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2018

25 Things You Didn't Know You Could Put in the Dishwasher

Along with dishes, there are many other super-dirty things that your dishwasher will clean and shine. Your dishwasher can do so much more than wash dishes. This super-hot washing machine can clean, sanitize and deodorize anything that won't melt in high -- typically 130-170 degrees -- temperatures.

If you're not sure if a dirty item likes it hot, place it on the top rack, start the dishwasher, and check mid-cycle. Of course, let the steam clear before sticking your face in the cavity to check.
Here are 25 super-dirty things that your dishwasher will clean and shine.
 

  1. Shoes: If you can wear the shoes in rain – rubber boots, flip-flops, pool shoes -- you can pop them into the dishwasher for a good scrubbing. Make sure to remove liners and orthopedic inserts.
  2. Baseball Hats: Hats keep their shape when you place them on the top rack for cleaning and deodorizing. Put a small cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack for extra deodorizing power.
  3. Hairbrushes and Combs: Remove hair and place plastic combs and brushes in the cutlery tray and wash. Don't put products with wood handles in the dishwasher: Wood doesn't like hot water scrubbings.
  4. Toys: Metal and plastic toys will sparkle after going through a dishwasher cycle. Place in the cutlery tray or a mesh bag, first.
  5. Vent Covers and Grilles: When they become filthy with dust and grime, place metal covers and grilles on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Grooves will shine.
  6. Cup Holders: When they become encrusted with spilled coffee and soda, pop cup holders into the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning.
  7. Computer Keyboards: Proceed at your own risk, because placing computer keyboards in the dishwasher sounds risky to us. But some tech geeks swear it works. Test with an old keyboard you can do without.
  8. Kitchen Brushes: After slopping sauce on ribs, clean and sanitize basting brushes in the dishwasher.
  9. Scrub Brushes: Let your dishwasher scrub your scrub and bottle brushes.
  10. Hub Caps: To make them really shine, place in dishwasher along with a cup of white vinegar. If you want to clean lug nuts, too, place them in a mesh bag first.
  11. Window Screens: Clean screens will let more sun shine through to warm your home in winter and cut energy costs. If they fit, pop them in the dishwasher.
  12. Light Fixture Covers: Place glass and plastic fixture covers in the dishwasher on the gentle cycle. Dead bugs, grime and dust will disappear.
  13. Switch Plates and Outlet Covers: Dust typically covers the backsides of switch plates and outlet covers, which doesn't help allergy sufferers. Unscrew and place plates and covers in the dishwasher, which will clean and sanitize them.
  14. Stove Knobs: Pop off and place in dishwasher, which quickly will remove grease and grime.
  15. Potatoes and Root Vegetables: When you harvest potatoes, beets and turnips from your garden, place them in the top rack and run through a short dishwasher cycle without soap. To cook same veggies, wrap tightly in aluminum foil, and wash again.
  16. Refrigerator Shelves and Drawers: Save time cleaning the fridge by placing glass and plastic shelves and drawers in the dishwasher. Say goodbye to sticky messes.
  17. Cabinet Hardware: Your spring cleaning should include thoroughly cleaning cabinet pulls and knobs. If you're dirt obsessed, place them in a mesh bag or in the cutlery tray, and send through the wash cycle.
  18. Soap and Toothbrush Holders: Gather all holders, and let your dishwasher scrub off caked on toothpaste and dish detergent.
  19. Faux Flowers: They look even more faux when covered with dust. Place plastic flowers on the dishwasher's top rack, and press the short cycle button.
  20. Plastic Broom Heads and Brushes: Remove clumps of hair and dust that could clog the drain, then run through the dishwasher.
  21. Desk Accessories: Pen and pencil cups, sticky note holders, and in-out trays get dirty and dusty. Clean plastic accessories in the dishwasher.
  22. Makeup Brushes: Regularly sanitize these brushes that touch your eyes and face. Place them in the cutlery tray, and let the dishwasher blast away dried makeup and dust.
  23. Trash Can Lids: If they fit, place those gross-smelling lids in the dishwasher. They'll look and smell better after going through a complete cycle.
  24. Garden Tools: Garden tools can spread fungal infections from plant to plant. To sanitize, clean weeders, shears and trowels in the dishwasher. Rinse off soil, first.
  25. Sporting Equipment: Place plastic shin guards, balls and helmets in the dishwasher for cleaning, sanitizing and deodorizing.

