Prep ahead for Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving creeps closer, everybody’s got turkey, football and family dinner on the brain. But as much fun Thanksgiving is, we all know it’s also quite the undertaking to throw a successful party that goes off without a hitch. To make things easier, we’ve thought of eight things you can do in advance and to free up Gobble Day for family and friends.

  1. Finalize your guest list. You probably already have an estimate of who’ll be attending, but call everybody to confirm. This is also a great opportunity to ask about food allergies and special diets, especially if guests are bringing new significant others or people whom you haven’t seen in a while will attend. People with special dietary needs are aware that it can cause a hitch in others’ menu planning and will be extra-grateful to you if you’re the one who initiates the conversation. Assure them you are happy to create a menu or at least a few dishes that take their needs into account.
  2. Now that you have a clear guest list, it’s time to work on your menu. You might want to go traditional, or have a theme celebration. Once you’ve decided on a theme, scour through grandma’s recipe collection and that magical land known as Pinterest. Copy or print recipes and start your list of ingredients. If your guests are expected to contribute to dinner with drinks, a dish or desert let them know now.
  3. Take stock of your pantry. Knowing exactly what and how much of it you have at home will help you during shopping and cooking. It’s also a great opportunity to put aside items for a food bank, where donations are much appreciated at this time of year. Make sure you toss all expired items – do not donate them!
  4. Clean out your freezer and fridge and put the oven through a self-clean cycle. This ensures that all the ingredients and leftovers are stored in a safe environment. Clean and replace missing Tupperware so you can put away leftovers as soon as you take the dish off the dinner table.
  5. Finish up that comprehensive list of ingredients you’ll need and hit the stores. One week before Thanksgiving buy all drinks, non-perishables, any special cooking utensils you might need and the turkey. Pick up all ingredients, even perishables for dishes you’ll make in advance such as vegetable soup, stock, pies and rolls. Store these in the freezer when they’re done. Sturdy perishables such as pumpkins, carrots, potatoes and such can also be bought now. Other perishables that will be cooked on Thanksgiving should be bought no more than three days in advance.
  6. Take care of deep cleaning now so you only have to do a quick vacuum before your guests arrive. Polish your silverware now.
  7. Make Compile a cooking schedule, so on the day before and the day of Thanksgiving you know exactly what, when and in what order needs to be cooked, whipped, reheated and popped in the oven.
  8. Review you renter’s insurance and make sure it’s up to date. Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous days of the year, with the highest number of home fires. In fact there are three times more home fires on this day, helping November take the top spot for cooking-related fires. Make sure you’re protected with Resident Shield.

 

Thanksgiving safety tips for cooks

Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving Day, from preparations, to the cooking, and especially getting together with friends and family to savor a delicious meal, tell stories and create memories. Some Thanksgivings are more memorable than others; the idea is to create the best kind of memories, as the host and as the guest.

Thanksgiving is the day for home cooks to shine, but because cooking causes around 69 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires, here are ways to avoid a kitchen disaster on Thanksgiving, or any other day. You won’t want to have to use your renter’s insurance as a result of a culinary mishap this holiday.

Most of the cooking fires happen as a result of unattended cooking. Even though it’s easy to get distracted as the host through the arrival of guests and serving appetizers, the first rule is to not walk away from a stove or appliance in use.

Select your cooking clothes carefully; avoid loose-fitting clothing while cooking as the fabric can catch fire. And your sleeves – make sure you roll them tightly beforehand.

Carbon monoxide is not something you want to play with, so check your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms to be in good order. Also, turn on the kitchen fan or vents and open windows periodically.

In the event that a fire starts in a pan on your stove, turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid. You can also use a fire extinguisher to put it out. Never ever try to kill a stove fire with water, flour, or anything else you have around in your kitchen as these can cause a flare-up.

In case the fire starts in your oven, turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and call 911. Wait for the firefighters outside.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy and make sure everyone in your residence knows how to use it.

