National Simplify Your Life Week

National Simplify Your Life Week

Hey friends! Did you know this week is National Simplify Your Life Week?

That’s right! This week is all about making your life a little bit easier. And with the fall fast approaching, who couldn’t use a little simplicity to help them get back into the routine of work, school and all those extra activities?

Here’s a quick list of tips and tricks you can use to simplify your day-to-day life.

Make a Chore Chart- Think chore charts are just for kids? Think again. Putting anything in chart form helps us stay organized by giving us a visual representation of what needs to get done when. It keeps us on track no matter what the task, and also helps split up work so getting those tasks done doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Whether it’s paying bills and going grocery shopping, or doing laundry and yard work, chore charts will make your life that much easier.

Meal Prep- This one can seem tedious at first and might take some time to get used to, but the time and energy it saves you throughout each week is totally worth it. Take an hour or two after you’ve done your grocery shopping to come home and prep the foods you’re going to eat for the week. Even if you don’t want to prep full meals, doing things like washing and cutting vegetables, marinating meats, or preparing seasonings can cut your prep time in half when it comes time for you to cook. And again, this type of work can be split up, so you can prep food with your partner, kids or other family members to make it go that much quicker.

Take a Break/ Say “No”- If you’re the type of person who is always helping everyone else out, this one might be a little difficult at first. Sometimes in order to get yourself in order, you need to take some time away from helping others and simply say “No” when you’re asked for help. We’re in such a state of constant, overflowing schedules nowadays, that we often make no time to take care of our own affairs. What we need to remember, and sometimes be reminded of, is that our friends and family will understand if we can’t always help.
Ask for Help/ Take Help When It’s Offered- This can go hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Oftentimes we’re so used to helping others that we don’t want to ask for help ourselves, or don’t take it when it’s offered. It’s definitely a great feeling when you can accomplish something yourself, but if someone else can assist you because they’re more experienced, or you simply need more hands to get a job done quicker, why not take it?

So remember, preparing, visual organization, taking time for yourself, and asking for help are all ways to simplify your life. And our agents are happy to help with any insurance issues you might need simplified as well. Just give us a call or check out our Meet Our Staff page to contact one of our agents directly.

Is it a Milkshake or a Frappe??? Clearing the Confusion for National Coffee Milkshake Day!

Is it a Milkshake or a Frappe??? Clearing the Confusion for National Coffee Milkshake Day!

Coming up this Wednesday is one of my personal favorite Wacky Wednesdays: National Coffee Milkshake Day! Coffee syrup, milk, and coffee ice cream all blended together into a delicious summer treat. Nothing could be better right? Well, since we live in New England, there’s only one little problem with that recipe. Here in our great corner of the country, we like to keep people on their toes. So naturally, we’ve put a little spin on milkshakes.
The type of treat that I described is what we, in New England, like to call a frappe. To us, a milkshake is simply a flavored syrup and chilled milk blended together into a cup of frothy goodness. And, if you’re feeling really nostalgic, some restaurants and ice cream shops will offer malted milkshakes, or simply “malts”, which are a combination of ice cream, milk, syrup and malted milk powder.

Milkshakes, created in 1885, originally contained alcohol and were advertised as “hearty, healthful drinks”. Malted milkshakes, however, were the original concoction of Ivar “Pop” Coulson, a Walgreens employee living in 1922 Chicago. Once he decided to add ice cream to an old-fashioned chocolate malt, without the alcohol, milkshakes became an even bigger sensation that the whole family could enjoy! Since then, milkshakes have grown in popularity, peaking particularly in the 1940’s-1950’s, when malt shops were the favorite hangout of teens and families alike.

Today we can order milkshakes in just about any flavor of ice cream that is offered, however, the most popular flavors still remain chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and of course, coffee.

So remember, when ordering one of these delicious frozen treats in New England:

-Milkshake: Extremely chilled milk and flavored syrup blended together.
-Frappe: Milk, flavored ice cream and flavored syrup blended together.
-Malted Milkshake: Milk, flavored ice cream, flavored syrup and malted milk powder blended together.

But no matter what you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the delicious, nostalgic goodness of years past.
What's your favorite milkshake flavor? Let us know on any of our social media pages! Just comment wherever you see posts for this blog. And don't forget to hashtag National Coffee Milkshake Day!

My AC and Me: Preventing Air Pollution in Our Homes

My AC and Me: Preventing Air Pollution in Our Homes

Here in New England, we can have the lowest of low temperatures and the highest of highs. So when it gets super-hot outside, our first instinct is to throw on that air conditioning. But if you haven’t cleaned your unit this season, think twice before starting it up.

