Our Blog

Leap Into These Leap Year Facts

Leap Year typically takes place every four years. The process of adding a day to the calendar every four years was designed to realign the clock and calendar more closely with how long it takes the Earth to rotate around the sun, which is slightly longer than the 365 days attributed to a year. If not for Leap Year, the seasons would slowly shift out of place.

There are many interesting facts to learn about Leap Year, and February 29 is the perfect time to explore them.

· It takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to circle once around the sun, says Time and Date. Without leap years, we’d lose almost six hours every year. After a century, the calendar would be off by nearly 24 days.

· Despite 2100, the next turn of the century, being divisible by four, it will not be a leap year. That’s because it is divisible by 100 but not 400, which means it will not be a leap year. This exception to the rule pertains to new century years.

· Forbes reports that it’s likely the calendar will need to be changed again since the Earth’s rotation rate, the axial tilt orientation and the Earth’s orbital motion around the sun is not constant. Various effects, such as earthquakes and something called tidal braking, affect the passage of time.

· Legend states that on February 29 it is alright for a woman to propose to a man, a custom attributed to St. Bridget. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that some women had to wait too long for their suitors to pop the question. As the legend goes, Patrick supposedly provided women this day to propose to compensate.

· Some cultures view February 29 as an unlucky day. In Greece, couples are warned against planning weddings during leap years. In Italy, the phrase, “Anno biseto, anno funesto” (“leap year, doom year”) is uttered.

· Individuals who are born on February 29th are known as leaplings or leapers.

· Leap Day is not considered a legal day. Those who are leaplings have to choose February 28 or March 1 for their official and legal birthdays.

· Individuals who are paid fixed monthly incomes often work for free on February 29th because their wages will not be calculated to include the extra day.

· Guinness World Records indicates the only family it could verify as producing three consecutive generations born on leap days belongs to the Keoghs. The elder Patrick Anthony Keogh was born in 1940, his son Peter Eric was born in 1964, and his granddaughter Bethany in 1996.

Steps To Secure Your Financial Privacy

Safeguarding personal financial data has never been more important, as an increasingly digital world has made online banking that much more prevalent. Cyber crimes are a significant concern. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no less than 422 million individuals were impacted by cyber crime in 2022, and nearly 33 billion accounts are anticipated to be breached by the end of 2023. Cyber crimes are happening every day, even if the public only hears about the largest data breaches.

Financial institutions as well as retailers and other businesses that require the use of personal financial information are obligated to safeguard customer data. According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial institutions protect the privacy of consumers’ finances under a federal law called the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That law governs banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and companies providing many other types of products and services. The law dictates how financial institutions can collect and disclose customer’s personal financial information.

Individuals also have key roles to play in protecting themselves. Though even the best precautions cannot completely secure your financial privacy, every little effort is worth it to reduce your risk of being victimized by data theft. These tips from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority can help individuals safeguard their privacy.

· You have the right to opt out of the sharing of some of your personal information with affiliates and non-affiliates of a financial institution. For example, you can opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers by way of credit bureaus selling information about you to lenders or insurance.

· Increase awareness of phishing scams. These often are emails that appear to come from legitimate firms or financial regulators asking for personal information. These entities would never ask for account numbers, passwords, credit card information, or Social Security numbers through email. Verify all communication with the financial institution by contacting that institution directly at the number listed on your account statement or bill.

· Be aware of where you click online. Never click on a questionable link or download a suspicious email attachment.

· Strong passwords can keep accounts more secure. Resist the urge to use the same password across many accounts. Once that password is compromised, the cyber criminal may be able to try it on your other accounts. Consider using a password manager to suggest and save strong and unique passwords for each account.

· Utilize multifactor authentication whenever it is available. MFA adds an extra layer of protection by using a password as well as a unique code or biometric to unlock the account.

· Conduct all financial business on a personal device on a secure network. Delete the cache and history frequently to avoid leaving a digital trace.

These steps can help protect financial security. Individuals need to be diligent in safeguarding their information from cyber criminals.

Why Regular Car Washes Are Important

Taking care of a vehicle involves more than just maintaining the equipment under the hood. There are a number of steps involved in keeping a car or truck in top form, and that includes regular car washes.

Car washes keep a vehicle shiny and clean, which can help it look good while sitting in the driveway or cruising the highway. However, regular car washes are more than cosmetic.

Protection From The Sun

A car that is routinely and properly washed and waxed is less vulnerable to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Extend The Life Of Paint

Dirt and debris can build up on the paint surface and eventually lead to scratches and other damage. Bird droppings and sap can be corrosive. Washing will help remove grime and protect the paint in the process.