If you’re a fan of deep-fired turkey, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t use the fryer indoors
  • Keep it at a safe distance from buildings and flammable items
  • When preparing the turkey, make sure it’s completely thawed and dry
  • Keep children and pets away

Hot grease shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage; let it cool and discard it in a covered metal can.

Once you finished cooking, before going to bed check to make sure the oven, turkey fryer/BBQ, and stove burners are off, candles too, and if you have a fireplace, make sure the chimney damper is open.

Bon appetite!

Winter Pet Care

The leaves are almost done falling for this year; and in some parts of the country, the earth is looking forward to ice, snow, and freezing cold temperatures. It’s that time of the year when the best thing to do is to snuggle up in front of a fireplace with a warm kitten on your lap or a puppy at your feet. But didn’t you forget something?

Before you enter the dreamy scene described above, take some time to learn how to care for your pet and how to keep them as warm and as comfortable as you are.

  1. Keep your pet inside. Don’t leave your dogs or cats outdoors when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. If you absolutely must leave them outside for an extended period of time, make sure they have a warm and solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding, and plenty of non-frozen water. A hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel will help your four-legged friend stay warm until you return, without burning their skin.
  2. Breed, size, and health. Some pets are better built for cold weather and can spend more time outside in the winter than others. Partly, it is common sense: long-haired breeds like the Husky will adapt better to the cold weather than short-haired breeds like the Dachshund. Cats and small dogs that have to “swim” shoulder-deep in the snow will feel the cold sooner than larger animals. Furthermore, your pets’ health determines how long they can stay out. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can affect a pet’s ability to regulate its own body heat. Young and very old animals are more vulnerable to the cold as well.
  3. Check your car. A warm vehicle engine will be appealing to outdoor and feral cats, but deadly too. Before you start the engine, check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn to determine feline hitchhikers abandon their nest under the hood.
  4. Check the paws. Common cold-weather injuries and damages are cracked paw pads or bleeding, so if you notice a sudden lameness, check their paws as they may be injured due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. Clipping the hair between your dog’s toes might reduce the chance of iceball formation. Moreover, the salt and chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate their pads. Clean their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritate their mouths.
  5. Play dress-up. If your buddy has a short coat or acts bothered by the cold weather, go pet coat shopping.
  6. Prevent poisoning. Just like coolant, antifreeze is lethal for dogs and cats. Clean up any spills from your vehicle and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. More information on animal poison control here.
  7. Car threat. During summer cars are known to a real threat to pets, but cold cars can also put at risk your pet’s health. In cold weather cars can rapidly cool down, becoming like a refrigerator. Young, old, ill, or thin pets should never be left in cold cars; never leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.
  8. Pet-proof your home. Remember that the heat generated by the space heater is as attractive to the pet as it is to you. As your fury friend snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no paws and tails come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. The little creatures can either burn themselves or knock a heat of source over and put the entire household in danger.

Winter is here – stay safe

Winter can easily turn from chilly to charming when stocked with comfy gear and warm beverages. So here are some tips for the transformation.

1. Au revoir, summer clothes – it’s the right time to pack up the sandals, the airy dresses and bathing suits until 2015. They’ll make place for the cozy sweaters, pants, and plenty of socks.

2. Hello again, winter wardrobe – get ready for that first white morning having the winter boots and gloves out of the basement.

3. Vitamin D – we mostly get our daily vitamin D through exposure to sunshine, and that’s scarce during winter due to limited daylight hours and covered skin. The recommended dose for adults during winter days is 1000IU.

4. Winter tires – just like your wardrobe, your car has winter needs too. As the weather gets colder, you’ll need to put on winter tires to keep you safer during the snow season.

5. Emergency kit – water, a flashlight, a small shovel, a blanket are just a few essential you’ll need to have ready in your car for just in case.

6. Window insulation – spend a little to save more. A few dollars and few minutes to insulate your windows will save you money on your heating bills.

7. Get a comfy throw – you love the evenings you spend curled up in an armchair with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book; add a cozy blanket and you’re all set.

