Buying wine for fun—or profit?

Wine is no longer simply something you drink; wine has become a serious investment commodity, increasingly so in the past decade. More than ever, wine has the capacity to appreciate in value to the point where the current value of certain wines can far exceed their original purchase prices.

Not every wine, however, increases in value. Some believe that as fine wines age, they become more valuable, but that is not always the case. For instance, the 1999 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a First Growth Bordeaux, cost $140 upon release and currently sells at auction for around $374. By contrast, the 1999 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, a Bordeaux blend from California, sold for $80 upon release and currently sells at auction for $33. Both have matured well and are drinking better than upon release, yet one has appreciated while the other has decreased in value.

So why did one wine more than double in worth and the other lose half its value? Basically, a small number of wines in the world are deemed collectible, and they are the ones most likely to increase in value. Most are classified Bordeaux, but can include top Burgundies and Champagnes. Some select wines from other parts of Italy and from California can appreciate as well. These are often from wineries with long histories and track records for quality, and always of relatively limited production.

But mostly wines appreciate because they have a history of appreciating. It is somewhat circular, but the past success of these wines at auction breeds future success.

When assembling a wine collection, should you buy from or shun this select group of investment grade wines? It depends largely on your intentions. If your collection is meant solely for personal consumption, you can enjoy countless excellent wines, such as the St. Jean Cinq Cepages, that will provide years of drinking pleasure, but represent a questionable investment. Of course, this lack of collectability can make them relatively good values. If, however, you might be interested in selling your collection at some point, you might want to protect yourself by focusing on the wines with a history of appreciation. Just don’t expect to find bargains. A certified wine appraiser can help you make an educated choice.

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Preparing for Severe Weather

Try and put yourself in the shoes of those who have gone through a natural disaster, and imagine this: Before a severe weather event hits – you hear the warnings from state officials and your local news, but might not take them too seriously. They’re urging the public to stock up on food and supplies, fill up on gas – or – worst case scenario, they tell you to evacuate the area immediately. As the storm system nears, you realize this is serious. But, by the time you make it to the grocery store for important supplies and water– everything is sold out. It’s at that moment you might be asking yourself, “How did I let this happen?”

Severe weather can strike anywhere in the U.S., and if a disaster hits in your area, you may not have access to food, water or electricity for days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults in the U.S. do not have the resources or plans in place for an emergency – that’s a big number! Always remember – there’s no such thing as being “too prepared,” and it’s better to start preparing now than later when the store shelves are empty!

Below are some important items to include in an emergency preparedness kit:

Food and water. A three-day supply of non-perishable good, and have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. (Also have a manual can opener on hand!)

Prescription medicines. Have at least a three-day supply on hand.

Personal care items. Items like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and contact lenses.

First aid kit. Your local store should have them in stock. They cost anywhere from $25 to $35.

Electronics. Be sure to have battery-powered or solar flashlight, a cell phone with a portable charger and have extra batteries on hand.

Important papers. Copies of drivers’ licenses, special medical information, social security cards, etc. Keep them in a waterproof, air tight bag so water doesn’t seep through.

Cash. With no power, stores may not be able to take credit cards and ATMs may be out of cash so keep a reasonable amount of cash available so you have it if needed.

Basic hand tools. A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Pet food and extra water for your pet. Your furry friends also need a three-day supply of food and water!

Depending on the size of your family, you may need additional supplies not included in the list, such as baby formula or games for the kids.

If you do end up losing power, it’s important to think about ways you can keep your food cold temporarily if you don’t have a cooler on hand. One option is your washing machine – just fill it with ice and voila! You won’t have to worry when the ice starts melting since it can drain water. Plus – it has a lid! A second option is to fill your bath tub with ice.

Keeping these items on hand is crucial and could potentially save a life. Place your emergency kit in a designated spot all family members are familiar with and have it ready in case you need to leave your home quickly. From everyone here at Foremost – stay safe and stay prepared!

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What to do After a Flood

Anyone who’s been through a flood knows that recovering after this kind of disaster isn’t easy. You’re forced to accept that irreplaceable family treasures and memories may be gone forever, your furniture is destroyed, potentially along with your home. It’s a devastating and emotional moment and a lot to take in all at once. But you know the only thing you can do is move forward, and begin the steps needed to restore your home.

As soon as the floodwaters recede, you can return to your home as long as officials give the OK to do so. Before entering your home, however, make sure it is safe!

