), and there are also plenty of opportunities to fish from the shore. There is a charge for Maryland residents and a higher charge for out-of-state guests to enter the park.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain
Matthew T. Carroll / Getty Images 
Sugarloaf Mountain, UrbanaMD 20842USA
This small mountain in Dickerson, Maryland, is a National Historic Landmark with an elevation of 1,282 feet and a vertical height of 800 feet above the surrounding farmland. In addition, Strong Mansion on Sugarloaf Mountain is a popular destination that hosts events year-round.
Hikers can enjoy striking views of foliage along the trails, including several well-marked loops ranging in distance from 2.5 to 7 miles. Horseback riding and picnicking are additional recreational possibilities. Those driving can also pull up to the Sugarloaf Mountain lookout point get equally stunning views. Access to both is free year-round.

Cunningham Falls State Park

Cunningham Falls State Park
Brittany22bm / Getty Images
14039 Catoctin Hollow RdThurmontMD 21788USA
 +1 301-271-7574
In the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont, Maryland, Cunningham Falls State Park has a 78-foot cascading waterfall, a lake, and hiking trails ranging from 0.5 miles to 8 miles long. The park is a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation all year, featuring swimming, fishing, canoeing, special camping, and events throughout the summer and fall.
Costs at the park are slightly higher if you are from out of state. You can rent camping and hiking gear from the park store.

Black Hills Regional Park

Black Hills Regional Park
Can Onur Gunay / EyeEm / Getty Images
20930 Lake Ridge DrBoydsMD 20841USA
 +1 301-495-2595
Covering over 2,000 acres in Boyds, Maryland, Black Hill Regional Park offers a wide variety of activities including hiking, picnicking, boating, and guided nature programs. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views over Little Seneca Lake, and hikers, bikers, and horseback riders can explore miles of trails in the park. There is also a visitor center that hosts nature programs and offers interpretive tours throughout the year which are child-friendly.

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Walter Bibikow / Getty Images 
171 Shoreline DrHarpers FerryWV 25425USA
 +1 304-535-6029
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is located about an hour outside of Washington in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and was the site of an important battle in the American Civil War. The park covers over 2,300 acres and also crosses into Maryland and Virginia. Visitors can enjoy a variety of scenic hiking trails and exploring the historic town, ranger-guided tours, craft shops, museums, and restaurants.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is open year-round, but some areas may be inaccessible in the winter months. Admission costs to the park are higher if entering per vehicle than if arriving on foot or bicycle, and you can also purchase an annual pass to save money.

Home Inventory Checklist

October 7th, 2019 | Comments Off on Home Inventory Checklist | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

Why create a home inventory checklist? Though your homeowners insurance policy provides the protection that you need in the event of a loss such as a fire or burglary, your policy can only pay for items that you can document. In order to assure that all your prize possessions will be replaced, you should conduct a home inventory so you have a finite record of everything that you own. This inventory will assist you in determining which items were destroyed or stolen.

How should you conduct a home inventory? To complete a full home inventory, walk through every room in your home and identify all of the contents. It is also wise to take photographs or make a video of all of your possessions, and keep this media documentation with your list. Then, place all of this information into a fireproof safe or safety deposit box at your bank.

Periodically, update this list as you purchase more items for your home.
How does a home inventory list relate to my insurance policy? Not only can a household inventory checklist assist you in the event of a loss, it can also help you determine whether you have enough insurance coverage. Your coverage should equal the cost of your possessions at today’s prices. Items such as jewelry, furs and fine art should be appraised on a regular basis to ensure that you have enough insurance to cover their high-priced value.

Once you have completed your home inventory walk-thru, contact Hodge, Hart & Schleifer for more assistance with your insurance needs.

Teaching Our Kids About Money

October 7th, 2019 | Comments Off on Teaching Our Kids About Money | Posted in inSIGHTS

Allowances and chores don’t exactly result in a fortune for children, but even at a young age, it’s never too early to start teaching them how to handle money responsibly. According to a study by the University of Cambridge, children typically develop financial habits by the time they are 7 years old. If you are a parent, it’s important to teach your kids smart and safe financial habits:

  • Give your children an allowance and let them learn firsthand what it is like having money.
  • Discourage impulsive spending by creating a budget and outlining what you plan to buy before going shopping.
  • Emphasize the importance of saving by explaining how savings accounts and bonds can help even a weekly allowance grow over time.
  • Let your children experience saving by opening an account for them—many banks offer children’s accounts that have no fee and no minimum balance requirement.
  • Teach your children to be skeptical of advertisements and sales tricks by pointing out when certain deals or offers might have a catch.
  • Simulate a borrowing experience by lending your children money and establishing a date by which they must pay it back in order to avoid accruing interest.