8. Cold-weather bar – gone are the days of margaritas. Make room for Baileys and peppermint liquor for your chocolate, a nice dark spiced rum and some dry, dark reds.

9. Winter tea – my tea stash always gets low during summer months when I’m not drinking too many hot drinks. Now though is the perfect time to add a few festive teas, like oolongs and black teas.

10. Prepare the fireplace – if you’re one of the lucky ones to have a working fireplace, now would be the time to do a maintenance cleaning done. It will increase efficiency and is the best way to prevent chimney fires.

11. Review your renter’s insurance. Keep your mind at peace by staying insured.

Questions to ask when moving with a pet

You and your best furry, feathery, scaly, flying, crawling or slithering best friend have decided to move to a new apartment. You’ve even scoped out a few cool places online and you’re scheduled to visit the properties. Make sure both you and your pets move into a safe and fun environment, by asking plenty of questions before signing any lease contracts.

 

  • First of all, find out if the community is pet friendly.  Seeing a place that will not welcome your pets just sets you up for heartache. And it would be unwise to sneak in your beloved furry companion, because sooner, rather later, the property manager will find out.
  • Enquire what species of pets are allowed – just because a community accepts German Shepards it doesn’t mean they will welcome your boa or parrot.
  • Check for breed restrictions. Check if the restrictions extend to mixes – while one place might allow your pit-bull mutt to move in, another might not.
  • Also check for weight restrictions. You might consider waiting with moving until your pup grows up or choosing an apartment complex that has liberal or no weight restriction at all if you own a rescued puppy. He might be just a tiny furball of love now, but one year from now, you might just be able to ride into battle on his back.
  • After you found out the community’s renter’s insurance policy, enquire about its pet insurance policy. Although a community might not require you to have one, getting Pet Damage Coverage can save you a lot of stress down the line. You might have the best trained dog in town, but you never know when he takes a fancy to the community room carpet or decides his favorite new scratching post is the foosball table.  It also makes you look like a very responsible renter and pet owner.
  • Ask for the exact leash policy of your potential new apartment. Some places might require you to have Rex on a leash (and even muzzled) when walking with him in the community.
  • Don’t forget about pet rent. Some communities may charge you a one-time fee for Catticus Finch, others might have a monthly extra fee.
  • Be forthcoming about all your pets.  Just because a community doesn’t specifically restrict spider monkeys or tigers, it doesn’t mean they welcome them either.  Don’t be that guy.
  • Ask about the community’s landscaping. Some plants can be highly poisonous to pets.
  • Ask about the neighborhood’s stray animal community. If your cat is outside a lot, stray dogs and cats can pose a risk to her life.
  • If the community and you and your furry family are compatible, ask for recommendations for pet-friendly attractions in the area, such as vets, pet stores, pet friendly parks, kennel clubs, etc.

Renting a house vs. renting an apartment

Deciding that renting is the better option for you when compared to buying is not the only thing that you need to carefully consider. The next step is to figure out the best type of structure for you and your family and belongings. Choosing between renting a house and renting an apartment is not the easiest task, but shouldn’t be the hardest one either. There are a few consistent pros and cons that will make the selection easy.

Space

In most cases, renting a house translates in a larger living space than renting an apartment; more bedrooms, more bathrooms, and possibly more living rooms means a greater square footage than corresponding rooms in an apartment. Depending on the number of people you move in with, your family or more roommates, the house can afford greater living space. Thus if you are living alone or with just one other person, the extra rent you’d have to pay may not be worth it.

Furthermore, utility expenses in apartment rentals will be lower than in home rentals.

Expenses

Most of the time, price is the decisive factor. Depending on where you’re looking to move as well as on the current housing market, most likely you’ll discover that apartments are a more affordable option, especially if you’re renting on your own or with one other roommate. There are also cases when the housing market is flooded with excess houses to sell and the owners would rather rent them until they manage to sell them rather than keeping them empty; this is the case when the market would work in your advantage.

One thing is certain: if you’re looking at homes near metropolitan areas, an apartment will cost you less than a house. In the rural areas the possibility to find affordable deals on houses is enhanced.