Tips for staying safe upon return:

  • Check for structural damage and use extreme caution. One way to do this is to check if the walls are vertical and straight.
  • Turn off the electricity in your home at the main breaker or fuse box. Make sure you stand in a dry spot to do this! If you can’t stand in a dry spot, call an electrician who will take care of the risk.
  • Turn off the gas. If you smell something unusual, leave immediately and call your gas company from another location.
  • Check your sewage system. Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. These serious health hazards.
  • Take precaution when inspecting your home. Your home may have sagging ceilings and areas that are still flooded. Also beware of critters like snakes, spiders and rodents that may have taken refuge in your home!

Bring waterproof boots, a first aid kit, cleaning supplies and a battery-powered flashlight with you before entering the house! You never know what you’ll run into.

Tips for claim reporting:
Another important step to take when recovering from a flood is reporting your loss immediately to your insurance agent or carrier. While flood coverage is typically not provided under most homeowners and renters policies, flood insurance may be available to you through the federally regulated program known as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you need assistance to locate your flood insurance carrier, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). A claims adjuster should contact you within a day or two after report of the claim, depending on the severity of the flood event.

When reporting a claim, you should have the following information available:
– Your name and address
– Policy number
– Date the loss happened
– Description of events that led to loss
– Active phone number
– Confirm what’s covered under your NFIP policy (some policyholders may only have building or personal property items coverage, not both)

Tips for inspections:
The next step, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is to prepare for your inspection. After deeming the structure safe for entry, take as many photos or videos of the flood-damaged property on the outside and inside. Take pictures of high-cost items as well like washers and dryers, hot water heaters, televisions and kitchen appliances. It’s also a good idea to separate the damaged from undamaged items prior to the inspection.

When the adjuster arrives, they will inspect your property including taking measurements and photos and give you an overview of the NFIP flood claims process. Remember that some flood insurance claims are more complex than others. Some may be opened and closed quickly, while others may take weeks or even months to resolve.

If your vehicle was also damaged in a flood event, it’s best to call your auto insurance provider to see if you’re covered for the loss.

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Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips Following these 5 tips will help keep you out of the ER this Halloween

There’s nothing like carving a pumpkin to get into the Halloween mood. But if you don’t do it safely, you might spend time in an emergency room instead of out trick-or-treating with the rest of the witches, ghosts, and goblins.

Each October hospitals treat four to five times more hand injuries than usual as a result of pumpkin-carving injuries. “The most common accidents associated with pumpkin carving are stab wounds to the fingers and palm,” says Stuart J. Elkowitz, M.D., a hand surgeon at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group in Carmel, N.Y., who repairs the resulting gashes every Halloween. It’s often the index finger that’s punctured, he says, causing damage to tendons, nerves, or arteries.

Why is carving so dangerous? Pumpkins can be both slippery and tough. Cuts can occur when a knife sticks in the rind, then abruptly dislodges as you tug it out, slicing your supporting hand. Or you can cut yourself if the handle gets slippery with pumpkin pulp, causing your hand to slide down the blade as you push the knife into the pumpkin.

Here are five ways to avoid a pumpkin-carving nightmare:

1. Use the Right Tools

Consumer Reports tested pumpkin-carving kits a few years ago and noted that an advantage of the specialty tools—readily found online and in convenience stores—was that they can saw through rinds, poke holes, and scoop out innards without being razor-sharp. The instruments are also generally small, which makes them easier to control than most knives and easier to use when making intricate cuts.

2. Carve Before Taking the Top Off the Pumpkin

“That way you won’t be tempted to put your hand inside and cut toward your hand,” advises Stuart J. Elkowitz, M.D., a hand surgeon. He also recommends stabilizing the pumpkin by holding the top and pointing the blade down.

3. Take Precautions

That means carving in a clean, dry, and well-lit area, keeping your hands and tools clean and dry, and taking your time.

4. Don’t Let Kids Carve

Most Halloween accidents happen to kids ages 10 to 14, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2010. So don’t let children 14 and younger do the actual carving. Instead, have them draw the pattern with a marker and clean out the pulp and seeds with their hands or a spoon—but make sure an adult does the actual cutting. It’s important to supervise older teens, too. Elkowitz notes that adolescents often become patients because parents think they’re responsible enough to be left on their own. So have them use pumpkin-carving kits or, if you think they’re responsible enough to use knives, make sure they use short-handled ones, and that the knives are kept clean and dry.

