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Don't Let Halloween Décor Haunt You
Will your porch feel incomplete without a jack-o-lantern on your doorstep this Halloween?

If you plan to carve up a pumpkin to greet your trick-or-treaters this year, use the following tips to make your sculpting simpler and safer.

Bottoms up: Rather than cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin, remove the bottom. The hole will allow you to place your carved pumpkin on top of a candle rather than reach inside to awkwardly place or light one.

Knives down: For the best results, don't try to carve a pumpkin with the same tools you use to prepare dinner. Kitchen knives aren't designed for jack-o-lantern creation, but pumpkin carving kits are. These are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most big-box stores. They include specially designed tools that can cut through rinds, scoop innards, and poke intricate holes to create the fantastical face you desire.

Candles out: If you light your pumpkin with a candle, never leave it unsupervised. It might be tempting to leave that jack-o-lantern burning while you trek the neighborhood trick-or-treating, but this puts your home at risk. Always blow out candles before leaving the home or going to bed for the night.

Flames in: Another precaution with candle-lit pumpkins is location. You want to ensure that the flames stay within the pumpkin. Keep lit jack-o-lanterns far from objects such as window treatments and other décor. Keep in mind that hay bales and other straw decorations are often quite flammable. The National Fire Protection Association reports that decoration fires result in an average of 41 injuries and $13 million in property damage each year, and nearly half of these incidents are started by candles.

Kids' costumes can be flammable, too, so place jack-o-lanterns strategically so they don't come in contact with flowing capes or large tutus that make their way onto your porch.

Lights on: To reduce the risk of fire, consider using lights inside your jack-o-lanterns instead of candles. LED candles or other similar products are widely available now. Some even flicker to imitate natural flames. It's worth the investment to avoid a fire. Plus, you can reuse these next Halloween, so you don't have to buy fresh candles every year!

Tap These Apps for Safe Trick or Treating
Goblins and ghosts and ghouls, oh my!

When it's pumpkin time and little people dress up to go about their business of frightening the neighbors, it's time to think about safety. And when it comes to Halloween safety this year, you'll want a few tips and tricks up your sleeve. Think technology.

The good news is, there are several apps designed exactly for this purpose: to keep your kids safe while they go about their goodie gathering.

A tracker app is a good idea, especially if your little goblin isn't good about texting back promptly. Jiobit works well and Famisafe makes following your child's progress easy. Life 360 is another excellent kid tracker.

You can also use technology to plan their route before they set out. It's a good idea to sign up with a neighborhood social networking platform like Nextdoor to plan a safe route and discover a "treat map" showing which neighbors are participating.

Of course, you want your kids to see and be seen, so avoid masks and headgear that interfere with visibility. Choose brightly colored costumes with reflective tape on them, and avoid tripping hazards like trailing capes and high heeled shoes. Check Pinterest for safe and easy costume suggestions.

And, though you hope you'll never need them, it's smart to be prepared for emergencies with Red Cross Safety Apps.

Now, dress them for the weather and review street-crossing rules with your little monsters. And make this Halloween a real treat!

DNA Kits Are Helping Adoptees Find Birth Parents
At-home DNA kits have soared in popularity in recent years, spurred by a growing curiosity to know more about our health and our heritage. According to a recent study by MIT Technology Review, more than 26 million people have taken DNA tests purchased from consumer genetics companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and Gene by Gene.

Amongst those people are adoptees who, either by design or accident, discovered their birth parents after submitting their cheek swab results to one of these genetics databases. It's an incredible by-product of a test that wasn't ever marketed as a way to reunite families.

For most adoptees who have discovered biological ties this way, the process looks something like this: they complete the test, they receive the results, and then they get a notification that they share a significant percentage of DNA with someone else using the database.

That was the case for John Larson, who recently shared his story with Reader's Digest. He was adopted in the San Francisco Bay area in 1967 after his birth mother ended her engagement to Larson's father and headed west. With incredible adoptive parents, Larson never thought about looking for his birth family.

After completing a 23AndMe kit, he was notified that his DNA was significantly similar to that of Rachel Brill, a woman who turned out to be Larson's half-sister. Brill told Larson that not only did he also have a half-brother, he had a birth father who had been looking for his lost son his entire life.

Fender Bender? Take These Key Steps After an Accident
Even the best drivers are at risk of fender benders. With so many variables on the road, accidents happen. In the U.S. alone, an average of 6 million accidents occur each year. If you're among this number, it's important to know the next steps to take. If you find yourself in a car crunch, follow these procedures:

Safety first: If possible, pull your vehicle to the side, out of traffic, but in a safe, public place. Use caution when engaging the other driver if you suspect road rage is involved start with calling 911 for an accident report.

Damage assessment: Find out if anyone is hurt and call 911 if medical assistance is needed. After personal injuries are taken care of, assess the damage to the vehicles. Take pictures to document any damage.

Information gathering: Record the names of everyone involved. Try to get witness information if possible. Include in your records the car registration, insurance, car make and model, and license information for all drivers. If you hit a parked car, don't leave the scene before finding the owner. If you can't locate the owner, record the details of the accident and leave a note with your contact information.

Police notification: Contact law enforcement to alert them of the accident. Document the names and badge numbers of the officers involved and find out how you can get a copy of the accident report. If officers don't come to the scene, go to the nearest police station to file a report. You may also be able to do this online.

Claim process: Notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible to start the claim process. By following the procedures above, you will have all the information and documentation you need to make this process as smooth as possible.

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Spiced Apple Cider Tea
Nothing says fall like sipping a warm cup of apple cider. Try a new twist on this classic fall treat with this unique cider tea.
Makes 4 servings
4.5 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 bags of black tea, such as Earl Grey or oolong
Honey to taste
Directions
Place cider, cinnamon, and ginger in a saucepan over high heat and cover.

Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

Pour hot cider into mugs, add a tea bag to each mug, and steep like normal. Sweeten with honey to taste.

If you really want to get your Pinterest on, switch out the mugs for apples. Cut off the tops of four apples and hollow out the fruit with a spoon or melon baller to create cup-like containers.

Your homemade apple mugs will add extra flavor to the drink and wow your guests.
This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter.

Posted 1:52 PM

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NOTICE: This blog and website are made available by the publisher for educational and informational purposes only. It is not be used as a substitute for competent insurance, legal, or tax advice from a licensed professional in your state. By using this blog site you understand that there is no broker client relationship between you and the blog and website publisher.
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