 

Cinco de Mayo Safety Tips

Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo! If you’re celebrating this fun and festive holiday (which, by the way, is NOT the Mexican Independence Day), good for you! However, as your insurance agent, we would be remiss if we did not provide you with some Cinco de Mayo safety tips. The celebration of many holidays involves partaking in spirits (i.e., alcoholic beverages), and when people don’t plan ahead or behave responsibly, they can ruin the fun for everyone. Enjoy the celebration but PLEASE be safe!

Here are our Cinco de Mayo Safety Tips:

1. Obey the Law

You put yourself – and others around you – in jeopardy when you fail to obey the law. You risk major trouble for underage drinking, as well as a DUI – both of which can definitely affect your future plans, not to mention the lives you endanger when you get behind the wheel after drinking. So if you’re under 21, don’t drink. Stay home and have some good clean fun with family and friends. Enjoy some Mexican food and virgin margaritas, listen to music and play games.

If you’re over 21 and plan to drink for Cinco de Mayo, read on.

2. Plan Ahead

As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you know you are going to be out drinking tonight, have a plan of action for getting home: make sure your phone has the numbers programmed for a taxi cab, Lyft, or Uber; or find a trusted friend to be your designated driver.

3. Protect your Friends

Do not, under any circumstances, let your friends drive drunk. Keep your wits about you enough to recognize if someone you’re with is about to make the poor choice to get behind the wheel. Take their keys and do not return them. Call a cab, Lyft, or Uber and make sure your friends get home safely. You’ll never regret being the responsible one and looking out for your friends, but you might regret not doing so.

4. Report other Drunk Drivers

How to spot a drunk driver:

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) provided this list of signs to look out for that may indicate someone is driving drunk:

  • Quick acceleration or deceleration
  • Tailgating  
  • Weaving or zig-zagging across the road
  • Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles 
  • Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
  • Stopping without cause or erratic braking   
  • Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
  • Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions   
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Straddling the center lane marker    
  • Driving with headlights off at night
  • Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit   
  • Swerving  
  • Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road  
  • Turning abruptly or illegally

What to do if you see someone you suspect may be driving drunk:

1st - Stay as far away from the other vehicle as possible.

2nd - Do not try to pass the vehicle or signal the driver to pull over. Doing so could result in a collision.

3rd - Take notice of the license plate number along with details of the vehicle including make, model and color. However, make sure you don’t compromise your own safety trying to obtain this information.

4th - Pull over and call 911. Give the exact location of the vehicle, including the name of the road or cross streets and the direction the vehicle is traveling. Give a complete description of the vehicle and the manner in which the vehicle is being driven.

(source: MADD.org)

Please stay safe and happy Cinco de Mayo!

How to Plan the Perfect Stay at Home Vacation

Stay at Home Vacation

April 25, 2018

Airfares are rising and airport security lines are getting longer, so why not plan a hassle-free “staycation” this year? You’ll save time and money and, if you plan it right, you’ll feel more relaxed when it’s time to go back to work.

The key to the perfect staycation, experts say, is to treat it like an out-of-town vacation: Do your research ahead of time, plan your activities and count down to the big day when you start the festivities.

“Media professional, Karen Gadawski, agrees that the best staycations should be planned ahead and scheduled as if they were out-of-town vacations. “Have things done beforehand so that during vacation you aren’t thinking about everyday chores like doing laundry,” she says.

For the budget-minded, she says, it’s much easier to find discounts and to save passes for nearby entertainment venues you‘re familiar with than to shell out for high-priced places out of town.

Here Lowe and Gadawski offer seven tips on how to plan the perfect staycation:

1. Do your research

Visit your city’s convention and visitor’s bureau website.. There you will find a blog, calendar of events and coupons for some local attractions you might not have even thought about visiting, Lowe says.
Also, check the websites of your local community center, library and government. Look for festivals, free events and concerts. This will give you some idea of when you want to take your staycation and give you some dates to put on your calendar, Lowe says.

