Author: Stephen Vick

New Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

With the holidays quickly approaching, the amount of time you spend in the kitchen is likely to increase. Whether you’ll be hosting family gatherings or cooking your favorite holiday dishes, make things easier on yourself by getting organized now.

Categorize Kitchenware

Looking for a good place to start? Try arranging your kitchenware items based on how often you use them. For instance, everyday dishes should be stored in an easy-to-access place, while your professional grade mixer can be kept tucked away in a cupboard. Keep all bakeware together, and store other items close to where you use them. For example, place pans and skillets near the stove.

Lock Down Lids

If you feel like the lids to your pots and Tupperware are like socks — always missing from their mate — it’s time to build a better system. Depending on how much space you have, try using a rack to file lids in a row or add a tiered pullout insert to cabinets or drawers.

Make a Food Filing System

Start by organizing your pantry shelves into grocery store categories. Put dry goods such as rice and beans on one shelf, and keep cans and sauces on another. You can also use see-through containers like wire baskets to organize snacks. If you need to save space, use an over-the-door organizer to sort and display food, spices and more.

Consolidate Cleaning Products

What about cleaning products and other odds and ends? The storage area beneath your sink has more potential than you may realize. Stackable shelves or even pullout drawers can help you bring some order to this often overlooked space.

Vick Insurance Group here in Camden, TN is reachable 24/7/365.  Visit us at www.vickinsurancegroup.com for all your Business, Home, Auto and Life Insurance needs.

“Merry Christmas”


WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR WINTER

Depending on where you live especially here in Camden or Big Sandy, TN, the weather may still feel more like spring than winter. But make no mistake, cooler temperatures are on their way. Now’s the time to winterize your home. Here’s how to get prepped from the outside in.

Outside the Home

  • Plant protection — Starting at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit, outdoor plants become susceptible to damage. If you want your plants to survive the winter, adding extra mulch, watering them regularly and covering them with sheets can help.
  • Winter weatherstripping — Tiny cracks in your home’s exterior can lead to big utility bills as the temperature drops. Fortunately, these small leaks are typically easy and inexpensive to fix. Focus on sealing up any area connected directly to the outside. Cold air is most likely to leak in via windowpanes and sills, siding or brick and baseboard cracks.
  • Faucet fortification — Exterior faucets are notoriously vulnerable to freezes, making them prime winterization targets. All you need to do to protect your pipes is unscrew and drain the hose, and then add styrofoam or polyethylene insulators to the faucet.

Inside the Home

  • Ceiling fan direction — In school most of us learned that warm air rises. Switching your ceiling fan so that it rotates clockwise in the winter can help pull down and evenly distribute rising heat throughout a room.
  • Filters and furnace — A little routine filter and furnace maintenance goes a long way. Service your heating units at least once a year to help prolong their lives. Remaining diligent about replacing the filter every one to three months can also save you money on heating costs.
  • Chimney check-in — There’s nothing like a roaring fire to stave off a winter chill. But first, conduct a bit of fireplace upkeep. Getting the chimney and flume cleaned, or at least inspected, could save your home and your life.


HELPFUL CYBERSECURITY AWARENESS TIPS

Here in Camden, TN, whether it’s to pay bills, order food or connect with friends, many of us rely on the internet daily. Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, keep reading for tips to make your online transactions more secure.

Why Online Security Is Important The Pew Research Center reports that 64 percent of Americans have experienced some kind of data breach. Be it credit card fraud and compromised accounts or social media and email hacks, the majority of us are no strangers to the need for cybersecurity.

How to Protect Your Assets In our hyperconnected society, your personal information is under constant threat. To insulate yourself from major financial headaches or the need for cumbersome legal restitution, safeguard your accounts in the following ways:

  • Be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. These hot spots may be convenient, but they can also make you a target. Make sure to log in to sensitive accounts like your financial institutions at home or using a personal hot spot to keep your information safe.
  • Keep up with security software updates. Defending against malware and viruses is a huge part of avoiding a breach. Your mobile phone, web browsers and even apps are susceptible to foul play without up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software, so keep them current.
  • Create secure passwords. Each account should have a different password that is a unique combination of numbers and letters. Passwords should also be at least eight characters long without repeating.
  • Watch out for phishing attempts. Phony emails or calls that appear as though they’re from your bank are sneaky ways crooks attempt to solicit personal information. Always carefully assess communications to ensure you don’t unwittingly give your account numbers to a thief.

A few simple precautionary steps can help keep your information secure while giving you greater peace of mind.  Call us here at Vick Insurance Group in Camden, TN for more information.


MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TAILGAITING PARTY

A successful tailgate party is just as much about bonding with your fellow football fan as it is about the game itself. But to get the most out of your experience, you’re going to need certain game-day essentials. The following suggestions can help whether you live in Camden, TN or next to a large stadium.