Did you know that a dirty AC unit can cause serious air pollution issues in your home? Here are just a few ways your air conditioning system might affect your health.
• If your AC filter is dirty, it doesn’t work properly. That means it’s allowing dirt, allergens and possibly even pesticides into your home.
• If your filter hasn’t been changed, it’s also restricting airflow.
• Because home AC units usually circulate indoor air to conserve energy, they need a minimum of 15 cubic feet/ person/ minute of outdoor air coming in to work properly. Otherwise, your indoor air quality can be negatively impacted.
• Window units that aren’t sealed correctly allow hot air to creep in from outside. This won’t necessarily affect your health, but it does force the unit to work harder and wastes energy.

So what can you do to protect your family from AC air pollution? It’s simple!
• Check and clean your unit’s air filter regularly.
• On cool days, open your windows and allow fresh air to circulate through your home and clear out any pollutants stuck in the house.
• Adjust your AC before you go to bed, or leave the house, so that it doesn’t use as much energy trying to maintain a lower temperature when it doesn’t need to.

Remember, taking a few small preventative measures can greatly affect the air quality in your home for the whole season. So why not take the time now to put them into action and have a free and clear rest of the summer?

Summertime Sun Safety

Summertime Sun Safety

Summer’s here and the sun is shining! That means it’s time to talk sun safety. It all comes down to three S’s: Screening, Shielding and Staying out of the sun.

Screening:
• Make sure you’re prepared and apply sunscreen with at least an SPF 15.
• Apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun, or 30 minutes before swimming.
• Make sure you have someone assist you with hard to reach areas, like the middle of your back.
• Reapply every two hours and after each time you need to towel dry from swimming or sweating.
• Be aware of your sunscreen’s expiration date. If it isn’t marked with one, it should have a shelf life of 3 years, unless it has been exposed to high temperatures.
• Also check your cosmetics to see if they contain SPF. If it isn’t at least SPF 15, it should not be used alone.

Shielding:
• Covering yourself with clothing, hats and sunglasses is a good way to shield yourself from the sun.
• When practical, darker colored clothes, long sleeves and pants will provide better protection than lighter clothing.
• If overheating is a concern, try to at least cover up with a t-shirt or beach cover-up.
• Hats with brims that surround the entire head are the most useful in shielding your face, neck and ears from harmful UV rays.
• Sunglasses will protect your eyes from UV rays and future cataracts, as well as the delicate skin around your eyes from getting burned.

Staying Out of the Sun:
• In combination with sunscreen and clothing, staying out of the sun protects your skin from damage and increased risk of skin cancer.
• Seek shade under trees, umbrellas, awnings, or even indoors for a few hours to protect yourself from the sun.

For more fun facts and helpful hints in the future, keep an eye out for our latest blog posts. And to spread the knowledge, please visit all of our social media sites and share our posts!

National Insurance Awareness Day: Our Favorite Holiday!

National Insurance Awareness Day: Our Favorite Holiday!

So, this post is going to be short and sweet. This Wednesday is a day near and dear to our hearts, because it is dedicated to insurance… literally! It’s National Insurance Awareness Day, a day to make sure you’re getting the most appropriate insurance coverage.

Working in this industry, we know insurance is one of those topics that are not often talked about in everyday conversation; but when you need it, you NEED it. That’s why this Wednesday is so important. It was a day created specifically for you to sit down with your agent, whether in person or over the phone, and review any and all of your policies. While you’re at it, you might even save yourself some money. What could be better than that?

Here are just a few things to keep in mind when reviewing your coverage:
• Have you made any repairs or updates to your home recently?
• Do you have any new drivers that need to be added to your policy?
• When was the last time you inventoried your house for big ticket items to add to your policy?
• Can you bundle your home and auto policies to save money with multi-policy discounts?

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your agent. That’s what they’re here for. So give us a call, or drop into our office and talk to your agent today. At Merrimack Valley Insurance, we’ve got you covered!

Summer Safety: Pool & Trampoline Precautions to Take This Summer

Summer Safety: Pool & Trampoline Precautions to Take This Summer

What can you do for summer fun when you don’t feel like leaving the house? Well, if you have a pool or trampoline, you’ve got all the fun you need right in your backyard. But owning these items comes with serious responsibilities, too. Here are a few tips for keeping your family and friends safe and having fun all summer long.