5. Know First Aid

In case someone does get cut while carving a pumpkin, apply direct pressure to the injury using a clean, dry cloth. If bleeding doesn’t stop in 15 minutes, get to an emergency room or urgent-care clinic.

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Plan for safety long before Halloween night

It’s almost that time of year when children look forward to trick-or-treating, dressing up in costumes, decorating and obtaining more candy than they can possibly eat. As fun as it is, Halloween is also a deceptively dangerous night, and preparations for a safe and enjoyable celebration should begin long before Halloween night.

SELECTING A COSTUME

Select a costume that doesn’t risk slips, trips or falls. Costumes should not drag on the ground.

Wear comfortable shoes for walking. As tempting as it may be to wear shoes themed with the costume – high heels for Cinderella come to mind – they can be unsafe for youngsters to navigate.

Choose a bright costume that motorists can see.

Place reflective tape on costumes and trick-or-treat bags for increased visibility.

Wear costumes with flame resistant fabrics (such as nylon and polyester) or look in the label for the notation, Flame Resistant. Flame resistant fabrics resist burning and should extinguish quickly.

Avoid outfits with big, billowy sleeves and flimsy materials that could contact candles.

Test any makeup on the skin beforehand, and don’t use it if there is an allergic reaction.

Beware of accessories that could injure a child. Choose soft swords, for example, and avoid items with sharp edges.

Be careful when selecting masks, scarves and decorations that nothing obstructs a child’s vision.

PUMPKIN CARVING

No matter how much they plead, don’t let small children handle knives and carve pumpkins. Instead, have them draw their design with markers and let an adult do the carving.

To avoid the possibility of a fire, use a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you cannot avoid using a candle, a small votive candle with a holder is safest.

HOME SAFETY AND DECORATIONS

Outside your home, use flameless candles or keep burning candles and jack-o’-lanterns away from landings and doorsteps, where trick-or-treaters’ costumes could brush against the flame.

Keep your home safe for visiting trick-or-treaters by removing from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as leaves, garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

When indoors, keep candles and jack-o’-lanterns away from curtains, other decorations and other items that could ignite. Do not leave burning candles unattended.

Whether indoors or outside, use only decorative light strands that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. When in doubt – discard.

Don’t overload extension cords.

Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on, scratch or bite a trick-or-treater. It may be best to shut your pet away from the commotion; some animals find Halloween especially spooky.

TRICK-OR-TREATING

An adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.

Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.

Make sure cell phone batteries are fully charged. If older children are trick-or-treating by themselves or in groups, review with them the geographic boundaries where they may go.

Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. Walk facing traffic. Avoid darting from house to house in the middle of the street – cars aren’t expecting you to be in the middle of the street.

Notify law enforcement authorities immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Happy trick-or-treating, and be safe!

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Tips To Help You Enjoy the Transition to Autumn

A new season is here and along with that inevitably comes change: a change in light, a change in weather, a change in lifestyle. Depending on where you live it can either be drastic or just a little blip; either way there are things you can do to make the transition easier.

Bring the Outdoors In: One of the things we tend to love about summer is all of the outdoor nature time. Well, just because you are going to be staying in more doesn’t mean you have to shut the outdoors out. Start bringing in bright, cheery flower bouquets and new hearty plants. Look for indoor plants that work double duty, like English Ivy; they are not only beautiful and can make you happy but clean the air as well.

Purify the Air: Since I just mentioned cleaning the air with house plants let’s take it a step farther. With windows shutting out the cold air, less circulation, and furniture off-gassing you’re going to want to keep the air clean with a Hepa Air Purifier.

Fall Cleaning: Spring shouldn’t be the only season when your home gets a fresh new face. Before you go into cuddle-up-on-the-couch nesting mode, clean up all the nooks and crannies so you can hunker down in a squeaky clean space.

Get Cooking: Stews, soups, and pies are the smell of fall. If you love to cook this is surely something to look forward to. Stock up your pantry with new, fresh ingredients so you are ready on a whim to whip up your favorite fall recipes.

Brighten Up: Since you will be spending more time indoors this would be a good opportunity to add some bright and lively colors to your place. Get some new throw pillows, blankets, or accessories that will keep your home happy and energizing. If you are really daring, try painting an accent wall for the new season.