Teaching children anything takes time, effort and patience, but it is important for them to grow up with the knowledge and skills to be responsible with money.

View more InSights here.

10 Smart Snacks Under 200 Calories

October 7th, 2019 | Comments Off on 10 Smart Snacks Under 200 Calories | Posted in Lifestyle

Whether you’re craving sweet or salty, these healthy snacks are the perfect choice.

Believe it or not, snacking helps you maintain a healthy weight. The right snacks help fuel your body between meals and prevent you from binging on not-so-healthy foods. The key is choosing health snack options that are low in calories, high in protein and filled with nutrients — not processed junk food. Try some of these delicious and satisfying snack ideas, each under 200 calories.


These simple snacks are rich in protein, which helps keep you full and give you energy.

Cheese and crackers: 1 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese6 reduced-fat whole-wheat crackers (Triscuit).

Tuna salad with crackers: ¼ cup prepared tuna salad,7 whole-wheat crackers (Kashi).

Yogurt: 5.3 oz fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt.

String cheese: 1 low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella string cheese.


These delicious snacks are packed with essential nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and fiber.

Hard-boiled egg and fruit: 1 hard-boiled egg5 large strawberries.

Fruit and pumpkin seeds: 1 large orange2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds

Apple with peanut butter: 1 small apple1 tbsp peanut butter


Craving something crunchy? Put away the bag of chips or the chocolate chip cookies and choose one of these healthy snacks instead.

Veggies and hummus: 6 baby carrots,10 strips of bell peppers, 3 tbsp hummus

Almonds: 14 raw almonds

Granola bar: 1 roasted almond crunch granola bar (Nature Valley)

70+ Things to do this October

October 7th, 2019 | Comments Off on 70+ Things to do this October | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

Maryland Renaissance Festival – Weekends through Oct. 20
This unique festival takes place every year near Annapolis, Md. (roughly 50 minutes from downtown DC). Discover Renaissance-themed artisans, performances (including dances and musicians) and food. You can also dress up in your own costume, if ye so wish.
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. | Tickets
1821 Crownsville Road, Annapolis, MD 21401

NGA Nights: Art History Mysteries – Oct. 10
Take advantage of free after-hours access to the National Gallery of Art during this Thursday night celebration of art history. Bring a magnifying glass and trench coat as you become a detective inside the Gallery, observing masterpieces and discovering the mysteries inside of them. You can also expect pop-up talks and dance sessions thanks to the stylings of Les the DJ.
6-9 p.m. |  Free admission |  Register
National Gallery of Art, 4th Street & Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20565

Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival – Oct. 10-13
Curated by 100Reporters, an investigative news organization, the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival serves as the first and only film festival solely dedicated to investigative reporting on film in the United States. Four days of screenings are accompanied by a professional symposium in which journalists and filmmakers discuss their storytelling. Check out the films that will be shown, in addition to the speakers that will attend the symposium. Venues include Eaton DC, the National Archives, the National Geographic Museum and the Naval Heritage Center.
Schedule |  Tickets

Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour – Oct. 11-13
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is at its scenic best when fall rolls around, so it’s fitting that the historic estate hosts this special celebration of wine followed by a sunset tour of the property. Learn of the Founding Fathers’ attempts at wine-making, hear live blues music and meet George and Martha at the Mansion’s piazza. The tour will also take you to George’s basement, where he stored his wine. Fruit and cheese boxes to accompany your wine are available for purchase in advance.
6 – 9 p.m. |  Tickets
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121

Hillfest – Oct. 12
Hillfest, heartily backed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, will bring together more than 20 artists to celebrate the importance of music in the local community. Performances will take place on two separate stages at Garfield Park throughout the day. The Saturday concert is preceded by a conference that will address topics that affect the performing arts community.
10 a.m. – 8 p.m. |  Free admission
Garfield Park, 148 F Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

Snallygaster – Oct. 12
Snallygaster is here to let you beast out with over 400 craft brews and ciders on Pennsylvania Avenue. Named after a mythical creature, the festival roars into its eighth year with a hefty lineup that also includes food trucks and plenty of live music. Greg Engert, one of the city’s leading beer connoisseurs, has selected a motley crew of brews from far and wide for your tasting pleasure. Pick from one of two advance ticketingoptions and you will be contributing to Arcadia, a nonprofit working towards a more sustainable food system in the area. You must be 21 or older to attend.
2 p.m. (VIP at 12 p.m.) |  Tickets
Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets NW, Washington, DC