Preserve The Vehicle’s Value

Drivers who plan to sell or trade in their vehicles in the future should realize that a well-maintained car can bring in as much as 20 percent more for above-average condition, according to Kelley Blue Book. Maintaining a clean and shiny vehicle can protect its long-term value.

Remove Salt

Drivers who live near the ocean or in areas where roads are salted in the winter to melt snow may have cars with high salt corrosion rates. Unless it’s washed off frequently, salt can take its toll, leading to damage.

Improve Fuel Efficiency

Drivers have felt pain in their wallets at the fuel pump in recent years. Dirty cars may be less aerodynamic and less fuel-efficient as a result. Keeping a car clean may improve its fuel efficiency.

Maintain The Interior

Car washes are not only about the exterior. Keeping a clean and tidy interior can help improve the air quality inside of the vehicle and prolong the life of upholstery, mats and interior components.

Car washes should be a routine part of vehicle maintenance. Professional car washes tend to be more eco-friendly than washing a car at home, so drivers are urged investigate their service plans and features.

Cherry Pie Bars

Tart, red cherries and Valentine’s Day seem to be the perfect pair. Not only do cherries align with a Valentine’s Day color scheme, they even resemble little hearts when hanging from their stems.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day involves many different traditions, and enjoying decadent desserts is among them. Purchasing ready-made treats from a local bakery is one way to indulge in a sugary confection, but crafting a recipe at home is another way to show that special someone how much you care.

“Cherry Pie Bars” are not exactly a pie, but a pound cake with a cherry pie filling swirl. They can be made for many different occasions, but make for something sweet on Valentine’s Day. Whip up this recipe from “Butter, Flour, Sugar, Joy” (Sourcebooks) by Danielle Kartes.

Cherry Pie Bars

Yield: One 9-by-13-inch pan

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream sugar and butter on low. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat until just combined.

3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Spread a little over half the cake batter into the pan. Evenly spread the pie filling over the top, and spoon the rest of the cake batter over the pie filling. It’s fine if the cherries show through.

4. Bake 35 minutes or until the top has turned slightly golden. Do not overbake. Allow to cool and slice into squares.

Enjoy!

Tips To Maintain Your Commitment To Exercise

At one point or another, millions of adults across the globe have resolved to be more physically active. The benefits of routine exercise are too numerous to cite, but some of the more notable ones include a lower risk for chronic disease and illness, improved self-esteem and greater overall health.

With so much to gain from routine exercise, it’s no wonder so many people aspire to be more physically active. But it’s easy to lose motivation when aspiring to exercise more. Each year, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to exercise more. In fact, Statista conducted a survey regarding New Year’s resolutions for 2023 and found that exercising more was the most popular resolution. However, a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health found that 64 percent of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions within a month of making them. Exercising more requires commitment, and there are some ways to make it a little easier to maintain that commitment over the long haul.

Break It Up

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that people don’t need to exercise all at once to reap the rewards of physical activity. If time is tight, break up a workout over the course of your day. Some strength-training exercises in the morning can be followed up with a brisk walk or run over a lunch break. This approach makes it easier to fit a full workout into your daily routine.

Employ The Buddy System

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that working out with a partner increases exercise motivation and encourages individuals to be more consistent with their exercise routine so they do not let their partners down. The authors behind a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology suggested the efficacy of the buddy system may require further study before researchers can definitively say it’s an effective motivation strategy for people who want to exercise more. But there’s no denying that many individuals feel that they are more likely to exercise with a friend than they are if they go solo.

Schedule Exercise Time

Busy professionals book work meetings, family obligations and other daily tasks in their schedules, and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends doing the same with exercise. Allotting time to exercise each day may decrease the likelihood that you’ll skip a workout, and once results start to manifest you may be more motivated to stay the course.

Identify What Progress May Look Like

It’s easy to become discouraged if a commitment to routine exercise does not produce visible results. But just because your abs are not becoming chiseled a month into a workout routine or the scale is not reflecting significant weight loss does not mean your routine is not working. As the human body ages, it becomes more difficult to transform it. So a workout routine that left you looking lean and chiseled in your twenties may not produce the same body in your forties. But that does not mean the exercise isn’t working and ultimately helping you get healthier. Adults are urged to speak with their physicians and identify what progress with a workout routine might look like for someone their age. Progress may look different than it did years ago, but if the end result is a healthier you, then that should be all the motivation you need to keep going.

It’s no secret that making a commitment to routine exercise can be difficult. But various strategies can increase the likelihood that individuals will stay the course as they seek to exercise more frequently.