Bring Out The Faves: What are your favorite things about fall? Is it a great sweater, the best boots, a warm down comforter, a magnificent tea? Well, start to place them in your line of sight so you can get excited about their appearance back in your life in the not-too-distant future.

Get Moving: Don’t let the natural slow down slow you down. Make sure you still move your body. If you will need to move your routine inside, you should start preparing for that now. Not only will it keep you in shape, but it will help your brain stay happy and positive through the coming months.

Be Social: It’s easy to just get lost in your own world once it gets chilly and holiday seasons begin but don’t let it. Make dates now for gatherings, dinner parties and holiday cheer so you are all scheduled and ready to go.

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Commercial fleets face deadline to replace paper logbooks

Effective in December 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is mandating the use of an electronic logging device (ELD) for commercial vehicles.

Businesses with regulated commercial vehicles that require hours-of-service logging must replace paper logbooks with a self-certified ELD registered with FMCSA that electronically record a driver’s Record of Duty Status (RODS). Such fleets have until December 2017 to comply. Fleets that already use Automatic On Board Recording Devices (AOBRD) have until December 2019 to convert to a self-certified ELD registered with FMCSA.

DATA CAPTURE REQUIRED

These devices do not change any current requirement affecting the longstanding Hours of Service rules; they simply are a method to electronically capture the data. These devices also can capture a significant amount of other data, including inspection and fuel tax information and driving behavior such as speeding, idling and hard braking.

Many fleets have already transitioned to the ELD and have seen benefits ranging from increased safety performance to more efficient dispatch and reduced paperwork.

The FMCSA website has a list of self-certified providers of these devices. Managers of fleets that need to comply with this mandate should consult this site to determine if the devices they are considering are on the list. Smartphones and tablets are acceptable, as long as they meet the FMCSA’s requirements.

NEXT STEPS

So what should you do if your fleet has not already met the mandate?

  • Determine if the current Hours of Service (HOS) rules require logs.
  • If the answer is “no,” no further action is required.
  • If the answer is “yes,” the company must:
    • Evaluate and select an ELD. The ELD must meet the regulations; find providers using the above link
    • Ensure ELDs are properly installed and functioning.
    • Properly train drivers and administrative staff to use them. Drivers should be able to edit and certify the time.
    • Companies may not use the system to coerce or harass a driver regarding HOS regulations.
  • Drivers need to know how to:
    • Edit and certify the RODS
    • Display/transfer the information to a compliance officer, if requested.

This may appear to be a confusing and daunting undertaking, but many resources are available to help meet the compliance deadline. Consult your attorney for specific legal guidance. Companies that fail to comply with the mandate are subject to being placed out of service. Continued noncompliance could result in the Department of Transportation issuing a shutdown order.

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Fall Driving Safety Tips

Autumn is fraught with driving hazards, so know the risks and prepare

Fall driving can be unpredictable because of weather changes, the end of daylight saving time and the start of school. These guidelines can help keep you, and others, safe while on the road.

Watch out for kids. Early in the school year, youngsters often haven’t developed the habit of looking for moving traffic before they cross the road leaving a school bus. It’s illegal to motor past a stopped bus in most places. And buses are beginning to use cameras to catch people who do drive by when the “Stop” arms are extended and the lights are flashing. Older kids driving to and from school are a danger, and in danger, too. “Teen crashes spike in September as [kids] head back to school, and happen more often during hours when school begins and lets out,” the National Safety Council reports.

Beware of darkness. It comes earlier anyway as the year ages, and that’s accelerated when clocks most places in the U.S. shift back to standard time in early November. While just 25 percent of our driving is at night, 50 percent of traffic deaths occur then, according to the National Safety Council. Also, a 50-year-old driver might need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old, NSC notes. And at 60 years and older, we generally see road signs less clearly, we have more trouble judging speed and distance, and glare begins to bother us more, according to the American Optometric Association.

Be critter conscious. You’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal — especially a deer — in November than at any other time of the year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety cautions. Deer are likely to be mating in November and that’s why you see more of them, IIHS notes. About 1 of every 100 drivers will hit a deer during the driver’s life behind the wheel, says animal-rights group PETA.

Consider dampness a threat. We think of big puddles as dangerous, and they are, because the front wheels can float, called hydroplaning, and you lose steering. But even before the puddles accumulate, rain — especially if it’s the first in a while — can pool on the oil, grime and dust that are on all roads and make the pavement slick. It also can mix with fallen leaves that are abundant in the fall and create a slippery surface. Slowing your speed helps, and, if you’re on a busy road, you can drive in the tracks of the cars ahead of you, where the road is driest.