Amenities

Those included in apartment and home rentals are distinctly different as each serve different lifestyles. If you have a dog and/or own multiple vehicles a house is a more enticing option as it is more likely to have a larger yard and garage. On the other side, apartment complexes have complimentary gyms, community pools and other recreational areas.

Privacy is an amenity apartments cannot completely offer. Although they’re usually pretty good sound-proofed, if privacy is important to you, a secluded home property is where you’d fit better.

Centralization is another amenity most likely to find renting an apartment as these are built in central areas of the city with easy access to public transportation, local attractions, business areas; houses exist in centralized city limits as well, but not as many as apartments, most of them are found in the outlying areas of cities or in suburban neighborhoods.

Whichever you choose to make your home, a house or an apartment, remember to keep your belongings safe; renter’s insurance protects your peace of mind for only 43 cents per day with Resident Shield.

Keep your pets safe on Halloween

You’ve hung the ghosts and skeletons, finished your Halloween costume, stocked up with about a metric ton of candies and gave your home over to jack-o-lanterns – you’re almost ready for Halloween. The only thing left to do is making sure the night goes smoothly for you furry little friends as well. Here’s our essential checklist for a fun and safe Halloween for your furry friends.

  1. Keep all sweets out of the reach of your pets. It’s not only the plastic wrappers that can cause serious medical problems if swallowed, but the sweets themselves as well. Chocolate for example can be extremely toxic, even deadly, to animals.
  2. Curios, excited or scared animals and open flames are not a combination you want to try. Keep all candles (including jack-o-lanterns) away from your pets, as they might accidentally knock them over. While Resident Shield has you covered in case of fire, be sure you take all precautions to avoid a calamity.
  3. If your dog has a habit of chewing on new things, put new decorations are out of his reach and don’t buy anything he could easily swallow.
  4. Hanging skeletons and ghosts sure creates the right mood for a night of spook, but be sure you pose them in a place where Captain Fluffington can’t hunt them down (and knock your prized heirloom vase off the mantelpiece).
  5. While it would definitely look adorable to wear matching or complementary outfits with your pet, don’t get carried away. Some animals don’t have a problem with wearing clothes and some even enjoy them. Others however, react poorly. Consider your pet’s disposition well before you him into a cape or make him wear a wig.
  6. If your pet handles costumes well and you plan on going trick-or-treating with them, make sure the costume doesn’t hinder their movements, as that might make them anxious. Make sure the costume provides plenty of protection against the elements too, as All Hallow’s Eve tends to be quite cold in some areas. Don’t forget to put your pet on a solid leash, not a retractable one, for both your safety.
  7. No matter how friendly your pet is, all the ruckus of Halloween (doorbells ringing non-stops, kids screaming and running, pranks) can be overwhelming to them. Although Resident Shield’s personal liability coverage includes liability provision for dog bites, it’s better to confine Scruffy to a bedroom until the activity subsides. If he wouldn’t handle that well, at least make sure that he’s nowhere near the door. You really don’t want Scruffy to get a bad reputation in your apartment community for biting a preschooler princess or firefighter.
  8. No matter how many precautions you take, with the door constantly opening, there is a chance your pet will get loose. Make sure all your pets are wearing an adequately tight collar with accurate and easily understandable contact information. If you want to be extra safe, consider getting an ID chip implant. Should the SPCA or animal control find them, it will only take seconds for them to identify you as the owner and return them home.

Protecting your personal property and identity

For personal property protection and liability coverage in cases of fire, weather damage, robbery and more ResidentShield Renters Insurance has you covered, but more and more we are seeing the importance of protecting yourself against identity theft. Now more than ever, renters must be aware of potential access points to their information in the real world and online.

watch for password theft

According to PrivacyRights.org, identity theft affects more than 8 million Americans. While that number is woefully high, fraudulent activities have decreased since their record high of 55.7 billion worldwide in 2006. Much of the decline can be attributed to institutions’ and businesses’ increased security investments to protect clients. The wise actions of residents also contribute to a significant portion of the decline.