2. Create excitement

Counting down to your vacation is important, Gadawski says. Put the dates in the family calendar and talk about how it’s two weeks and then a week before vacation time. Then start counting down the days.
Get everyone involved in planning the itinerary. If you’re looking for places to go, consider whether there are parks you haven’t visited because they are a 30 minute or an hour’s drive away. Research national parks that are within a two-hour drive from your house.
When you wake up each morning of your staycation, you should know what you plan to do that day. Whether you are travelling or staycationing, you should plan activities with your children’s ages in mind. Check out our family travel guide for tips on organizing the best vacation for every age group.

3. Look for local package deals

Many museums and minor league sports teams offer package deals that include tickets and a one-night hotel stay, Lowe says. If you find one of these packages, take advantage of spending a night in a hotel with a swimming pool and plan to visit the zoo or children’s museum in the morning.

4. Check in for one night

If you want to spend one night in a hotel with a swimming pool, look online for discount rates. If you are local, you’ll have an easier time determining which hotels are being offered on travel sites, Lowe says. You can also call the front desk and ask for their best deal. If you are willing to stay midweek, she says, you can probably get a good deal, especially if you call close to the day you want to book.

5. Escape to the movies

Look for activities that you wouldn’t normally do or be able to take advantage of if you weren’t on vacation. For instance, many movie theaters offer Tuesday or Wednesday morning free or cheap matinee showings. Lowe suggests getting to the theater early because it will fill up fast. Drive-in movies are also a fun alternative. Or allow each family member to pick a movie to rent for each night of vacation.

6. Make it special

Shaking up your normal routine is essential to a staycation. For instance, Gadawski says, play dates aren’t allowed during staycations because it’s all about family time. In the evenings she plans movie nights, game nights and even a giant indoor sleep over in the family room.
Themed food and music can also make things festive, Lowe says. Grill burgers and hotdogs and play some 1950s songs during dinner, or create a make-it-yourself taco bar in your kitchen and play Mexican music.

7. Don’t plan every minute

Everyone needs some downtime during vacation so be careful not to plan every minute of your time off, Lowe says. If you do feel like you need to have a packed agenda, consider doing a shorter staycation of two or three a days.

But if want to have a vacation where everyone can relax and sleep in each morning, Lowe adds, pace yourself. Get out of the house each day, and plan family activities each night.

Planning a staycation can save time and money, but traveling doesn’t have to break the bank. If getting out of town is a must, learn how you can find great deals and travel on a budget.

Spring Has Sprung and It's Time to Start Thinking About BBQing

The calendar says it is spring!  Whether or not the thermometer agrees where you live, it is never too early to start grilling, and practicing some new recipes for your big summer parties.

But, before you get started cooking on your gas grill, charcoal grill or smoker, follow these simple steps below. Getting your grill in tip-top condition now will save you time and hassles later and keep you grilling the tastiest foods ever!

For Gas Models:

Check for leaks! Whenever changing or disconnecting an LP tank, perform a leak check when the tank is reconnected.   A simple soapy water solution applied to the connection is all you need.  With the control knobs off, turn on the tank. If bubbles form, DO NOT USE THE GRILL!  There is a gas leak. Try a different tank!

Brush the burner tubes!
Using a clean stainless steel brush, brush across the portholes to clear all oxidation and debris from the ports.  Do not brush lengthwise, as that may push more into the holes.  Blocked portholes can cause a back flash fire.

Check the cookbox!
Excess grease can collect on the sides of the cookbox over time.  Grease is flammable!   Use a plastic scraper to push all grease into the bottom tray (grease tray).

Clean out the bottom tray (grease tray)!
Use a plastic scraper to push all of the excess grease into the catch pan.   Again, grease is flammable!

Empty the catch pan and toss the aluminum catch pan liner!
Replace the catch pan liner. Remember, grease is flammable!