Symptoms Of Plumbing Problems

The drip of a faucet, the bang of pipes and the visible signs of a leak under the sink are some notable indicators of plumbing problems. Other, potentially serious issues may not be so evident. How can homeowners tell if they have potential plumbing problems? The following are some sights and sounds that indicate it is time to call in a plumber.

Banging or Clanking

Plumbers refer to these noises as water hammer. This is when a rush of water forces through the pipe and bumps into a closed valve, producing a metallic noise. Something is in the pipe that is restricting water flow. Over time, the flow of water meeting an obstacle could loosen pipe joints as the water tries to find an easier workaround.

Pipe Discoloration

If there is any sign of discoloration on pipes, particularly rust, it could be a symptom of a dripping sink or drain line that is slowly leaking. A slow leak can eventually turn into a big mess if left unattended.

Sewer Smells

Pipes need traps and vents. Traps are designed to prevent sewer gas from entering the home, while vents channel sewer odor up to the roof. If there are sewer smells, it could mean a trap has dried out or a vent line is cracked, says Family Handyman.

Low Water Pressure

If you turn on the faucet and the water pressure is poor, it could be the result of a clog or a leak somewhere in the system. Pipes that are improperly sized for a home also can affect pressure.

Sluggish Drains

Clearing drains is perhaps the only plumbing problem that homeowners should address themselves. More often than not, drains that fail to drain quickly have a blockage such as hair or other debris. If attempts to clear the drain do not work, it is best to bring in a professional plumber.

Shaking Sounds

Water can cause occasional noises, but if the sounds are frequent, the pipes are not secured firmly enough. A plumber will need to tighten the mounting straps or even completely replace them.

Plumbing issues are nothing to take lightly, as small problems can quickly escalate and cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Tips To Prepare For Flu Season

Influenza is more common than people may realize. Data from the World Health Organization indicates there are around one billion cases of seasonal influenza each year. Though only a small fraction of those cases result in severe illness, even a mild case of the flu can be unpleasant and disruptive.

The phrase “flu prevention” may be somewhat misleading, as the best people can do is reduce their risk for seasonal influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to do that is to get vaccinated against the flu each year. Each year’s flu shot is different, as researchers design the vaccination based on which strand of influenza they anticipate will be most prevalent in a given year. In addition to getting vaccinated, individuals can consider these tips, courtesy of the CDC, to protect themselves and others from the flu and stop the spread of germs.

  • Steer clear of close contact. Individuals who are sick can steer clear of close contact with other people in order to safeguard them from the flu. On the flip side, people who live or work with individuals who have the flu can avoid close contact as well.
  • Don’t be a hero. The CDC urges anyone who is sick with the flu to stay home until their illness subsides. Avoid going to school, work and running errands so you can help to prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Cover up. The CDC notes that the flu virus spreads primarily through droplets produced when people with influenza cough, sneeze or talk. When around others, cover your mouth and nose, particularly when sneezing or coughing. When you have to sneeze or cough, do so into the cradle of your elbow. Coughing into your hands could help to spread the virus, as germs can transfer from your hand onto surfaces others may touch, like doorknobs and handles.
  • Routinely wash your hands. Make it a habit to wash your hands regularly. When returning home, wash your hands before you do anything else. This is especially important when returning home from places where lots of people tend to congregate, such as grocery stores and restaurants. Lathering hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can help get rid of germs. If soap and water is not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The CDC notes that germs spread when people touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. It’s easy to touch your eyes, nose or mouth without even thinking about it, but make a concerted effort to avoid touching these areas to safeguard yourself and others from the flu.

Seasonal influenza can be a disruptive and potentially deadly force. Various practices can help people protect themselves and others from contracting the flu.

Activities To Strengthen The Heart

The heart is a vital component of the human body. Without a functional heart, life is simply not possible. As with other muscles in the body, it is important to give the heart a workout to improve its strength and vitality. Intermountain Health says an individual who dos not exercise is more than twice as likely to get heart disease as someone who does. UCI Health says heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death worldwide.

Exercise is an ideal way to strengthen the heart and reduce your risk for heart disease and other conditions. Certain activities are prime for boosting heart health.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise raises heart rate and gets the blood pumping throughout the body. Aerobic activity improves circulation, and over time it ensures the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood, thus potentially lowering blood pressure. Also, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and can help those with diabetes to control blood glucose more readily. Aerobic exercises include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and other activities that get the heart pumping. Aim for 30 minutes each day, for at least five days a week.

Resistance/Weight Training

Building muscle can help the body burn fat and boost metabolism. This type of training can use weights or the body’s own resistance. Improving muscle mass while reducing body fat and excess weight are heart-healthy steps to take. Strength training can be incorporated into a routine two to three days a week.