There are a few simple things that you can do to protect your identity at home, on the internet and in your neighborhood:

  • Shred unwanted financial and personal documents instead of simply placing them in the trash.
  • Completely clear cookies, history, and all system caches on public computers after use.
  • Never access online banking on public computers. Technology exists to let remote users view your screen and any information that your type into a field whiles you’re online.
  • If you do not plan to buy a home, car, or other large investment in the near future, consider freezing your credit. This prevents the unauthorized opening of additional lines of credit in your name.
  • While on the web, don’t bother with “You’ve Won…” banners. No one wants to give you anything for free. Best case scenario is that you’re caught filling out a grueling survey. Worst case scenario is that you click the banner and inadvertently download spyware, viruses, and other dangers to your system.
  • If you’re filing your taxes at a center, take a thorough look around before accepting service. How are documents stored? Are files easily accessible to anyone passing by?

When it comes to storing personal property and documentation within your rental, keep these points in mind.

  • Keep copies of personal documents in a safe place outside of the home, like a safe deposit box.
  • Ensure that sensitive documents within the home are in a secure, obscure location.

 

Happy Halloween – the smart way

Decidedly one of the most beloved American holidays, Halloween brings out our playful side. But as the old adage goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Or a door. Or the home cinema system. Because Halloween not only brings out the fun side of people, which in itself can be annoying and dangerous (I’m looking at you bored teenaged pranksters!), but it certainly brings out the crazy as well.  To stay safe this Halloween, here are a few easy tips.

  1. Whether you plan on going out for the night or huddle around a giant bucket of popcorn while you rewatch the first season of American Horror story, check that all doors and windows are locked properly before you get on with your night.
  2. If you’re hosting a party, no matter how tired you are, do a quick roundup after your last guest leaves, to make sure all entry points are secured. Do not facilitate crimes of opportunity and do your best to hamper anyone’s malicious intent.
  3. While you do a room-by-room sweep for locked doors and windows, be sure to check for still lit cigarettes. Check in trashcans, take a peek under the furniture, between sofa folds and pillows.
  4. Make sure all your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are functioning well and have batteries. If something catches fire, say from a carelessly discarded cigarette or fallen candle, the smoke alarm is your first line of defense. And whatever you do, do not disable them. You might want to allow friends to smoke inside your apartment, but in all honesty, what’s more important: your physical safety or your smoker friends’ comfort? When guests arrive, inform them of the designated smoking area (ie. the balcony).  Print out a few simple signs with directional arrows leading towards the designated area and spread them throughout your place.
  5. Alcohol-related crimes and pranks tend to spike on All Hallows Eve, so be sure to update your renter’s insurance policy. Have you bought any new electronics, appliances, jewelry or books lately?  Be sure to add them to your policy. Should they go missing while you’re out trick-or-treating or be damaged in a fire thanks to the drunken random dude that knocked over your candles, the more accurate and detailed your inventory is, the more you’ll receive in your insurance claim. Renter’s insurance offers you coverage in case of vandalism too, so if your apartment get paint bombed or a rock flies through the window and knocks out your TV, you’re covered.
  6. Another perk of renter’s insurance is personal liability coverage, including a provision for dog bites. So if a guest tripped and hurt himself enough to need medical attention, and is blaming you and definitely not his way too elaborate and cumbersome costume, renter’s insurance has your back. The same goes for your friend’s girlfriend’s medical bills. Even though she wouldn’t have any had she listened to you, when you told her that your dog is afraid of new people and please do not pet him.
  7. Don’t put any candles, including jack-o-lanterns in places where they can easily be knocked over, especially if you’re throwing a party. Other than having to clean melted wax off your furniture, they pose a real fire hazard as well. Go for flameless candles, glow-in-the dark sticks and twinkly lights. If you can’t resist having candles, be sure to put them all out when the party is over.
  8. Avoid using extension cords. Any novelty appliances you use (ie. fog machines) should come from a reputable retailer and manufacturer, to decrease the chances of short-circuits. DO NOT DIY any electronics or appliances.