Tailgating Equipment Hanging outdoors with other sports enthusiasts means braving the elements, so you’ll want to prepare accordingly. In addition to folding tables and chairs, be sure to pack a canopy, sunscreen, bug spray, rain gear, trash bags, a first-aid kit and a heater or fan, depending on the temperature. Review your tailgating checklistbefore you leave the house to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything critical.

Food and Beverages No tailgate party is complete without sufficient snacks. Whether you provide a full-on meal or just snacks, bring enough to feed your entire crew with leftovers to spare. Hamburgers, hot dogs and any vegetables you can throw on a grill are always crowd pleasers, as are chips and dip. Remember to bring the utensils.

Pro tip: Keep frozen water bottles in the cooler. They’ll ice down your provisions while in transit and can keep your tailgating team hydrated once the water thaws out. If you choose to have alcoholic beverages like beer and wine, drink responsibly, and don’t forget the bottle opener.

Pregame Entertainment Since you’ll be sitting for a while, lawn games are a great way to get your blood pumping before your team hits the field. Throwing a Frisbee or football can help pass the time, or you can go for something more structured, such as cornhole or ring toss.

In the end, tailgating is about having fun with your friends, family and fellow football fans. Just remember to plan ahead, and you can ensure that a great time will be had by one and all.

Visit Vick Insurance Group in Camden, TN for all your Business, Home, Auto and Life needs.


6 Insurance Tips for Home Updates

Home renovations can be costly, but insufficient insurance coverage can make the process exponentially more expensive. Below are some do’s and don’ts that can help keep you protected during a home improvement project.

  1. Double-check your contractor’s insurance coverage.Workers’ compensation and liability insurance are musts. Ask to see the necessary certificates and confirm sufficient coverage before you sign a contract.
  2. Don’t assume subcontractors are covered.If your general contractor is subcontracting work to a plumber, electrician or another professional, make sure those companies carry insurance. The general contractor’s policy may not cover them.
  3. Increase your replacement value.Improvements made during a renovation enhance the value of your home. Expanding your insurance coverage ensures your policy fully covers the cost of rebuilding your home as is.
  4. Don’t forget to include new items.Add updated appliances and furniture purchases to avoid potential gaps in coverage.
  5. Raise the liability coverage limit.Making this change can help protect a homeowner in the event of an injury while the property is under construction.
  6. Don’t neglect an attractive nuisance.Are you adding a swimming pool, trampoline or other feature to your home that might attract and pose a risk to children? Should an accident involving an attractive nuisance happen, you’d be liable — whether or not you gave permission to use it. Additional liability protection can help ease that burden.

Insurance plays an important role when you embark on a home improvement project. The right type and amount of coverage can help you avoid pitfalls on the road to owning your dream home.


Key HVAC Tips For Optimal Efficiency

For many, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that keeps their house comfortable is out of sight and out of mind until there’s a problem. But there’s no need to wait for an expensive issue to ensure it’s working effectively. Follow these proactive tips that can help you enjoy efficient, uninterrupted performance.

Don’t Neglect Preventive Maintenance Just like with your vehicle, regularly scheduled maintenance on HVAC systems can help prevent problems and extend the life of your unit. To keep everything running smoothly, stay on track with a checklist of monthly and annual tasks. Start by diligently changing air filters at least every three months or more frequently if you have pets or severe allergies.

Keep an Eye on Landscaping Some homeowners may be tempted to camouflage outdoor HVAC equipment with shrubs, grass or flowers to increase a property’s curb appeal. If you’re not thoughtful about landscaping around the unit, you could be compromising its effectiveness. Regularly clear away debris, including leaves and grass clippings, from the top and sides to avoid damage, and maintain a 2-foot clearance around the machinery so airflow isn’t restricted.

Perform Preseason Inspections Before seasons change, give the system a once-over and pay attention to what you see, feel and hear. Excessive noise, minimal airflow and high humidity can all be problematic. A qualified expert can identify issues as well as remove debris from air conditioner coils, show you how to clean the condensate drain and more.

Ultimately, your HVAC system’s ability to perform throughout the year will largely depend on how well you maintain it. With a little time and effort, you can lower summer energy costs and keep your heating and cooling system in top shape.

 


Drone Safety and Liability Insurance

Are you one of the approximately 1.2 million who received a drone as a gift during the 2016 holiday season? Regardless of how much aviation experience you have, these small aircraft come with more risk than the average hobby. For example, did you know that when you operate one, you become liable in the event of personal injury or property damage? Follow the steps below to protect yourself before taking to the skies.

Step 1: Register Your Drone The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires drone owners to register unmanned aircraft systems weighing over 0.55 pounds with the government. Each aircraft must have the registration number displayed directly on the body. Civil noncompliance penalties can lead to fines of up to $27,500, while criminal penalty fees can go as high as $250,000 and three years in prison.