Pool Precautions
Swimming pool safety is a must when it comes to keep summer fun. Here are just a few recommendations to keeping your pool area as safe as possible.
• Install a fence with closing, self-locking gates to isolate your pool from all surrounding areas.
• In case they need assistance, make sure guests and children are never left alone in the pool area.
• Be sure everyone understands pool rules and post them in a clearly visible location.
• Make sure guest, and children in particular, know not to stick their hands into pool filters or grates.
• If you hear thunder or see lightning, exit the pool and pool area immediately.
Extra Precautions You Can Take
Here are some extra steps you can take to be fully prepared in case of an emergency.
• If you’re hosting a party, be sure that you have designated adults to supervise and act as “lifeguards” for all your swimmers. These adults should not be drinking alcohol and staying alert for any swimmers that may be in distress.
• Take CPR, first aid and lifeguard courses in case anyone needs assistance while at your home.
• Enroll children in swim lessons taught by a certified swim instructor.
• Keep rescue equipment and a phone close to the pool area.
• Have CPR instructions and emergency telephone numbers close to the pool.

Trampoline Tips
When it comes to trampolines, safety measures are often pushed to the side, but it’s important to consider all possible scenarios when it comes to protecting your loved ones.
Because trampolines are also considered an “attractive nuisance” by insurance companies, your liability is an important consideration as well. Here are just a few tips to keep your trampoline area as safe as possible.
• Attach safety padding around springs, frames and hooks to protect from injuries.
• Install a safety net around the edge of your trampoline to provide fall protection.
• Always supervise trampoline jumpers, regardless of age.
• Don’t allow use of the trampoline if springs are damaged, or there are tears/holes in the bed.
• Jumpers should take turns and jump one at a time to avoid injury.
• Do not place ladders or other methods of climbing near the trampoline, as young children may attempt to climb up and start jumping.
• Allowing jumpers to do flips and somersaults puts them at great risk for head and neck injuries.
• Don’t let jumpers use your trampoline as a way to jump onto other objects.

Protecting Yourself from Additional Accidents
In order to prevent any injury this attractive nuisance might cause, consider fencing in your yard to deter uninvited jumpers from wandering in.

Remember, if you have any questions, never hesitate to call one of our agents! They'd be happy to help you.

Keep Your Head Above Water: Boat & Jet Ski Safety Tips

Keep Your Head Above Water: Boat & Jet Ski Safety Tips

Whether you’re lounging on a beach, cruising over the waves on a boat, or speeding along on a jet ski, water activities are some of the best ways to have fun and keep cool during the summer. But with water fun, comes some big responsibilities too. Check out these boating and jet ski safety tips to keep your water activity fun throughout the whole summer.

Boating Precautions
• Be sure that all passengers are wearing flotation devices when on the water, especially children and those who can’t swim.
• Always wear non-slip shoes when on a boat or a dock.
• Keep your boat in good condition, making sure that all equipment meets the safety standards of wherever you’ll be boating.
• Fill any portable fuel tanks on the dock, never on the deck of your boat. Spills could cause slipping and/or fire hazards if not cleaned properly.
• Use forward and reverse at an idle speed when docking your boat.
• Have your bumpers, mooring lines and boat hooks ready before docking.
• Make sure all passengers have all body parts in the boat until it has come to a complete stop.
• Tie the line that holds the boat against the wind first when docking.
If you’re docking at a marina:
• Be sure you’re docking at a marina that has standpipes, fire extinguishers, good lighting, surveillance cameras and security measures in place for any and all emergencies.

Jet Ski Safety
• Jet ski operators and passengers should be wearing personal floatation devices (PFD) at ALL times.
• Drivers should always have engine cutoff securely attached to their wrist or PFD.
• Always keep sight of the shore, while making sure not to drive too close to congested areas.
• Know your right-of-way rules and obey ALL posted signs, such as “NO WAKE”, “RIGHT OF WAY”, “IDLE” and other navigations.
• Pay attention and stay alert, looking out for swimmers, skiers, and other watercrafts.
• Avoid wake-jumping, splashing and passing close to any other vehicles.

No matter how you spend your time in the water, always remember safety first. And for any info you need on insuring your watercrafts, call and talk to one of our agents today!

