Ann M. Ciesielka
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Choosing the Right Health Insurance

November 3, 2016 1:39 am

When it comes to choosing health insurance, there is no “one size fits all.” Factors to consider include your age, lifestyle, marital status, and more. Whether you’re a newlywed, a new parent, recent college graduate or recently retired, there are several things you should consider when selecting your plan.  

Newlywed
Marriage is an exciting new adventure, and it impacts everything—including your health insurance. When researching plans, make sure the one you choose fits in with your family budget. Look at what you’ve spent on health care in the past and evaluate what you’re comfortable spending on monthly premiums now that you’re no longer single. Evaluate whether or not it makes the most sense to assume coverage under one of your employer-sponsored plans or an individual family plan.    

New Parent
Preparation is key when you're expecting, and this extends far beyond reading parenting books and decorating the nursery. Remember to make sure you choose the right insurance plan before you bring home baby. For new moms (and moms-to-be), plan choice will affect everything from prenatal and maternity care to pediatrician visits and immunizations. Consider the rules for in-network and out-of-network healthcare providers: how long of a hospital stay is covered? What prenatal tests are covered?    

Recent Grad
See ya later college! For new grads, there are many options to choose from when it comes to your health insurance. Whether it’s opting for a plan through your new job, remaining on your parent’s plan, or opting for an individual plan through the healthcare marketplace, it’s important to do your research and pick the plan that best fits your needs. 

Retiree
For those looking to retire, consider whether the Medicare plan you’re thinking about covers the health services you need. Look into the prescription drug benefits offered, how much your premiums and deductibles will cost and what you can manage to pay out-of-pocket based on your lifestyle.

Source:  Anthem.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Prepare Your Home for Holiday Entertaining

November 2, 2016 1:39 am

(Family Features)--As the holiday season approaches and you're tasked with hosting family and friends, it can be a little overwhelming to imagine all the work that has to take place for a successful celebration.

However, there's no reason the host can't join in the fun. To help keep calm and have your home ready for the party, follow these tips.

Cleaning
More often than not, the first step to readying your home for a house full of guests is to clean. Start by going room to room seeking out trash, recyclables and things that can be stored away – anything to clear up much-needed space. Once the clutter is cleared, work from the top down to clean surfaces, so any dust or debris that hits the floor can be vacuumed or swept neatly away. Remember to steer clear of harsh or highly fragrant chemicals, which may be an irritant to some guests.

Upgrading
Don't try to sneak by with old appliances this time around. Instead, upgrade your most important resources throughout the house in order to find success when it comes to playing host. For example, swapping out your old, cluttered refrigerator for a Whirlpool French Door Refrigerator with industry-first infinity slide shelves is a useful way to create more space in the kitchen. Its pantry-inspired layout lets families fit and find all their edible favorites. Every section, shelf and bin in the refrigerator was redesigned to deliver smart organization with panoramic shelves and unique features to store 30 percent more than other leading French door bottom mount refrigerators.

Planning
Staying organized and having a precise plan are vital to putting together the perfect night with family and friends. Make sure to nail down the specifics, such as the number of guests, what food will be brought, what needs prepared in advance and what can wait until the big day. Making lists and involving others in the family to help can make a seemingly insurmountable volume of work feel instantly manageable. As you think through your plans, remember to anticipate the unexpected and have an emergency party kit on hand to quickly respond to pitfalls, like spills or broken glass, before they derail the festivities.

Decorating
With all the energy you put into planning and upgrading, don't overlook the importance of taking time to make your home shine with a creative touch. Go festive with holiday-specific decor or keep it classic with timeless decorations placed throughout the home to make it really sparkle. For close family and friends, consider adding personal touches like mementos of holidays past. Or go with a themed approach with similar colors and textures that you carry throughout the house.

Source: www.whirlpool.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Daylight Savings Time: Chores to 'Fall Back' On

November 2, 2016 1:39 am

We all lament the loss of an hour as Daylight Savings Time ends—but that loss can also serve as a reminder that it's never too soon to see to a number of chores around the house.

For example, Bel Red Energy Solutions of Seattle reminds its customers to change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, and make sure they are all in working condition.