All Things Go Fall Classic – Oct. 12-13
Union Market is one of the District’s coolest spots, so in predictable fashion, the Market will host one of the year’s coolest festivals. The All Things Go Fall Classic stretches across two days and will feature performances from Chvrches, Melanie Martinez, Léon, Sneaks and many more. The festival will also showcase delicious local and regional eats, including &pizza, DC Empanadas, Nando’s, Rocklands and Shake Shack.
12 p.m. |  Tickets
Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE, Washington, DC 20002

Born to Run:Army Ten-Miler & Marine Corps Marathon – Oct. 13 & 27
Two of the country’s most popular races take place within three weeks of each other this month in the District. The Army Ten-Miler goes first, charting a scenic course that starts and ends at the Pentagon. The Marine Corps Marathon’s 44th running begins between the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery and concludes, fittingly, in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial. Eachrace packs the weekend with activities as well. Registration is closed for both runs, but spectators are more than welcome.

Boo at the Zoo – Oct. 18-20
The National Zoo’s annual family oriented Halloween evening event is now an essential part of the holiday in DC. Geared toward wholesome fun, the three-day celebration features more than 40 treat stations, as well as after-hours access to many of the zoo’s animal houses and exhibits. Halloween-themed trails will be fun for a stroll and live entertainment will also be featured, as well as a kids’ dance party and karaoke sesh. Make sure to come in costume! The event is suggested for kids between the ages of 4 and 12.
5:30 – 8:30 p.m. |  Tickets
Smithsonian National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

29Rooms – Oct. 18-27
Refinery29 brings its brand’s distinctive style to the DC Armory during this 10-day showcase. 29Rooms is just as it sounds – you can journey through 29 rooms, each with its own theme. One focuses on dreams, another on female storytellers; in one, have a conversation with your inner child and next up, go on a blind date with destiny. The entire experience aims to expand your reality through engaging and interactive touchpoints, many curated collaborations between artists, visionaries and brands.
DC Armory, 2001 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003

OAKtoberfest – Oct. 19
The U.S. National Arboretum hosts this special concert to celebrate the fall season. The Shmoods, formerly known as The DMV Hip-Hop Orchestra, will perform. The collaborative project will feature originals and classic medleys. In addition, expect food, drinks and dancing at this free event. Make sure to register before you go.
12-3 p.m. |  Free admission
U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002

Fall Harvest Family Days at Mount Vernon – Oct. 19-20
‘Tis the season at Mount Vernon, where fall truly shines across the estate’s beautiful grounds. Head to George Washington’s former abode for Fall Harvest Family Days. Among the activities: wagon rides, 18th-century dancing, fabric-making and corn husk doll demos, a straw bale maze and games and music from early America.
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. |  Tickets
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121

Washington International Horse Show – Oct. 22-27
Some of the world’s best horses and equestrians will call Capital One Arena home for six days in October. The Washington International Horse Show is one of the District’s biggest sporting events, as it attracts more than 500 competitors, including current stars and Olympic veterans. These stars and their horses will show off their skills at the leading metropolitan indoor horse show in the States. There’s plenty at stake, including more than $130,000 in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping.
Tickets |  Schedule
Capital One Arena, 601 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

The Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival – Oct. 24-27
The Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival is a collaboration between comedian Tig Notaro and Brightest Young Things that gives laughing fits to audiences all over the District, year after year. Thursday night at Lincoln Theatre features a show from the incomparable Maria Bamford and her singular brand of comedy. Friday night at Lincoln features two shows, including performances by Pete Holmes, Jamie Lee, Open Mike Eagle, Baron Vaughn and more. Saturday night’s showcase is Notaro herself, while announcements are coming for Sunday’s performance that rounds out the festival. An all-access pass is available, but grab it quickly, as it sells out quickly each year. Tickets for individual shows are also offered.
All-Access Pass
Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

Night of the Living Zoo – Oct. 25
The National Zoo’s 21-and-over complement to Boo at the Zoo, Night of the Living Zoo transforms the animal haven into a devil’s playground. You’ll have after-hours access to numerous zoo attractions while enjoying live entertainment, including frightfully amazing oddities and the annual costume contest. You’ll also be able to savor eats from local food trucks and craft brews.
7-10:30 p.m. |  Tickets
Smithsonian National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008