Step 2: Check Your Policy Next, hobbyists are encouraged to check the coverage associated with their homeowners or renters insurance policy. Specifically, review key sections including personal liability, medical coverage and property loss or damage. Also, keep in mind that a home policy won’t cover drones operated for commercial use, nor will a landlord’s insurance protect you if you’re a renter.

Step 3: Review Safety Precautions You can reduce your risk of personal injury or property damage by following common drone safety tips. Operate your drone at or below 400 feet, always keep it in your line of vision and avoid flying near emergencies, sporting events and large groups of people.

To keep drone flying fun and stress-free, make the right moves early on to protect yourself and your new toy.


Home Updates That Deliver on Value

More and more, homeowners are choosing to stay put and renovate rather than buy new. Before you get started on an update to your home, take a look at the projects that may net a higher return on investment and those that remain popular no matter the ROI.

High-Value Home Projects

Exterior: According to the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine, an indoor renovation in 2016 averaged a 63.5 percent return, while curb appeal projects paid back an average of 74.9 percent. To take advantage of this higher ROI, look into outdoor improvements like swapping out your front door for a steel one or updating your home’s siding.

Insulation: Improving the efficiency of the attic with air sealing and fiberglass insulation continues to sit at the top of the high-value list, boasting an impressive 107.7 percent ROI.

Master suite: As push notifications and email updates blur the line between work and home, there’s a growing emphasis on creating serene, peaceful spaces. A master bedroom addition complete with a walk-in closet and spacious, well-appointed bathroom can bring comfort along with a respectable 64.8 percent return.

Popular Despite a Lower ROI

Would you like to make a few changes regardless of the return? You’re not alone. Homeowners continue to invest in kitchen and bathroom projects even when the ROI is low. But keep this in mind: Overall, replacement projects pull in a larger return (74 percent) than remodeling jobs (63.7 percent). The latter, however, often focus on personalizing the space, which may explain the popularity.

Looking to ride out rising mortgage rates by staying in your current place? Industry insiders predict that will be common, with many homeowners looking to renovation to spice things up.


What To Do Before Hitting the Road

Do warmer temperatures have you daydreaming of a spring or summer road trip? Before you pack up your vehicle, prioritize preventive maintenance tasks and give your car a good detail. In honor of National Car Care Month, here are a few post-winter pointers to tackle before you hit the road.

Tend to Tires
Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to fall, and slick or bumpy roads can do a number on tire alignment. Check your tires regularly and add air when necessary to return them to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. And don’t forget to rotate and align tires to keep their tread from wearing.

Change Windshield Wiper Blades
Be prepared for spring showers by hitting the road with newly replaced wipers. Worn, ineffective blades often squeak, jump and leave streaks that can inhibit a clear view of your surroundings.

Test and Replace Your Car Battery
Both cold winter weather and blazing summer heat can take a toll on car batteries, reducing efficiency and causing corrosion. To ensure your battery has plenty of life left, look for a location that can test it. If the voltage is low, consider replacing it to avoid the inconvenience of the battery dying unexpectedly.

Wash and Wax Your Entire Vehicle
Salt, sand and winter grime can corrode metals and ruin paint. To prevent weather-related damage, give your car a thorough wash on a regular basis, and don’t neglect the undercarriage. Once the vehicle is dirt-free, coat the surface with a layer of wax to protect it from spring and summer storms.

Giving your car attention in the form of regular maintenance and cleanings will help prolong its life and keep you safe on the road this spring.


Getting Small Spaces Clean This Spring

Is a deep clean of your home on your list of things to do? Kitchens and bathrooms usually require the most attention, but it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Make sure you hit these often neglected spaces for a complete spring-cleaning ritual.

What to Tackle in the Bathroom Even if your bathroom has relatively little storage space, there’s likely a mixture of outdated items like medication, cosmetics and cleaners. And some of those could be dangerous.

  • Start by checking for expired medicine and discontinued prescriptions. If you don’t take them anymore or notice they’ve passed their expiration date, properly dispose of them.
  • While many cleaners may not have a clearly marked expiration, most lose their potency over time. If you’ve had a cleaning product for several years, toss it and replace it with a new, full-strength version.
  • Each cosmetic item has a life span, and keeping it beyond that time frame can lead to bacteria buildup. Eyeshadows and powders can last for two years, for example, while mascara should be replaced every three months.

Continue in the Kitchen When spring-cleaning the kitchen, don’t neglect the pantry or spice cabinet. Some food demands your attention as it spoils, and others like dry goods, frozen foods and spices have a subtle decline. Baking ingredients have strict expiry dates, while spices lose their strength gradually, resulting in a loosely suggested shelf life.

While you’re at it, give your fridge and freezer a once-over. Clear out doors and bins where old condiments and food may be lurking.

Giving some time to these often overlooked areas can lead to a well-rounded spring-clean.