For Charcoal Models:

Clean out all ashes!
Empty all ashes and unburnt charcoal from the bowl and ash catcher before you grill. Your charcoal will burn easier, and no burning ash will end up outside the grill.          

Remember to check grill brushes for loose bristles and excessive wear on a regular basis. Replace the brush if any loose bristles are found on cooking grates or on the brush. We recommend purchasing a new stainless steel grill brush at the beginning of every spring.

Welcome Spring!!!

Dyed Easter Eggs Using Shaving Cream

March 29, 2018

Step 1. Pour shaving cream into containers. Add drops of first food coloring, mixing well with coffee stirrer until combined.

Step 2. Add a few drops of second color; drag stirrer through cream to add swirls and create designs; work over whole container, or focus on specific areas.

Step 3. Submerge your eggs in the colored cream and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. (The longer they are submerged in the cream, the brighter your dyed eggs will be.)

Step 4. Remove eggs from dye with tongs, and gently wipe clean with a paper towel.

Click on the link for additional information. Courtesy of https://www.marthastewart.com/1525283/dyed-easter-eggs-shaving-cream

 

Spring Cleaning Tips

March 1, 2018

As we bid adieu to winter and usher in spring, it's the perfect time to purge, clean and organize. For some of us, spring cleaning seems daunting and downright tedious, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some easy and affordable spring cleaning ideas!

1. Remove water stains with lemon for a natural faucet fix

This spring, make faucets clean and sparkly by rubbing a lemon half on the water stains. The citric acid helps remove hard water marks. Then, use the other half of the lemon for our next tip.

2. Clean your microwave by heating lemon juice and rinds in water

Cut a lemon into halves, squeeze the juice into 1/2 cup of water and drop the rinds into the mixture. Microwave for three minutes and let it stand for five minutes without opening the door. The trapped steam will loosen the grime, so you can wipe the microwave clean with less elbow grease.

3. Use white vinegar to beat shower head buildup

Looking for more natural ways to clean your bathroom? Vinegar can dissolve the mineral deposits accumulate in showerheads over time, causing reduced pressure and water flow. Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar, secure it over the showerhead with a rubber band and leave it overnight to get rid of buildup. Just be sure to run the shower before you hop in, or you risk smelling like vinegar all day.

4. Use newspaper to clean dirty windows and mirrors

Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of liquid soap into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture onto the glass and scrub with newspaper for a streak-free window or mirror. The ink acts as a mild abrasive and allows you to make use of old newspapers.

5. Organize your fridge and cabinets with rotating turntables

Don’t limit rotating turntables and Lazy Susans to your tabletops. After discarding old condiments and spices, organize your pantries and refrigerator with this useful storage hack.

6. Clean your grill with an onion.

Get your grill cleaned up and ready for the warm weather. First, heat it up and spray some white vinegar onto the grates to help loosen the residue. Then, scrub the area firmly using half an onion. The acid from the onion will rid your grill of any leftover remnants.

7. Let coffee filters do more than put a spring in your step

Does your TV screen or computer monitor show fingerprints, smudges and dust? The fiber in coffee filters is be gentle enough to rub them away, even on delicate TV screens. Just don’t press too hard!

8. Use cream of tartar to clean toasters and tea kettles

Combine 1 tsp of cream of tartar with just enough water to create a milky paste. Rub the solution onto your stainless steel appliances and wipe away to reveal their original shine.

9. Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair from your carpet or rug

The rubber edge of the squeegee is a great tool for gripping and removing pet hair from your rug. Use a firm grip and make sure to clean up the excess hair as you go. Finish by running the vacuum to catch any hair still on the surface.

10. Use a butter knife to clean air vents

Don’t let that dust build up for another minute; use a butter knife to reach those tough get places between and behind your vents. Simply wrap the knife in a rag and wipe between the slats. Then, pen the windows and run your central air to fill your home with fresh spring air (just be sure your heat or AC isn’t on while you’re running the fan).

11. Wrap a towel over a broom to clean hard-to-reach places

Cobwebs and dust can collect in room corners and on ceiling fans. Wipe them away by securing a towel over the bristle end of a broom with a large rubber band. The dust and cobwebs stick to the cloth.