Balance and Flexibility Exercises

A person may wonder what flexibility and balance has to do with heart health. While there isn’t a direct correlation to how the heart works, these types of activities will help reduce the risk of falls or injuries to muscles and joints while working out. Inactivity is dangerous for the heart, so ensuring that physical activity can continue is important. Flexibility and balance exercises keep the body limber, and can be incorporated into daily workouts. Stretching, tai chi, yoga, and pilates can be included two or three times a week.

Healthy Eating

The foods people eat can affect heart health. Opt for lean protein sources and foods that include healthy fats. Salmon, avocados and olives are some options. Balance these foods with whole grains that are full of fiber, which can help a person feel fuller longer. Fiber also is essential for preventing atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hardening of the arteries.

Meditation

Slowing down, performing deep-breathing exercises and meditation can reduce stress. That, in turn, can help prevent damage to the heart.

Strengthening the heart and maintaining its health involves various activities that can be incorporated into daily routines.

Snow Blower Safety Tips

Meteorologists are predicting an El Niño weather pattern this winter. What that spells out for particular regions of the country remains to be seen, but when snow hits certain areas hard, cleanup will be necessary.

It is essential for homeowners and business owners to get outdoors promptly to remove snow from walkways for the safety of pedestrians. Shoveling snow can be back-breaking work, particularly when the snow is very wet or compacted. That’s why many people have invested (or plan to invest) in snow blowers to make faster work of snow removal. While these tools are quite effective, they require caution and proper technique to help avoid injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are 5,740 hospital emergency room-related injuries associated with snow blowers each year. The organization Safety Now says most injuries associated with snow blowers involve injuries to the hands or fingers, including amputation.

Individuals can prevent common injuries and even death by following these snow blower safety guidelines.

  • Read the owner’s manual to understand all of the controls and features before use.
  • Dress accordingly for the weather, including using sturdy footwear with good traction. Boot or shoe grippers can reduce the risk of slips and falls. Also, avoid loose clothing, as scarves or jackets can become tangled in moving parts of the machine.
  • Start the snow blower outside and not in a garage or shed. Gas-powered devices give off carbon monoxide.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand, which means using the snow blower only when sober and not under the influence of medications that can cause drowsiness.

Working at a brisk pace can help prevent the snow blower blades from getting clogged from the snow sticking. Wet, heavy snow is more likely to clog the machine, so it may require more passes to get the job done.

  • Clogs can occur, and require extreme caution to dislodge. Always turn off the snow blower and disengage the clutch, says the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Wait for the impeller blades to stop spinning. Always use a broom handle or a stick to clear compacted snow. Never stick your hand down the chute or around the blades, even if the power switch is off.
  • Keep all safety shields and mechanisms in place on the machine.
  • Do not leave a snow blower unattended. If the snow blower is an electrical version, use an extension cord designed for outdoor use and plug it into an outlet equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter. Keep the extension cord away from the auger.

Even though snow blowing can be less physically taxing than manually shoveling snow, it still exerts the body. Take frequent breaks to rest. Exercise caution where you toss the snow, and make sure other people, particularly children, are not in the path of snow removal.

Jump Into Adventurous Resolution Ideas

Individuals looking for a little more excitement and adventure in their lives can think about making New Year’s resolutions that align with their adventurous goals. These adventurous ideas can serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to be a little more daring with this year’s resolutions.

Try A New Outdoor Activity

The great outdoors consistently beckons. Answer the call by engaging in a new outdoor activity. Any activity can be adventurous if it’s new to you. Start off small and get more into it as your skills improve. Consider kayaking, surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, or anything else that presents a thrill.

Get Creative In The Kitchen

Being adventurous can extend to any aspect of life, including dining. Expand your culinary horizons by trying new flavor profiles and recipes inspired by global cuisine. This may include ingredients you deem to be “exotic” but are customary in other parts of the world.

Sleep Outdoors

Adventures do not have to be large and time-consuming. In fact, the term “microadventure” was dubbed by Alastair Humphreys, an adventurer and speaker, as a way to squeeze more gutsy activity into anyone’s schedule. One way to do so is to resolve to sleep outdoors in a new place once a month. Shaking off the creature comforts of home enables you to adapt and embrace new experiences.

Aim To Be More Sustainable

Active lifestyles often involve exploring natural landscapes. These areas can be affected by trash, which also can impact wildlife in negative ways. Resolve to keep parks, trails, rivers, lakes, forests, and other outdoor areas clean and beautiful. Various organizations spearhead these types of efforts, but you can work independently as well. Always practice a “carry in, carry out” policy when hiking or enjoying nature.

Individuals can ponder the many ways to embrace more adventurous resolutions in the year ahead.