Rain, Rain, Go Away: Stay Protected with Flood Insurance from Wright Flood

Rain, Rain, Go Away: Stay Protected with Flood Insurance from Wright Flood

Did you know that, in general, flood insurance is only available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)? That’s why at Merrimack Valley Insurance Agency, we work with Wright Flood to make sure you are getting the best possible flood coverage.
Wright Flood has been working with the NFIP since the start of the program, strengthening their relationship over the past 40 years. Trusting your policy to Merrimack Valley Insurance and Wright Flood means you get their decades of expertise, backed by FEMA, and a policy that will never be outsourced, but rather serviced by one of Wright’s NFIP flood trained associates.
Wright Flood not only has a great reputation with the NFIP, but with FEMA as well. They work on advisory boards and industry councils in Washington, D.C. to make sure the nation’s flood program is properly servicing the 5.6 million policyholders in the U.S.
For more information about flood insurance, give one of our agents a call today. To find out more about Wright Flood, visit their website at www.wrightflood.com.

Can Landscaping Harm Your Property??

Can Landscaping Harm Your Property??


With spring right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what kinds of gardening and curb appeal you can add to your home. There are so many ideas online and in magazines, it’s hard to choose. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that some landscaping can harm your property, and, as a result, your property value. Here are a few things to avoid when creating your dream landscape.

1. Trees planted too close to homes can damage foundations.
The idea of a lush tree growing outside and shading your home is such a nice thought. However, many people forget that the larger a tree grows, the further out it roots stretch. If planted too close to your home, a tree’s roots may begin to grow against and damage your foundation. To avoid this, do some research about the type of trees you’re interested in planting, their full growth size and their root systems.

2. Plants can dry out your soil.
This has more to do with the moisture level of your soil than the plants themselves. In the spring and summer some plants and trees require extra moisture and will dry out your soil. This can cause ground shrinkage and disrupt your foundation. Be sure you know the necessary moisture levels of your soil before planting.

3. Vines growing up the sides of buildings can damage paint or bricks.
Although traveling vines can add a look of sophistication to your home, they can cause damage to siding, bricks, roofs and even gutters. Make sure you talk to a gardening expert at your local landscaping store or greenhouse before planting your ivy. Ivy can be very strong latching on to siding and causing it to peel. It can also work its way in between cracks in bricks and force them to separate over time. Even worse, if you allow it to grow to the roofline, ivy can slip under and lift shingles as well as separate gutters from the roof.

4. Incorporating large trees into flower beds can lead to overwatering and root decay.
If you decide to incorporate bigger trees into your landscaping, be careful about placing them near or in flower beds. Small plants have different watering requirements than large trees, because trees can reach further into the soil to extract water and nutrients. As a result, watering small plants regularly can result in overwatering for trees, which can reduce the tree’s ability to pull nutrients from surrounding soil and produce energy. These problems can eventually cause root decay and ultimately cause major damage to the tree.

5. Plants that are not native to your area can cause property value to decrease.
When planning what kinds of plants and shrubs to plant around your home, look into types that are native to your area. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a lot more maintenance to keep your landscape looking pristine. In that case, you risk falling behind in landscaping chores and your plants dying. Dead plants will decrease the appeal of your home as well as the property value.
So remember, when deciding what kinds of trees, plants and shrubs to decorate your yard with, it’s important to consider not only the curb appeal that they can add to your home, but also the long term affects they will have on your landscape.

Who is St. Patrick?

Who is St. Patrick?

For those who don’t know, Saint Patrick’s Day, also known as the Feast of St. Patrick, is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated every year on March 17th. This date was chosen because it is the believed date of death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The day honors the arrival of Saint Patrick and Christianity to Ireland.
The story of Saint Patrick says that he was kidnapped at the age of sixteen and taken from Britain as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. It is said that he spent the next six years working as a shepherd, and during that time “found God”. According to a text called the Declaration, allegedly written by Patrick himself, he was told by God to flee to the Irish coast where a ship would take him home. When he returned home, he became a priest.
Later, Patrick returned to Ireland traveling the Northern half of the country and converting thousands of pagans to Christianity. Legend of Patrick after his death said that he drove out snakes from Ireland, when in fact there were no snakes there at all. This story was derived from Patrick’s evangelist efforts against the druid community.

Today’s Traditions
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated with food, drink and parades. Additionally, Christians will often attend religious services and the restrictions of Lent are lifted for the day. As a result, the wide consumption of alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day was originally attributed to this absence of restriction. The most popular tradition however, is “the wearing of the green”.
Saint Patrick was said to have used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish in his efforts to convert them from paganism to Christianity. Along with green shamrocks, the color green has been associated with Ireland since the 1600’s, and has become the most wide-spread tradition of St. Patrick’s Day.
Another tradition regarding green is the St. Patrick’s Day pinch. Today, we know that when someone’s not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, they get a pinch. That tradition started soon after the establishment of the United States. According to Irish folklore, leprechauns, mischievous fairy creatures, liked to cause mayhem and would pinch anyone they could sneak up on. However, wearing green would make you invisible to leprechauns, so in order to warn others who weren’t wearing green, the Irish would pinch them to remind them that a leprechaun could sneak up at any time.