12. Recycle old socks to use as dusting mitts

Cotton is a great fabric for trapping dust particles. Try using a (clean) pair of socks as dust mitts and you’ll have more control over where dust goes.

Spring is also a great time to clean up your insurance. Give us a call and we can help review your policies!

 

Flood Insurance: Misconceptions and Needs

Febrruary 7, 2018

Most of us don’t realize that flood insurance is an important part of being fully insured, no matter where we live.

When you purchase your home and your homeowners insurance, you might think you’re covered for anything that can happen to your home and its contents. Unfortunately, flood damage is not included in that coverage.

Here are some common misconceptions about flood insurance:

  • Flooding won’t or can’t affect you
  • You don’t need flood coverage right away
  • Minor damage due to flooding is covered under your homeowners insurance

We know it’s easy to let flood insurance slip your mind, but consider these facts:

  • In the last 5 years, all 50 states have been affected by flooding or flash floods
  • Homeowners Insurance does not include any flood damage
  • Everyone lives in a flood zone (it’s true!). Click here to view flood zones for more info
  • In most cases, it takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before you actually feel threatened by the weather

Flooding can happen anywhere.

Call us at (530) 674-3430 to review your current homeowner’s policy and we’ll help you get the proper flood coverage for your area. We’ve got you covered!

 

Winter Driving Mistakes

January 26, 2018

Mistake #1: Not Being Prepared

This mistake isn’t winter-specific. You should be prepared for an emergency every time you drive – no matter the weather, no matter the season. Having an emergency kit stored in your car at all times will come in handy in a worst-case scenario. Certain items are especially important to keep in your car during winter. You’ve seen the person stranded in a snow bank on the side of the road (or maybe you’ve been that person). Being stranded is awful but it will be a whole lot easier if you have an emergency kit with you. Your winter driving kit should include items like an ice scraper, gloves, and a shovel.

Besides keeping an emergency kit in your car, always have a half-full tank of gas and check the weather forecast before you hit the road. If bad weather is in the forecast, don’t drive unless it’s necessary.

Mistake #2: Not Clearing Your Car of Snow and Ice

We know. Clearing snow off your car is not fun. It’s cold outside and clearing the snow can take a while, especially after a large snowstorm. Using a snowbrush to brush away six inches of snow can feel like a workout. It’s easy to get lazy and say “it’s good enough” after just clearing the windows. But driving with any snow or ice on your car is dangerous. Give yourself enough time to fully clear the snow and ice off your car. You might have to wake up a few minutes earlier or start the engine ahead of time so you can turn on your defrosters.

Mistake #3: Driving Too Fast

The speed limits posted are for driving in ideal, dry conditions. You must reduce your speed when driving in winter weather conditions. The faster you drive, the more time it takes for you to stop. Driving slowly gives you more time to react if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly or if you hit a patch of ice. Remember – “it’s better to be driving slow and wish you were going faster than to be driving fast and wish you were going slower.”

Mistake #4: Driving Too Close to Snowplows

It’s easy to get frustrated when driving behind a slow-moving snowplow. But remember, plows are there to make the road safer. The road in front of the plow may not be clear yet. It’s better to drive slowly on a cleared road than to pass a snowplow only to realize there’s too much snow on the road for your car to handle. Be patient and stay behind the plow.

Mistake #5: Tailgating

Tailgating is bad at any time. But it’s even worse when roads are slippery. It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to stop so you don’t rear-end the vehicle in front of you. Increase your following distance from two seconds to eight seconds in winter weather conditions. An eight-second following distance means your car should pass an object (like a road sign) eight seconds after the car in front of you passes it.

Mistake #6: Panicking When Your Car Starts to Skid

The road looks clear so you’re driving along. But then all of a sudden, you hit a patch of black ice and start to skid. This is a frightening situation, but panicking will only make it worse. If you start to skid, don’t brake, accelerate, or make any sudden movements. Take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go. If you weren’t making another winter driving mistake (like tailgating), you should be fine. Your tires will regain traction.