Bel Red explains that since sensors in CO detectors don’t typically last as long as smoke detectors (2-3 years, on average), it may be time to replace one or more of them.

What if you don't have a CO detector? If you’re looking to purchase one for the first time, or replace an aging one, Bel Red suggests a new, low-level CO detector with a 5-year sensor.

Boise Basin Insurance Services, on the other hand, recommends using Daylight Savings Time as a prompt to clean your medicine cabinets. Remember: some medications should not be thrown away in a trash can or flushed down the toilet. Find a drug disposal facility in your area, or contact your local law enforcement agency, for more information.

Boise Basin also suggests taking the twice yearly opportunity to drain your water heater—flushing it out is the best way to remove any built-up sediment, which can lead to reduced efficiency.

And—as long as you're setting clocks ahead by an hour—replace the batteries in those, too!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Here's How to Avoid Scary Paint Failures

November 2, 2016 1:39 am

Looking to tackle an outdoor painting project? Good for you. However, nothing is worse than dedicating hours and energy to your paint job, only to find out you've hit a big fat fail: peeling and flaking paint, wrinkling, blistering, and hideous "alligatoring," where paint cracks open in a pattern that resembles a reptile's scales.

Below are a handful of tips to avoid these epics fails, courtesy of Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.

Properly prepare the surface.  It was Ben Franklin who said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" -- apt advice for almost everything, including painting.  Good surface preparation is essential if you want to avoid the nightmare of early paint failure.  So, before ever picking up a brush or roller, be certain that the surface is sound and clean, with no sign of loose or peeling paint.  Prime any bare or unpainted wood or metal.  Only then should you begin to apply your paint.

Invest in top quality paint.  If the surface has been properly prepared, the best way to protect against frightening failures is to use a top quality 100% acrylic latex paint.  "This type of paint will tightly adhere to the surface below, but remain flexible enough to expand and contract when temperatures rise or fall," says Zimmer.  By investing in top quality paint, you'll get an extremely tough and durable finish that will keep the demons of paint failure at bay.

Work with high quality brushes and rollers.  The best quality tools permit you to apply a thicker, more uniform coat of paint, one that offers maximum protection against forbidding failures.  Choose brushes with split bristles of multiple lengths that are packed tightly together.  And, when working with latex paint, use brushes and rollers made of synthetic material, which are better at holding their shape to give a better result.  

Apply paint only in moderate weather.  When applying any exterior coating, avoid working in spine-chilling temperatures.  They're uncomfortable for you...and, they can have dire consequences for your paint.  Paint forms the best protective film when it isn't too cold or too hot outside, and when the wind isn't excessive.  Still days with temps above 50 degrees F. are ideal.

Source: blog.paintquality.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Ways to Get a Jump on the Holidays

November 1, 2016 1:39 am

From the time the first Halloween masks appear in the stores, we seem to rush headlong into the holidays, caught up in what seems like a veritable whirlwind of baking, decorating, and shopping. The home editors at Southern Living and Vibrant Life magazines offer tips on slowing down the rush by getting a head start on the basics.

Update Your Mailing List – Now is a good time to bring your address book up to date, so you won’t be searching around at the last minute for Aunt Minnie’s new address.

Start Saving – Open a new account or start stuffing a piggy bank with loose change, refund checks, and any unexpected little windfalls—perhaps even the cash you ‘saved’ by using coupons. Anything you can stow away in the next three months can help out at holiday time.

Stock the Pantry – As fall begins, many supermarkets put baking supplies on sale. Begin stocking up now on all the ingredients you know you will need later.

Add Gift Cards to Your Shopping List – Purchase one gift card every week as you do your weekly shopping. You’ll be glad to have them to use as gifts anyone on your list will enjoy.

Get Cooking – If you bake cookies, can fruits or veggies, or make jams and preserves, get a head start now. Stored properly in freezers or on shelves, they’ll make great gifts later.

Get Crafting – If you knit, sew, or do other handicrafts, start now to create personal creations to brighten the faces of those you give them to.

Start Making a List – Make a note of it as the people around you mention items they have seen or heard about or think they might like to have. Working from such a list can shortcut the time you spend shopping.