Now that Resident Shield has your back, you’ll definitely get the treat and not trick, so go have some fun! Happy Halloween!

10 questions to ask before you rent

Think you’ve found the best apartment to rent? It’s spacious, reasonably priced, and designed to impress. What more could you want?! Well, a lot more, actually. It might be a good idea to go over a few specifics before signing the lease. Minor details may mean a lot if we’re talking money deducted from your security deposit for the nails you drove through the living room walls to hang your pictures.

Here is our list of 10 questions to ask your landlord or property manager before closing the deal.

  1. What are my payment options? Is there a secure way to pay rent online?
  2. Can I see the actual unit where I will be living? This shouldn’t be a problem, unless the previous residents have not vacated yet. Either way, you should thoroughly inspect the unit before moving in and make sure it’s everything your landlord advertised.
  3. What does my monthly rent include? Many apartment communities now offer a series of amenities which may be free of charge for residents. While you’ll probably have to pay for cable, natural gas, and electricity, you might catch a break on trash removal. If you’re lucky, you’ll find WiFi on the freebies list as well.
  4. Are there any security features that might help residents feel safe? If the rental apartment is located in a gated community, that’s definitely a plus. Other security features that you might encounter in urban apartment buildings include electronic access control, video surveillance systems, good lighting in the common areas, a visible security presence on site or a state-of-the-art alarm system – these are all good options that will help you feel safe in your home.
  5. Can I do some decorating? And re-paint partitions? Chances are you’ll want to make the place your own, so knowing where you stand with regards to remodeling permissions is a must. Some landlords simply require that you leave the rental unit in the exact same condition you found it when you moved in, and will accept nothing more than the normal wear and tear. Others may not be comfortable with any remodeling projects at all, so unless you have their written permission, it’s better to stick to decorating with throw pillows, potted greenery and other pretty items that won’t alter the premises in any way.
  6. What is your pet policy? Make sure to specify what kind of pet you’re planning to shelter. Some landlords promote their properties as pet-friendly but when you read the lease you find out that by pet they mean cats, bunnies, or fish. Fido is nowhere to be found on that list. What about visiting pets? Will you be able to babysit your sister’s Beagle when she’s out of town? And if the answer is yes you should also inquire about the extra pet security deposit which is usually required to cover any damages brought about by four-legged companions (dog owners know well what we’re talking about here: wrecked floors, scratched doors, ripped patio screens, upsetting neighbors with barking in the middle of the night, etc.
  7. Where can I park my car? Needless to say free parking would be awesome. Renting a parking space can amount to a couple of hundred dollars per month in big cities, so landing a rental home that includes parking in the monthly rent would be both convenient and cost-efficient.
  8. How do you handle maintenance requests? Is there a property manager on site who can take care of work orders? Or an online resident portal for submitting requests? Find out which procedure you’ll need to follow should you experience leaking faucets, mold problems, or bug infestation.
  9. What is your policy on subletting? That’s something that you want to know, just in case you have to get out of your lease due to unforeseen circumstances, like moving to rejoin a life partner or deciding to pursue a job opportunity that is 2,000 miles away.
  10. What is the total cost of the move-in? In addition to the first month’s rent, deposit, and any extra fees that might apply for pet owners, there may be a rental application fee that covers the cost of the background and credit checks. This is something that most responsible landlords take care of before approving you as a tenant, but you just might encounter one who surprises you with it later.

Also, it would be wise to take photos of every room, including close-up shots of any damages, defects, and faults that you notice while doing the initial home inspection.

You can even jot these questions down and keep the printed checklist if you decide to make that particular apartment your new home.

P.S. Once you settle in, it’s important to consider other things as well, including getting renters’ insurance which will protect the contents of your home against a wide variety of mishaps, including fire, lightning, smoke or theft. It even comes with a personal liability clause which provides protection in case of all sorts of accidents, from slip-and-fall injuries to liability provision for dog bites.