Tip: Ice forms more quickly on bridges and overpasses because they lose heat from both sides. Use extra caution when driving on these roads.

 

9 Tips to Maximize Your Gas Mileage.

January 12, 2018

Thanks to the simple laws of physics, cars use the most gas as they accelerate. Gentle braking—or avoiding the brakes all together—is the best way to prevent unnecessary acceleration and manage gas consumption. In stop-and-go traffic, leave extra distance between your car and the car in front of you. Doing so will allow the car to gently (and safely) coast, which is preferable to slamming on the brakes and then flooring the accelerator to start moving again.

Slow down. Speeding on the highway can be a tough habit to break, but it’s worth every penny to do so. In fact, slowing from 70 mph to 65 mph can reduce fuel consumption by up to 7 percent. And decreasing speeds from 65 mph to 55 mph can save you even more.

Empty out your trunk. Driving around with extra gear in your trunk weighs down your car. Carrying your golf clubs? Storing extra suitcases? If you truly want to get serious about how to save gas when driving, empty everything out aside from your emergency roadside kit.

Remove your luggage rack. Unless you are currently using your ski, bicycle or luggage rack, dismount it. Even the most aerodynamic racks add wind resistance, which decreases your fuel efficiency.

Rethink your commute. The more time you spend in stop and go traffic, the more gas you’ll burn… and the more money you’ll be spending. Rethink your daily commute and choose secondary roads to avoid heavy traffic or stoplights. Remember, the shortest route is not always the most fuel-efficient.

Downsize your rental. A smaller car will always have greater fuel economy thanks to its smaller mass. You may not be able to trade in your family car at home, but if you’re traveling and have the option to rent, opt for a smaller vehicle. You’ll have just as much fun on vacation, and you’ll have a little extra change in your pocket to enjoy the sights.

Straighten up. Improper alignment not only wears your tires faster, but it also causes your engine to work harder—burning more gas. The next time you get your oil changed, ask to have your tires aligned.

Check your tire pressure. Under-inflated tires, like misaligned tires, cause your engine to burn more gas. In fact, one out of every four cars may be driving with slightly deflated tires. Even minor under-inflation can cost up to 6 cents per gallon in lost efficiency. Check your owner’s manual for the proper inflation.

Drive less. Spend every day behind the wheel? Rethinking your driving habits can help you save money. When running errands, park your car in one central place and walk to different stores, rather than driving around the same shopping center. Make one day each week your “car-free” day. Walk, bike or take public transportation. Set up a weekly commute with coworkers or friends. If you’re not driving, you’re not spending money on gas!

 

What Your Garaging Address Can Mean for Car Insurance

January 3, 2018

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If you’ve ever purchased car insurance, you’ve probably seen the term garaging address. But if you’re like most people, you may be a little fuzzy about what it actually means and how it differs from a regular ol’ address.

If that’s the case, we can help. Here we shed some light on what exactly a garaging address is. Knowing how to properly identify your garaging address will help ensure you’ve got the appropriate coverage for your vehicle.

What is a garaging address?

Simple. Your garaging address is where your car is parked the majority of the time. This is probably where you live (making it your actual address too) but some situations aren’t so cut and dry.

Say, for example, you live in Illinois and are what’s known as a “snowbird.” If you spend your spring and summer splashing in Lake Michigan, but hop in your car and head south to escape the winter, which residence should you list as your garaging address?

The answer: wherever you spend more time. If you’re in Illinois for 10 months out of the year and Florida for 2 months, your Illinois address should be used as your garaging location.

Why your garaging address matters

While every insurance company has a different formula for calculating rates, several things factor into the equation — and your garaging address may be one of them.

 

For instance, if you’re an urbanite living in a large city, where vandalism and crime rates tend to be a bit higher, the cost of insurance is likely to be a bit higher as well. On the flip side, if you live in an area with very little crime, your insurance rates could potentially be lower.

Always provide an accurate, up-to-date garaging address

Because your garaging address may affect how your insurance rate is calculated, it’s important to provide your insurer with accurate information.

 

So if you move, or if the address your car spends the most time at changes, be sure to contact your insurance provider to updated your information.

 

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