Insurance for a Great Valentine's Day

Insurance for a Great Valentine's Day

It’s that time of year again, the biggest Hallmark holiday of them all, Valentine’s Day. If you’re like 45% of the people who decide to celebrate the lovey-dovey day, you’re probably still wondering what to get for your special someone. Here’s a list of some quick last minute gift ideas that are sure to keep your valentine feeling loved.

• Flowers: A classic gift that always makes them feel special. To add a little more romance, have them delivered to your valentine’s home or work with a special little note.

• Chocolates: I don’t know anyone that says no to Valentine’s Day chocolates. Of course, the heart-shaped box adds a little extra cuteness and maybe a stuffed animal too.

• A Nice Card: Sometimes all you need is a sweet sentiment from your someone special. If you can’t find a card that you like, make one instead. Hand-written words from the heart are always the most special.

• Movie Night: Whether it’s at home or at the theater, cuddling up to watch a romantic (or maybe not, if that’s not your preference) movie is a great way to spend some quality time together.

• Romantic Dinner at Home: Chances are, if it’s last minute, most restaurants are booked up for the evening. So why not have a romantic dinner for two at home? It doesn’t have to be fancy either. If your love is usually the one that cooks, try your hand at making the meal, or cook together and make it fun for both of you.

• Their Favorite Dessert: Think of his/ her favorite dessert. Can you make it? Can you head out to a restaurant and create a romantic finish to the evening? Whatever it is, dessert, like chocolate, is always appreciated on Valentine’s Day.

No matter what you end up giving as a gift. Get creative, and remember, the price isn’t what’s important. It’s the fact that it comes from your heart and that you took the time to think about what your sweetie would really enjoy and appreciate that will ensure their happiness.

New England Patriots Ensure They’re the Best Team in the NFL

New England Patriots Ensure They’re the Best Team in the NFL

Today is a fantastic day to be a New England Patriots fan! The biggest comeback and first-ever overtime in Super Bowl history, all leading up to their 5th World Championship title. Falcons and Patriots fans alike are still in awe of how they pulled it off. So why is it that the Patriots never lost hope? Why did they keep fighting the good fight even when they were down by 19 points going into the final quarter, and almost definitely set up to lose?
It’s because they had insurance.
No, I’m not talking about the kind of insurance our company sells (although I’m sure they have that too). I’m talking about insurance from their coach, insurance from their players, and insurance from their fans.
Let’s start off with Bill Belichick. Known as “the coach who never smiles”, this is a man who puts hard work and dedication above all else. He commands respect and pushes his players to better themselves in every aspect of the game. But, he also understands that his team needs to balance work and down time, evidenced by all of their activities off the field like filming commercials, late night talk shows and working with charities. Belichick has created such a relationship with his players that it only takes three words from him to motivate them to victory; “Do Your Job”.
And that is just what his team does. We obviously can’t talk about the Patriots’ success without talking about the actual players. This is a team who have created a truly amazing dynamic between themselves. Tom Brady is not only a great quarterback, but he, like his coach, knows how to motivate his teammates when they need it most. He is both trusted and respected by the rest of his team when it comes to leading them into victory. And as for the other players, they are a group of men who know how to commit 100% to their plays. They may not achieve their goal from every play, but it’s never for lack of trying, and you bet they’re going to push themselves 150% to make-up for whatever shortcomings they’ve had.
And finally, there’s us, the fans. Others around the country say New England fans are their own breed of people, and we couldn’t be happier than to agree. More than happy to sit out in below freezing temperatures and cheer on our team, the diehard fans never give up. We may not be calling or running the plays, but we provide the motivation. That extra motivation is what pushes the Pats through when they’re down and out, and on the edge of a loss.
So yes, it’s obvious that the Patriots have the talent and skill to support themselves when it comes to game time, just as we have the talent and skill to function in our own everyday lives. But when something unexpected comes up, like a car accident, or in the Pats’ case, a 28-9 deficit, you always need insurance to back you up. So be like the Patriots, and make sure you have insurance, so no matter what, you’re completely covered. Call one of our agents today.