Think About Scaling Back – Gifting is expensive, and all the more so as kids get older. Instead of exchanging gifts with every member of your cousin’s family, send an e-mail now suggesting one gift for the family—movie passes? A restaurant gift card? A basket of heavenly edibles?

Hit Garage Sales – You may find gift items still in the box, new or gently used holiday décor, needed kitchen ware and more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are There Rats in Your Attic?

November 1, 2016 1:39 am

If you've heard things go bump in the night, chances are it's not a spooky spirit. More likely, it's a roof rat. Pest control provider Terminix announced the top 10 cities with the most reported roof rat infestations, giving Memphis, Tenn. the "honor" of the top spot.

The cities in the United States with the most reported roof rat infestations are:

1. Memphis, Tenn.
2. Gilbert, Ariz.
3. Pleasanton, Calif.
4. Scottsdale, Ariz.
5. Tempe, Ariz.
6. Sacramento, Calif.
7. Salinas, Calif.
8. San Bernardino, Calif.
9. San Antonio, Texas
10. Plano, Texas

Roof rats are a creepy-crawly variety of rodent with a long, scaled, Halloween costume-ready tail that distinguishes them from their better-known relatives. They tend to seek entry into buildings through holes around soffit vents, cables entering buildings, and turbine and box vents on roofs, where they take up residence and multiply.

These pests often gain access to structures by climbing on wires and trees to seek shelter inside, where they can grow up to a full foot long and pose seriously scary health and safety risks. They can chew through building materials like drywall and insulation, and may even pose a fire risk by damaging wiring.

Warning Signs
"Roof rats often stay out of sight, but there may still be warning signs of an infestation," says Paul Curtis, board-certified entomologist and manager of technical services with Terminix. "They're most active at night, and homeowners with roof rats often report hearing them moving overhead after dark, as well as finding droppings and smudge marks from oil or dirt in their attic."

What to Do
A key strategy in preventing roof rats from making their way into your home or business is eliminating things that might attract them. Homeowners should keep firewood, debris and piles of stone or brick as far from the foundation of the home as possible, protect their homes with steel wool- or wire mesh-reinforced sealant along any holes or cracks larger than a quarter inch, and install a thick weather stripping along the bottom of doors to keep rodents from entering.

Because roof rats can bite and are safety hazards, a trained professional should inspect any homes suspected of harboring roof rats or another pest.  

Source: Terminix.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep Pets Healthy During the Holidays

November 1, 2016 1:39 am

People aren't the only ones putting on a bit of winter weight. With holidays comes family gatherings heaped with rich eats, many of which end of passed down to your favorite four legged friend. And with cooler weather, dogs may not be getting as much outdoor exercise, meaning they too can pack on a few pounds. Unfortunately, weight gain in pets can lead to long-lasting health problems.  

“If people get a bit too relaxed and overeat during the holidays, they often do the same with their dogs,” explains Will Post, founder and CEO, Hound & Gatos Pet Foods Corporation. “The problem with that is that it can be quite detrimental for dogs if we relax too much and let our guard down about taking care of them in a healthy manner.”

Here are 5 ways to help keep pets healthy through the holiday season:

Scratch the scraps. Many people like to get their dog in on the holiday food craze, but there are things they shouldn’t be eating. It’s important that dogs don’t consume things like chocolate, nuts, or onions. These things can be toxic to their nervous system, or even lead to anemia.

No bones about it. That big turkey leg may look appetizing to your furry friend, but handing them the bones can prove dangerous. Dogs can choke on bones or they can also lacerate their intestines. Skip giving them the bones, as it’s not a risk worth taking.

Investigate treats. Most people purchase their pooch a gift at some point during the holidays. Those who will purchase special treats will want to give due diligence to their quality. Opt for ones that have ingredients only from the U.S. to help minimize the exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.

Keep exercising. Although people tend to get a little lazy during the holiday season, and especially as it gets colder outside, it’s important that pets still get plenty of exercise. Make a goal to ensure they keep moving and get daily exercise so they stay healthy and don’t pack on the pounds over the winter.