Tend your tires. If they have sufficient tread, they perform better on rainy surfaces, and they stop faster and steer better on dry ones. Also, proper tire pressure helps keep you rolling smoothly and safely. When the weather cools as fall heads toward winter, tires typically lose pressure and can cause your car to handle poorly. If the tires are extremely low, that can contribute to a blowout. Correct pressure will be noted on a decal pasted on the driver’s side door jamb or the door itself. The pressure that’s noted on the tire itself is the maximum for that tire, and that could be wrong for your car.

Cope with glare. The blinding distraction of sun glare waxes as summer wanes. Sounds wrong, but it’s logical, because the sun moves closer to the horizon — which keeps it pointed straight into your eyes, and makes it more likely to reflect at low angles off other cars, buildings and windows. Have your sunglasses handy. Don’t look directly into the lights of oncoming traffic when you drive at night. And keep your windshield clear so dirt streaks don’t contribute to the glare.

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9 Ways to Prepare Your House for a Safe Halloween

It won’t be long before you’ll be greeted by little ghosts and goblins shouting “Happy Halloween!”

Now is the time to make your home safe for trick-or-treaters. We’ve gathered nine ideas to get you started.

1. Secure railings.
Young children, and the adults who often accompany them, will need the security and support of railings while climbing steps to get to your front door. If you’ve been putting off fixing that rickety railing, it’s time to get out the toolbox and make it secure.

2. Clear walkways.
Trick-or-treaters are too busy counting candy to pay close attention to where they’re walking, so it’s critical to survey your yard for potential trip and slip hazards. Be sure your yard is free of tripping hazards like hoses and sprinklers, clear walkways of loose gravel, and be sure to clean moss off steps. If your home has an irrigation system, turn the system off well in advance of the big night so your lawn and walkways have a chance to dry.

3. Avoid using candles.
A glowing jack-o’-lantern makes your home warm and welcoming to candy seekers, but using a candle to illuminate a pumpkin can be dangerous. Costumes, paper decorations and ornamental straw can easily catch on fire. Instead of a traditional candle, use one powered by batteries.

4. Consider candy choices.
No doubt buying Halloween candy is fun, but keep in mind that not all candy is appropriate for every child. Avoid candy that poses a choking hazard for toddlers, and keep in mind that a number of children have peanut allergies. Even if the candy doesn’t contain peanuts, it could be made in a facility that handles peanuts. Check the candy bag’s label for a peanut allergy warning.

5. Use lots of lights.
A dimly lit entryway helps set the spooky mood of Halloween, but it also increases the chance of an accident. Make sure the exterior lights of your home are working, and consider turning on flood lights to illuminate the darkest areas of your yard. Even if you’re not going to be home, leave on lights for safety reasons or make sure your motion sensor lights are active to dissuade unsavory characters from vandalizing your home. And, if you won’t be there, make sure you set your security system, just to be safe.

6. Contain your pets.
Barking dogs not only scare trick-or-treaters of every age away, they also present a danger. A dog that breaks away from your home might not bite, but he could knock down a toddler or scare a teen right into the street, causing even more danger. Keep all pets securely confined inside your home until the hustle and bustle of the night has passed.

7. Don’t put out candy.
Maybe you won’t be home on Halloween or perhaps it’s difficult for you to answer the door, so you’ve put out a bowl of candy for kids to help themselves. While this seems like the right thing to do, someone could taint the candy. It’s probably unlikely, but it’s definitely not worth taking the chance.

8. Make room in the garage.
If you’re headed out on Halloween, clean out the garage and store your car securely in it. Children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year, meaning that parking your car and trick or treating on foot is a good idea. When you also consider potential vehicle vandalism and theft, your car is best kept in the garage on Halloween.

9. Use discretion when opening the door.
While nearly all trick-or-treaters are innocent kids out to collect as much candy as they can possibly carry, you must still be cautious of whom you open the door for. If you have an uneasy feeling about the person approaching your door, don’t open it. And as the barrage of trick-or-treaters fades to just a few here and there, it’s a good idea to stop opening the door for the night.

Halloween has a reputation as a frightening holiday, but that doesn’t mean it should be dangerous. Use our tips and resources to keep trick-or-treaters and your family safe and enjoy a spooktacular Halloween night.

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