Commit to high quality. After the holiday comes the new resolutions that everyone makes. Start early, but resolve to feed your pets only high quality food that has been made with ingredients sourced in the U.S. This will help keep them healthier and reduce exposure to potentially harmful ingredients that may be imported from places such as China.

“We take keeping pets healthy serious, which is why we have won so many awards for our natural pet foods,” adds Post. “We know how important pets are to their human families, so we do our best to ensure that people have the best quality ingredients in order to feed them well, feel proud, and keep them vibrant.”

Source: www.HoundGatos.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Making Halloween Safer for Kids

October 31, 2016 1:36 am

Despite a growing trend to keep kids in at Halloween, showing off their costumes at the local mall or partying with friends at home, trick-or-treating on the street is a rite of passage in many neighborhoods.

If you are at home, turn on porch lights early to help prevent slips and falls. Children will typically be trick-or-treating between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. If you hand out treats, consider choosing mini-bags of pretzels or other non-sugary snacks, or small boxes of crayons, or mini-flashlights.

Additionally, to make the celebration safer for all children— and adults—Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization committed to preventing child injuries, provides nine tips for making Halloween safe as well as happy:

Keep costumes creative, but safe. Choose light colored fabrics and/or decorate costumes and treat bags will reflective tape or stickers.

Choose face paint or makeup instead of masks. Masks can obstruct a child’s vision.

Have children carry glow sticks or flashlights. It will help to make them clearly visible to drivers.

Have an adult close to trick-or-treaters. Children under 12 should never be alone on the streets, even in neighborhoods they know. Children over 12 should stick to the streets they know.

Cross the street at corners. Use crosswalks and traffic lights when available, and look left and right before crossing.

Stow away electronic devices. Keep phones in pockets and keep your head up as you walk.

Watch out for cars. Even on a quiet street, cars may be backing up or turning. Be sure children know to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

If you are driving, be alert. Be prepared for heavy pedestrian traffic and turn on headlights early.

Drive more slowly in residential neighborhoods. Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully—and be alert to kids on curbs and at intersections.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Fireplace Safety

October 31, 2016 1:36 am

For much of the country, winter means cold nights, and what better way to warm up than to curl up next to the fireplace. As fireplace use rises, so does the need for fireplace safety. Below are five tips to keep your family and home safe all season long.

Abide by the three feet rule. Clear a three foot radius around your fireplace, making sure  the area is clear of furniture, books, newspapers, and other potentially flammable materials.

Inspect annually. Have the chimney inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a professional to ensure it’s clear of obstructions and creosote to prevent a fire.

Install a safety screen. Make family members and guests aware that the glass panel of a gas fireplace, stove, or insert can be very hot. Installing a safety screen or safety barrier is recommended to reduce the risk of serious burns by preventing direct contact with hot glass.

Check the gas. Have a technician check the gas lines, clean the burner and control compartment as well as check for condensation annually.

Crack a window. If burning vent-free logs for more than an hour, crack a window open. If using vented logs, clamp your fireplace damper into the open position so it never closes while burning.

Source: The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Get Organized for Entertaining

October 31, 2016 1:36 am

(Family Features)--Hosting a holiday gathering is no small feat, but you can get organized ahead of the big day with these entertaining tips.

Set the guest list early: Send out invites in advance. Longer notice allows for you to better gauge who will be attending and how much food you'll need to make. Rather than waiting to see who shows up and who doesn't, send out RSVPs via mail or email so that you have a precise idea of how many people to plan for.

Plan the menu ahead of time: From drinks to side dishes to dessert, with special storage spots and industry-first infinity slide shelves, Whirlpool's French Door Refrigerator allows you to store 30 percent more so you can buy all your groceries in advance. This way you won't have to worry about running to the store just moments before guests arrive.

Set the table the day before: Organizing where you can, such as setting out plates and silverware in advance, allows you to focus on preparing food and drinks on the day of the party. Unless you'll be using fresh cut flowers, go ahead and complete the centerpieces and any other decorative touches the night before, as well.

Make a party-night cheat sheet: Keep a checklist nearby so you don't forget about any of your delicious courses or what tasks need completed throughout the evening. Remember to include items like refreshing the ice bucket and swapping out buffet dishes or appetizer platters periodically.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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